August 10, 2015
Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly August 03-09: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Condemns Attempts by Haiphong Police to Harass and Interrupt Digital Security Workshop Organized by RSF and Defend the Defenders
Defenders’ Weekly | Aug 9, 2015
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on August 7 condemns repeated attempts by local police to harass and interrupt a digital security workshop that RSF and Defend the Defenders (DTD), a Vietnamese human rights group, successfully organized for 23 Vietnamese rights activists in Cat Ba last weekend.
Prisoners of conscience Nguyen Van Oai and Paulus Le Son were released on August 2 and August 3, respectively, after four-year imprisonment.
One more unexplained death in police station was recorded.tThe victim is Mr. Nguyen Quang Truong from Hanoi who died on the second day of his detention following a land seizure in Quoc Oai district. He is the 8th individual to die in police facilities in Vietnam so far this year.
On August 6, authorities in the southern province of Long An arrested Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan, 15, accusing him of intentionally inflicting injury on state officials under Article 104 of the country’s Penal Code. Four months earlier, Tuan was said to have thrown liquid acid at policemen and militia in Thanh Hoa district who came to evict his family out of its land. His parents, together with ten other relatives, were also detained and charged with allegation of “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties” under Article 257 of the Penal Code.
Son La is one of Vietnam’s poorest provinces, receiving government support every year to feed its ethnic minorities in remote mountainous areas. However, the local authorities have sought approval from the central government to build a monument of late President Ho Chi Minh with estimated costs of VND1.4 trillion ($63 million). Given the plan is squandering scarce national resources, thousands of Vietnamese have voiced their opposition to the plan.
and many other news.
Prisoner of Conscience Nguyen Van Oai Released after Four-Year Jail
On August 2, Nguyen Van Oai, a prisoner of conscience, was released after spending four years in jail for conducting activities aimed at overthrowing the government. His family members and local activists came to the Ha Nam province-based Ba Sao Prison to pick him up on the same day.
Speaking with people who came to welcome him, Mr. Oai said he was tortured by police officers after being arrested. He said he feels stronger after spending years in prison, and reaffirmed that his fighting has been right.
Mr. Oai will be under house arrest for four more years as a part of his sentence.
Two Khanh Hoa Residents to Appeal Public Disorders Sentences
Nguyen Van Ly and Mai Dinh Tam from Van Ninh district in Khanh Hoa province will go to a court on August 18 to appeal the sentences they received from the district court on June 2.
The duo was given 15 months in prison each for causing public disorders when they took actions to demand justice for their nephew who was beaten to death by local police.
LS VÕ AN ĐÔN: NGÀY 18/8/2015 XỬ PHÚC THẨM VỤ GÂY RỐI TRẬT TỰ CÔNG CỘNG
Hanoi Resident Dies on Third Day in Police Detention
A resident in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi died in a local police detention facility on the third day of being arrested for allegedly conducting activities against on-duty state officials, state media reported Tuesday.
Nguyen Quang Truong, 43, from Du Nghe in Quoc Oai district, was arrested on July 31 in a land seizure case. He was charged and placed in the detention facility of the district police for investigation.
On August 3, the district police informed his family about his death without specifying the causes. Currently, his body is preserved in the district general hospital.
The family is suspecting that his death was caused by police torture, so it has asked the army’s medical agency to conduct an autopsy.
Ms. Nguyen Thi Hue, the daughter of the victim, said her father went to the scene where Quoc Oai district’s authorities came to evict his relative’s family out of its land. Although he did not make any noises, he was accused of conducting activities against on-duty state officials, and arrested by policemen, she said.
The leadership of Hanoi City’s police department said they will launch an investigation to clarify the true causes of Mr. Truong’s death.
Meanwhile, police in Chau Pha commune, Tan Thanh district, Ba Ria-Vung Tau province said Nguyen Vu Hao, who was invited to the communal police station to answer an allegation of property theft, stabbed himself in the heart with a knife in a toilet of the police facility. Hoa was brought to the city’s general hospital, given timely treatement, and survived.
Mr. Truong is the second resident in Hanoi to die in police detention facilities in the last two weeks, and the third person in the capital city so far this year.
He has become the 8th Vietnamese to die in police stations under unexplained circumstances in the year to date.
Vietnam ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment last year. However, torture and inhumane treatment is still rampant in the one-party country.
According to government statistics, 226 detainees and prisoners died in police stations and prisons in the past four years. Police said most of these deaths were the result of suicides and illness, but their families believe that torture and bad treatment are to blame.
Few police officers have been disciplined for committing torture, the Ministry of Public Security said.
Vietnamese detained for criminal charges currently have no legal right to remain silent. Many legislators have proposed allowing detainees to have access to lawyers immediately after being arrested as well as installing video and audio equipments to record interrogation in police stations.
Political Prisoner Paulus Le Son Released
Political prisoner Paulus Le Son was released on Aug 3 after being imprisoned for four years on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the government” under Article 79 of the Penal Code.
Welcomed by many relatives and social activists, Mr. Son expressed his thankfulness for supporting him in the past years.
He said that he was tortured and degraded by police officers during the detention period and by prison guards and authorities during the past four years.
He also shared that when a delegation of the U.S. Department of State visited the Ha Nam province-based Ba Sao Prison on May 8, he met with American officials and presented his case which is unfair and a miscarriage of justice.
Mr. Son is one of a group of Catholic young followers arrested for anti-state activities four years ago. A number of lawmakers in Western countries and international human rights bodies have demanded their release. Two other members of the group, Mr. Dang Xuan Dieu and Mr. Dau Duc Hoa are still serving 13-year sentences in Vietnam’s prisons.
Son did not get to see his mother before she passed away due to serious diseases when he was in prison. He had sought to be temporarily released to see his mother when she was in critical conditions, but his requests were rejected by Vietnamese authorities.
Thousands of Vietnamese Protest VND1.4T Ho Chi Minh Monument Project
Thousands of Vietnamese have protested a plan by the northern province of Son La to build a monument of late President Ho Chi Minh with estimated costs of VND1.4 trillion, saying the plan is a waste of scarce resources given the fact that the province is one of the poorest in Vietnam.
According to local authorities’ plan, the monument will be built on a 20-hectare area and to be unveiled on Oct 11 on the occasion of the 120th anniversary of the province’s establishment.
Activists said the province should use the money for the monument to build schools and hospitals to serve local residents.
Son La is one of Vietnam’s poorest provinces, receiving government support every year to feed its ethnic minorities in remote mountainous areas.
U.S. Urged to be Cautious in Considering Sales of Lethal Weapons to Vietnam
The U.S. should be careful in selling lethal weapons to Vietnam, making sure that American weapons must not be used against local political dissidents and human rights activists, said a former prisoner of conscience.
Ho Chi Minh City-based Pham Ba Hai, who was imprisoned for five years for anti-state propaganda from 2006 to 2011, called on the U.S. to evaluate Vietnam’s improvement of its human rights and legal system before deciding to boost bilateral defense cooperation with the communist nation and lift its lethal weapon embargo which has been imposed on Vietnam since 1985 due to its poor human rights record.
Last year, the U.S. decided to partially remove its lethal weapon embargo, allowing Vietnam to buy modern military equipment for its naval forces, based on its supposed human rights improvement, to deal with the Red China in the East Sea. Washington is considering to fully remove its lethal weapon ban, said U.S. Ambassador Ted Osius earlier this year.
Speaking at a dinner in the private house of U.S.’s Consul General Rena Bitter in HCMC on the occasion of a visit of Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski to the city, Mr. Hai, who is a coordinator of the unsanctioned Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience, raised concerns about increasing persecution of Vietnam’s security forces against government critics and human rights activists as well as police’s violations of freedom of movement.
In recent months, a number of social activists, including Nguyen Chi Tuyen and Nguyen Tuan Anh from Hanoi, have been brutally attacked by plainclothes agents, while police in many localities have blocked dissidents from going abroad or meeting with foreign diplomats and legislators.
During the dinner meeting, Mr. Malinowski briefly informed the participants about the results of negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement among 12 nations and remaining obstacles. He said the biggest challenge facing Vietnam is not economic issus but independent trade unions as the communist government does not want to allow independent labor union to be formed.
On behalf of the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience, Mr. Hai said the TPP agreement would be beneficial to the Vietnamese communist government since state-owned enterprises still control the national economy. The communist government will continue to maintain their power and keep the country under a one-party regime.
Vietnam still has no independent trade unions, Mr. Hai said, adding that social activists are not able to assist workers in forming their labor unions to protect their rights while the government will make all efforts to manipulate such organizations.
Vietnam has yet to have an independent judiciary to settle disputes between workers and employers and between the state-controlled trade union and independent unions, Mr. Hai said.
The current Penal Code has a number of controversial articles such as Articles 245 and 258 which may be used by the government to criminalize labor activists, Hai noted.
The meeting was held one day prior to a visit of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to Hanoi. A number of activists, including Huynh Thuc Vy from the Vietnamese Women for Human Rights and Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh from the Vietnam Blogger Network, successfully came to the event.
Many others, including Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, Dr. Pham Chi Dung and former political prisoner Nguyen Bac Truyen, were barred by local security forces from going to the dinner. Policemen and plainclothes agents blocked their private houses from early morning until late evening.
Mr. Hai said he and Mrs. Vy had to leave their residential areas one day before the meeting.
HCM City Activists Barred from Taking Dinner with U.S. Senior Diplomats
Security forces in Ho Chi Minh City on August 5 blocked a number of local activists from taking a dinner with senior U.S.’s diplomats, social network has reported.
Policemen and plainclothes agents blocked private houses of many democracy advocates and human rights campaigners, including Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, Professor Pham Minh Hoang, independent journalist Pham Chi Dung, former political prisoner Nguyen Bac Truyen and Ms. Duong Thi Tan, not allowing them to go out all day.
Earlier, Rena Bitter, U.S. consul general in HCM City, invited them to have a dinner in her private residence, on the occasion of a visit of Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski.
When questioned about their illegal move, security officers replied that they acted as requested by higher officials.
The incident was taken one day prior to a visit of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to the communist nation which aims to strengthen the two countries’ comprehensive partnership.
In addition to barring local political dissidents and human rights activists from going abroad, Vietnam’s government has also blocked social activists from meeting with foreign diplomats.
In March, police in HCM City and the central city of Nha Trang also blocked a number of activists from taking flights to Hanoi where they were invited to meet with foreign lawmakers who were in Vietnam to attend the 132nd assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
In order to keep the country under one-party rule, Vietnam has intensified political crackdown on local dissents. Instead of arresting local government critics and human rights activists, Vietnamese security forces have harassed and persecuted them or not allowed them to gather.
Vietnam recently completed negotiations with the U.S. and ten other nations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. It seems the negotiations have failed as the communist government in Hanoi has refused to improve its human rights records, labor rights and working conditions.
Cyber-security Workshop Held Sucessfully, Despite Police Harassment
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns repeated attempts by local police to harass and interrupt a digital security workshop that RSF and Defend the Defenders (DTD), a Vietnamese human rights group, successfully organized for 23 Vietnamese rights activists near Hanoi last weekend.
Held from 31 July to 2 August in a hotel on Cat Ba Island, 160 km east of Hanoi, the workshop consisted of training provided by DTD member Ton Phi in how to protect against viruses and the pro-government malware that increasingly targets activists.
Uniformed and plainclothes police kept the three-day workshop under constant surveillance and repeatedly tried to interrupt it.
“It is unacceptable that Vietnamese citizens who are not breaking any law should be spied on, harassed and threatened in this manner by the police,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk.
“We urge the Vietnamese authorities to apply the constitution, article 25 of which guarantees freedom of expression and the media, access to information and the right to form associations. It is time to end the government crackdown on bloggers.”
A group of policemen burst into the conference room on the first day and tried to end the workshop but gave up after participants protested and pointed that the police had no official document ordering its termination. One of the participants, Thuy Nga, filmed the police intervention:
Thereafter around ten policemen, some of them in civilian dress, kept a close watch on the rest of the workshop. The police ordered the hotel’s owner to cut the Internet connection and to deny further use of the conference room, after which the workshop continued in the room of one of the participants.
The police continued to harass them, carrying out an “administrative check” on the rooms of the activists in the middle of the night, during which they manhandled Nguyen Huu Vinh, a blogger known as JB who is a member of the Association of Vietnamese Journalists.
The authorities meanwhile continue to intensify their crackdown on bloggers. The blogger Me Nam (Mother Mushroom) was attacked and detained for several hours by police on 25 July while on her way to a demonstration to demand the release of Vietnamese political prisoners.
Trinh Anh Tuan, a blogger known by the pseudonym of Gio Lang Thang, was attacked and badly beaten by three individuals in civilian address a few days before that 40th anniversary on 30 April of the end of the Vietnam War. He said his assailants were police officers.
Three bloggers – Le Thi Phuong Anh, Do Nam Trung and Pham Minh Vu – were given sentences ranging from 12 to 18 months in prison on 12 February for posting information on Facebook about an anti-Chinese demonstration by South China Sea oil rig workers.
Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
Long An Police Arrest 15-year Schoolboy, Third Family Member Detained in Land Seizure Case
Police in Vietnam’s southern province of Long An on Aug 6 arrested Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan, a 15-year schoolboy, accusing him of intentionally inflicting injury on state officials under Article 104 of the country’s Penal Code, local networks have reported.
According to reports on social networks, Nguyen Mai Thao Vy, a younger sister of Tuan, informed that her older brother was re-detained by police when he had been under medical treatment in Phan Thiet city, Binh Thuan province, the hometown of their mother. He was reportedly transferred to Long An province for further investigation after four months of being searched by police.
Tuan became the third person in his four-member family to be arrested in a land seizure case which happened on April 14 this year. His father Nguyen Trung Cang and mother Mai Thi Kim Huong, together with ten other relatives, have been arrested and charged with “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties” under Article 257 of the Penal Code.
Four months ago, authorities in Long An province’s Thanh Hoa district sent hundreds of policemen and militia to evict Tuan’s family out of their land in Thanh Hoa commune. They met strong verbal protest from the family which had not agreed to the low compensation of VND300,000 ($14) a square meter, ten folds lower than the market prices.
Tuan was detained for two days in a local police station for throwing a liquid substance at the police while ten others, including his parents and grandfather were arrested for resisting on-duty state officials. Tuan was released due to bad health conditions. However, Thanh Hoa police issued a warrant to arrest him later.
In a video clip made on April 18, Tuan said her parents and relatives were brutally beaten by the police and in order to protect them he threw whatever he found in a bid to prevent the police harassment without knowing that a can he threw contained dangerous substance. During his short detention in police station four months ago, he was also severely tortured by police officers, he said.
Tuan, who is still a student in a local secondary school, may face imprisonment of between six months and three years in jail if found guilty while his parents and relatives may be imprisoned between six months and seven years.
He was not allowed to attend a class due to pressure from the local police, Tuan said in April.
Tuan was told by police that he injured 18 policemen with liquid acid while local residents said only four police officers were affected by the chemical thrown by the boy.
Land grabbing by authorities has occurred in many localities in Vietnam, where all land belongs to the state and local residents have only the right to use it.
Under the current Vietnamese Land Law, the government can take land for social-economic projects while local authorities can seize land with low compensation and sell it to industrial and urban developers at much higher prices, triggering public dissatisfaction.
In order to deal with public protests, local authorities have used armed police and militia to suppress opposition, and used fabricated evidence to charge protesters with committing activities against on-duty state officials.
In addition to losing their land, many Vietnamese have been imprisoned. A number of people died under unexplained circumstances after being detained by police in land disputes, according to state-run media.
Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience Welcomes Ten New Members
The unsanctioned Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience has issued a letter to welcome its new members who recently completed their sentences.
Their names are:
- Mrs. Can Thi Theu, a land petitioner, imprisoned for 15 months
- Mr. Dinh Van Nhuong, a land petitioner, jailed for 4 years
- Mr. Do Van Hoa, a land petitioner, jailed for 4 years
- Mr. Le Quoc Quan, human rights lawyer, imprisoned for 30 months on the fabricated charge of tax evasion
- Mr. Le Thanh Tung, a freelance journalist, imprisoned for 4 years
- Nguyen Thi Ngan, a land petitioner, imprisoned for 6 months
- Ms. Nguyen Thi Toan, a land petitioner, imprisoned for 6 months
- Mr. Nguyen Van Duyet, a social activist, jailed for 42 months
- Ms. Pham Thi Loc, a land petitioner, jailed for 42 months
- Mr. Trinh Ba Khiem, a land petitioner, imprisoned for 18 months.
The FVPoC also welcomed newly-released Le Son and Nguyen Van Oai who just completed their four-year imprisonments.
It praised the contribution of Nguyen Van Dai and Pham Ba Hai, the coordinators of the group, for their activities which aim to support former prisoners of conscience despite increasing harassments by the government. The two former political prisoners also met with a number of foreign diplomats and officials who have been concerned about human rights situations in Vietnam.
US Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski Visits Detained Buddhist Patriarch Thich Quang Do
Mr. Tom Malinowski, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, on August 5 visited prominent dissident and Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam Thich Quang Do at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City where the UBCV Patriarch is under effective house arrest.
Mr. Malinowski was accompanied by U.S. Consul General Ms. Rena Bitter, Special Assistant to Mr. Malinowski Rodney Hunter, and Charles Sellers, Political Section Chief at the U.S. Consulate in HCMC.
During the open and cordial meeting, which lasted for over an hour, Venerable Do expressed his concerns to the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State on a wide range of issues including religious freedom, development, human rights and democratization in Vietnam.
Ven. Do, 87, informed Mr. Malinowski about Vietnam’s systematic repression against the UBCV over the past 40 years, with the harassment, intimidation, assaults and surveillance of monks, nuns and lay-followers. He also described his own situation, confined under house arrest without charge at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery since 2003 under the permanent surveillance of plainclothes agents, and deprived of the right to travel and communicate freely.
Vietnam has repressed the UBCV because the communist government was afraid of anything it could not control, said Ven. Do, adding the policy was bound to fail.
“Buddhism has been in Vietnam for the past 2,000 years. It is part of the people’s psyche, their culture, their very identity. Buddhism was there before this regime came to power and it will still be there when it has gone,” the prominent monk told American diplomats.
Hanoi should not be afraid, said Ven. Do, but rather “embrace pluralism without fear. Diversity is a treasure, not a threat”. The UBCV is not Vietnam’s enemy, he said: “We love our country (…) if we speak out for freedom of expression, religion, assembly and association, it is not because we are “hostile forces” trying to undermine the regime, but because we believe that human rights are the tools with which we can build a prosperous and caring society, based on mutual respect and the rule of law. We believe that everyone should have the right to participate in shaping their own destiny and determining their country’s future.”
Whilst welcoming strengthened relations between the U.S. and Vietnam, he urged Mr. Malinowski to ensure that the U.S. maintains human rights as the cornerstone of this relationship. “This gives you real leverage to help Vietnam embark on the road to reform. Many countries merely pay lip-service to human rights in order to do “business as usual” with the communist regime. I trust and believe that the United States will not follow this path”.