Vietnam Security Forces Detain, Block Local Activists to Prevent Them from Meeting with U.S. Diplomats

Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski
Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski

[themify_box style=”red, announcement, rounded” ]Security forces across Vietnam have detained or blocked private houses of many local political dissidents and human rights activists in a bid to prevent them from taking part in a meeting with U.S. diplomats, who are in the communist nation to attend the 19th session of the two countries’ Human Rights Dialogue.[/themify_box]

By Vu Quoc Ngu | May 6, 2015 (Defend the Defenders)

Security forces across Vietnam have detained or blocked private houses of many local political dissidents and human rights activists in a bid to prevent them from taking part in a meeting with U.S. diplomats, who are in the communist nation to attend the 19th session of the two countries’ Human Rights Dialogue.

Among harassed are former political prisoners Dr. Pham Hong Son, Phạm Van Troi, human rights lawyer Nguyen Bac Truyen, Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, Venerable Thich Thien Minh, writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia, and social activists Nguyen Van De, Le Hong Phong and Mai Phuong Thao.

Dr. Son, a Hanoi-based former political prisoner and one of the leading dissidents in the communist nation, has complained in his facebook account that local police have blocked his private house in Ba Dinh district in recent days. A police officer informed him that he will not be allowed to go out in several days, said Mr. Son who met a number of high-ranking foreign guests in the past.

Mr. Troi and Mr. Nghia, who are under house arrest after serving long-term imprisonment for anti-state propaganda allegation, have been told not to go out this week. Their private houses are under close surveillance of the local policemen.

Human rights advocat Truyen in Dong Thap province informed that police have barred him and Dr. Que and Ven. Minh from attempting to go to Hanoi to attend the meeting with the U.S.’s guests on May 6. Their moves are under the watch of security agents.

Mr. De, a member of the unsanctioned Brotherhood for Democracy, informed that he was detained by Thanh Tri district police in the morning of May 6 when he headed to the meeting with U.S.’s diplomats.

In early morning of the same day, a group of 20 Hanoi policemen stormed into Mrs. Thao’s private house in Giap Bat commune, Hoang Mai district and forced her to a car to the commune police station and then to the district police heart-quarter without showing any legal document despite strong protest of the activist.

Policemen brutally took me to the car, treating me like a criminal, said Thao, who has been actively participating in demonstrations against China’s violations to Vietnam’s sovereignty, and protests against Hanoi’s plan to chop down 6,700 valuable aged trees in city’s main streets.

During the five hours in police station, police officers tried to interrogate her but she refused to answer but demanded for unconditional release, said Thao, who is a member of the unsanctioned Vietnam Women for Human Rights.

Afternoon, Thao was freed after many of her friends came to the police station to ask for her immediate release.

Thao said the purpose of her detention is to prevent her from participating in the meeting with U.S.’s diplomats scheduled in the morning of Wednesday.

Thao, who has often provided assistance for land petitioners, has been regular subject of police’s harassment. Several months ago, after donating farmers in Duong Noi with some food, she was stopped by traffic police without committing any fault. Police held her motorbike and imposed heavy fine although she did not commit traffic violations.

Dr. Son, Mrs. Thao and Mr. De were among a number of local activists invited by the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi to meet with Ambassador Ted Osius and Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski.

Vietnam’s police have often barred local activists from taking part in meetings with foreign diplomats.

Despite illegal efforts of Vietnam’s security forces, 14 representatives of independent civil societies sucessfully came to the meeting with the U.S.’s senior diplomats who want to have overview of human rights situation before taking part in the 19th Vietnam – U.S. Human Rights Dialogue scheduled in Hanoi on May 7, informed blogger Nguyen Tuong Thuy, who represented the unregistered Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam at the event.

Ambassador Osius and Mr. Malinowski will represent the U.S.’s side while Vu Anh Quang, head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of International Organizations will lead the Vietnamese side at the dialogue tomorrow.

The two sides will discuss on a wide range of human rights issues, including legal reform, rule of law, freedom of expression and assembly, religious freedom, labor rights, and disability rights.

On this occasion, the U.S delegation will visit Vietnam’s Central Highlands, where they will hold discussions with local government officials and members of civil society.

The last dialogue which was organized in Washington on Dec 26, 2014 covered the same issues.

The U.S. Department of State said that human rights remain a key issue in the bilateral relations and a number of the U.S. officials, mostly congresspersons and senators, have raised concerns over Vietnam’s poor rights records over the past years.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended the Obama administration to put Vietnam back in the list of countries of particular concern (CPC) for its backsliding on religious freedom.