Asian Values and Human Rights: A Vietnamese Perspective

  • Ngo Thi Minh Huong NTMH
  • Giao Cong Vu
  • Tam Minh Nguyen


This paper examines the impact of the ideology of ‘Asian Values' on the legal norms and practices that frame the recognition and protection of human rights in Vietnam. Specifically, the paper focusses on the extent to which Asian Values has been deployed to discourage the adoption of international human rights norms and practices in the context of Vietnam’s rapid economic development since the mid- 1980s. The paper first sketches the adoption of Asian Values in Vietnam’s politics and society. Cultural and political factors that have shaped the conception of human rights are reviewed. Human rights language and norms, as manifest in political ideologies, policies and laws are then analysed, with particular reference to the different versions of Vietnam’s Constitution. It is shown that both the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) and the State of Vietnam have clearly articulated Asian Values in formulating their conceptions of human rights. This outcome is argued to result from the fact that Vietnamese political leaders, alike with Lee Kwan Yew in Singapore, the progenitor of Asian Rights, have been strongly influenced by Confucian ideals of governance. Confucianism is not, however, the only basis for political ideas in Vietnam. Although Vietnam is a market economy it remains a one- party state  controlled  by  the  CPV.  The  Marxist-Leninist  principles  on  which the current State of Vietnam was based at its inception in 1975 remain intact. This ideology was however layered onto generations of collectivist principles embodied in the dominant agrarian society. The influence of Asian Values, on the recognition of and support for human rights in Vietnam has, however, been largely negative rather than positive, especially in relation to recognising civil and political rights as codified in universal human rights instruments. Thus, the protection and promotion of human rights in Vietnam, going forward, essentially mandates eliminating the influence of Asian Values in the ideology of political leaders and in the wider society.

Key words: Human rights, Asian Values, democracy, constitution, Communist Party, Vietnam

Author Biographies

Ngo Thi Minh Huong, NTMH

Ngo Huong is a human rights and development expert in Vietnam. Her PhD is in Human Rights and Peace Studies from Mahidol University (Thailand). She holds Masters degrees in Public International Law (LLM) and Human Rights (M.Phil.)  from the University of Oslo, and in Development Management from the Asian Institute of Management, Philippines. Dr Ngo currently is lectuer and coordinates the Master's programme on Human Righ ts Laws in the School of Law, Vietnam National University, Hanoi. She was Chair of the Capacity Building Committee of the Southeast Asian Human Rights and Peace education programme (SHAPE-SEA) in Thailand from 2011 to 2016. She is the co-founder of the Center for Development and Integration Vietnam (Vietnamese NGO). Dr Ngo has also worked at the Asian Development Bank, NORAD and other NGOs in Vietnam. Contact:

Giao Cong Vu

Vu Cong Giao is an expert on human rights law in Vietnam, with nearly 20 years researching and teaching in the field. He has finished and coordinated hundreds research projects, workshops and conferences on human rights and constitutional laws since 1996. Giao is currently Head of the Department of Constitutional and Administrative Laws, School of Law, Vietnam National University Hanoi (VNU-LS). He initiated and played the key role in running VNU-LS’s Master’s Program in Human Rights Laws, the first of its kind in Vietnam. Between 2011and 2013 Giao was highly engaged in discussions on amending the chapter on human rand civil rights in Vietnam’s 1992 Constitution (now the Constitution of 2013).

Tam Minh Nguyen

Nguyen Minh Tam is a PhD student in International Law at School of Law, Hunan Normal University (China). He holds a master degree in International  Human Rights Law (LLM) from School of Law, Vietnam National University Hanoi (VNU- LS). His research interests are in constitutional and human rights laws, under the supervisor of Dr. Vu Cong Giao. For the last three years, he has accomplished and published more than ten scientific papers.


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How to Cite
HUONG, Ngo Thi Minh; VU, Giao Cong; NGUYEN, Tam Minh. Asian Values and Human Rights: A Vietnamese Perspective. Journal of Southeast Asian Human Rights, [S.l.], v. 2, n. 1, p. 302-322, june 2018. ISSN 2599-2147. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 15 june 2024. doi:

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