Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly September 14-20: Blogger Ta Phong Tan Released, Forced to Live in Exile in U.S

Defenders’ Weekly | Sep 20, 2015


Prominent blogger Ta Phong Tan, who has been serving her 10-year imprisonment, is freed but forced to live in exile in the U.S.

On September 14, the Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders issued a press release, calling on Vietnam’s communist government to immediately lift impermissible restrictions on the right to freedom of movement of local dissidents and human rights activists.

Twelve members of two families opposing land grabbing by local authorities in ThanhHoa district in Long An province were brought to court on September 15. Ten of them were accused of conducting activities against on-duty state officials and two others were charged with “causing injuries for others.”

On September 13, authorities in HuongKhe district in the central province of Ha Tinh sent armed police to suppress local residents in a land seizure case, seriously injuring many people.

And many other news


Civil Rights Defenders Requests Vietnam Not to Restrict Activists’ Movements

On September 14, the Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders issued a press release, calling on Vietnam’s communist government to immediately lift impermissible restrictions on the right to freedom of movement of local dissidents and human rights activists.

The Swedish non-government organization has also urged the international community to hold Vietnam accountable to its professed commitment and obligations to align its domestic laws and practices with international human rights law and to foster a safe and enabling environment for civil society.

According to its statistics, Civil Rights Defenders said authorities in Vietnam have blocked at least 33 human rights defenders and activists from freely travelling abroad or internally in the last six months, despite legal protection of the right to freedom of movement.

Civil Rights Defenders considers these restrictions arbitrary and in violation of Vietnam’s obligations under its own Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

In recent years, scores of human rights defenders and activists have been prevented from, and intimidated over, traveling abroad or moving freely within the country for peaceful human rights activities, such as trainings, peaceful protests and seminars. Many have had their passports confiscated or applications for passports rejected, while others have faced police interrogation at airports. Independent human rights monitors estimate that between 70 and 100 activists currently face government-imposed international travel bans, the Civil Rights Defenders said in its statement.

“As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, Vietnam is expected to uphold the highest standards in human rights protection and promotion, but it is doing the opposite by denying human rights defenders and activists the opportunity to travel, associate with others, and express themselves freely,” said Brittis Edman, Southeast Asia Programme Director at Civil Rights Defenders.

Article 23 of Vietnam’s 2013 Constitution guarantees citizens enjoyment of freedom of movement. However, the Ministry of Public Security issued Decree No. 136  in 2007, granting itself total discretion to prohibit Vietnamese citizens from leaving or entering the country on the grounds of “safeguarding national security and social order and safety.” The Decree provides neither clear nor a precise definition of such grounds or objective criteria for making such determination, the Civil Rights Defenders noted.

Civil Rights Defenders: Vietnam: Restrictions on Freedom of Movement Violate Domestic and International Law


Hanoi Journalist Beaten by HCM City Police while Taking Pics of Traffic

Police brutally beat a journalist of the Ha NoiMoi newspaper and detained him at a police station in Ho Chi Minh City when he tried to photograph a traffic accident, the Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper reported Monday.

Thanh Tau from the Hanoi-based newspaper said during the night of September 10, he went to the scene of a traffic accident on QuangTrungstreet in Go Vap district to cover the case. While some police officers were asking him to show his journalist certificate, one attacked him in his left eye.

Later, police and a militia detained Mr. Tau at the local police station.

“On the way to the police station, the policeman attacked me with his electronic baton. In the station, four people severely beat me,” Mr. Tau was quoted as saying by the Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper.

Mr. Tau said police erased all pictures and data on his cell phone and camera. He left the police station with serious injuries to his eye and back.

Lieutenant Colonel Tran Ba Uu from Go Vap district police said his agency is investigating the case and will impose strict measures against violators.

Mr. Tau is the second journalist beaten by police while trying to cover news within recent few months. In June, Hanoi police beat Tong Van Dat from the TuoiTre Thu Do newspaper after he filmed their working session in Van Quan ward in Ha Dong district.

In addition, thugs have threatened and attacked a number of reporters of state-run newspapers due to their reports related to corruption and environmental pollution.

Vu Quoc Ngu: Hanoi Journalist Beaten by HCM City Police while Taking Pics of Traffic Accident


Former Prisoners of Conscience, Activists Light Candles to Pray for Aborted Children

On September 12, a group of young activists, including many former prisoners of conscience in Gia Hoa parish in the central province of Ha Tinh lighted candles to pray for thousands of aborted children buried in AnhHai cemetery.

The activists said they want to alert community about growing abortion cases among young mothers, and the degrading moral due to the leadership of the communists who have ruled the country for decades.

SBTN: Cựu tù nhân lương tâm thắp nến cầu nguyện cho thai nhi nhân dịp Tết Trung Thu


Vietnam Top Legislator Requests Precise Definitions of Political Charges

Vietnam’s amended Penal Code must have precise definitions of political charges and clearly describe activities which are considered anti-government, said Nguyen Sinh Hung, chairman of the country’s legislative body National Assembly (NA).

The Vietnamese top legislator made this statement at the ongoing 41st session of the NA Standing Committee where senior lawmakers and full-time legislators debate the draft Penal Code (amended).

Mr. Hung, who just returned from an official visit to the U.S., said Vietnam cannot arrest citizens without solid basis.

Regarding trials, Mr. Hung said all People’s Courts must ensure the rights of defendant to competent and effective defense, including during the first hearing and appeals.

It is a violation of the country’s Constitution if defense is allowed only in appeals, he noted.

Human rights of people, including defendants, should be respected, said the top lawmaker.

The amended Penal Code, which will be submitted to the parliament for approval in its one-month sitting in October-November to replace the current law adopted by the communist-controlled parliament in 1999.

Vietnam has been criticized internationally for using controversial Articles 78, 79, 88, 89, 245 and 258 in the current Penal Code to silence local dissent.

The draft amended Penal Code, built by the Ministry of Justice, has minor changes from the current version, observers said.

Death penalty is the highest punishment for anti-state crimes. People can face up to 20 years for lighter charges.

In July, Vietnam’s communist government called on local citizens and expats to contribute their opinions to the draft amendments of the Penal Code.

According to the decision signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Vietnamese could send their ideas for amendments to the law in the next two months until September 15 and the Justice Ministry will be responsible for receiving the public feedback and completing the draft revised law before submitting to the National Assembly, the country’s highest legislative body, at the 10th plenary meeting slated to start next month.

Under the amendments also prepared by the Ministry of Public Security, seven kinds of crimes will be removed from the capital punishment, including robbery, demolish of works important for national security, activities against order at the higher levels, surrender to enemies, harming the peace and launching war, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Regarding the crime of corruption, the government intended to remove death sentence for this crime in the revised draft law but lawmakers and experts refused to remove it, saying that the removal will harm the country amid rampant corruption.

On issues of basic human rights, the controversial articles such as Articles 79, 88, 245 and 258 which have been used to silent local government critics and human rights activists, will remain the same or even be toughened amid rising public discontent.

In the draft amendments, they will become respectively articles 106, 115, 316 and 330. While Articles 106, 115 and 330 are similar to Article 79, 88 and 258 of the current law, Article 316 (causing public disorder) will be toughened in a bid to deal with rising dissatisfaction among farmers nationwide whose land is seized by local authorities for industrial and urban development.

Article 316 states that people committing public disorders can face up to three years imprisonment compared to two years currently and a fine of between VND10 million ($460) to VND100 million, ten folds higher than that set by the current law. Vietnam has yet to introduce a demonstration law to provide legal protection of peaceful protesters, so all public gatherings may be considered public disturbance. In the past few years, the Vietnamese government has violently dispersed peaceful demonstrations and charged many protesters for causing public disorder.

Many countries and international human rights organizations have urged Vietnam to drop controversial Articles 79, 88, 245 and 258 which criminalize peaceful activities of local political dissidents and social activists.

These articles are among those other countries recommended Vietnam to remove when its human rights record was examined during the Universal Periodic Review last year.

Hundreds of pro-democracy campaigners and human rights activists, as well as farmers who peacefully demand for market-based compensation for their land, have been imprisoned under Articles 79, 88, 245 and 258.

According to international human rights organizations, Vietnam is holding between 150 and 200 prisoners of conscience while Hanoi always denies this, saying it imprisons only law violators.

In late 2013, Vietnam was elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, but the Southeast Asian nation has taken only modest efforts to improve its human rights records which are very poor according to international human rights bodies.

The communists have vowed to keep the country under one-party rule and consider government critics and democracy advocates as anti-government.

Vu Quoc Ngu: Vietnam Top Legislator Requests Precise Definitions of Political Charges


Vietnam Attends 30th Meeting of UN Human Rights Council

Ambassador Nguyen Trung Thanh, head of Vietnam’s Permanent Mission to the United Nation and other international organizations in Geneva, is leading the country’s delegation to attend the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council in the Swiss city.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, delegations of the Council’s 47 members and over 100 observercountries  are participating in the event which started on September 14 and will last until October 2.

In his opening speech, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged countries to continue to cooperate in solving urgent global issues, especially the current migration crisis.

Some countries and organizations stated concerns about the protection of civilians, especially those who are migrants, refugees from armed conflict or persecution.

The working sessions will consider 70 reports of UN agencies; hold discussion and dialogues as well as discuss and vote on 40 draft resolutions decisions concerning human rights.

Vietnam joined the UN Human Rights Council as a member for a three-year term from 2014-2016.

Vu Quoc Ngu: Vietnam Attends 30th Meeting of UN Human Rights Council


Beaten byPolice Officer, Ha Nam Citizen Hospitalized for Severe Injuries Treatments

Vu Van Dieu from DuyHai commune, DuyTien district in the northern province of Ha Nam has been under special treatment for severe injuries caused by local police.

Dieu, 49, was brought to the Hanoi-based Viet Duc Hospital with four broken ribs, a seriously injured lung and broken neck as well as a number of other severe injuries on his body. After a long surgery, hi is still in critical condition.

On September 10, Deputy Police Chief Tran Minh Doan and several policemen in DuyHai commune went to Dieu’s house to settle quarrel between Dieu and his wife. Doan and policeman Do Van Quy beat Dieu and the policemen detained him at the communal police station where they continued to beat him behind closed doors.

After Dieu fell unconscious, Ngo Van Thong, the communal police chief, asked his staff to bring the victim to his house.

Dieu said he had been beaten by local policemen many times before but he was threatened not to tell anyone otherwise he will be killed.

Con đường VN: Thêm một vụ nhân viên công vụ Việt Nam lạm dụng quyền lực, ngang nhiên vi phạm pháp luật gây hậu quả nghiêm trọng


Policemen Beat Many Residents in Ha Tinh in Land Grabbing Case

Local police brutally beat many citizens in the central province of Ha Tinh in a land grabbing case, in which authorities forcibly took land from local residents and gave it to a swine company.

On September 13, authorities in HuongKhe district deployed numerous policemen, including specially-armed forces, militia, and thugs in order to evict people from their land. People in HuongXuan commune have strongly protested the local authorities’ plan to take their land for the swine company to set up pig farm whichthe local people allege will pollute drinking water source for the entire commune.

The armed forces barbarically attacked protesting residents, breaking one citizen’s ribs and detaining another. The fate of the arrested man is still unknown.

RFA: Người dân Hương Khê, Hà Tĩnh phản đối cưỡng chế đất

SBTN: Chính quyền đánh đập dân cưỡng chế đất ở Hương Khê – Hà Tĩnh


Long An Court Imprisons 12 People in Land Grabbing Case, Relatives Not Allowed to Attend Trial

On September 15, the People’s Court in the southern province of Long An opened a first hearing to try 12 individuals from two local families which were involved in a clash with local police during a land eviction case in April.

Ten of them are accused of conducting activities against on-duty state officials while the remaining two are accused of injuring state officials during the eviction.

During the two-day trial, relatives and friends of the defendants were not allowed to enter the court room and had to follow the hearing via the radio at a place about two hundreds of meters from the court room.

Some social activists who are concerned about the case were also barred from approaching the court room.

The court found the defendants guilty and sentenced nine of them to between 24 months’ and 42 months’ imprisonments and the remaining three to probation of between 24 months and 30 months.

Additionally, Mr. Mai TrungLinh and Mr. Mai Van Phong are forced to pay a compensation of VND17 million to injured policemen.

Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan, 15, a son of Nguyen Trung Can and Mai Thi Kim Huong, who received imprisonment sentences, is still in detention for the charge of conducting activities against on-duty state officials under Article 257 of the Penal Code. He will be tried in a different hearing.

RFA: Kết quả phiên tòa xét xử 12 người chống cưỡng chế đất ở Long An


Fresh-released Prisoner of Conscience Condemns Abuse of Lam Dong Police

Former political prisoner Tran Minh Nhat, who completed his four-year imprisonment in late August, has sent a letter to authorities in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong to condemn harassments and threats of local police against him and his family in recent weeks.

In his letter, Mr. Nhat asked the provincial authorities to investigate recent activities of local police which have threatened the life of his family after he returned from a visit to a prison.

Police in Lam Ha district have continued their harassment of and threats against Nhat, who is still under three years of house arrest.

On the morning of September 7, police summoned Mr. Nhat to the police station of Da Don commune in Lam Ha district where he resides to work on the three-year probation. At the station, police threatened him, saying he must obey the regulations otherwise he will face serious troubles.

Since late August, local police established a control point to monitor people who visit Nhat. They have blocked activists and not allowed them to visit him.

One day after Nhat’s release, Lam Ha police brutally attacked activists coming to see him. Six visitors, including two females, were severely beaten by plainclothes agents when they were leaving Nhat’s private house.

On September 1, a delegation of Catholic priests from Saigon came to visit him but was barred from meeting the young activist.

FB: Kính gửi đến tất cả những ai quan tâm đến tình hình nhân quyền tại Việt Nam


Thai Binh Province-based Activist Disappeared

Land petitioner Le Van Dai, who once led a group of more than 100 land petitioners in the northern province of Thai Binh to hold demonstrations to protest corruption and demand land return, was disappeared after he actively participated in social activities.

Mrs. Bat, his wife, said he was last seen on September 2. The family has reported his situation to local authorities but so far, there has been no clue for his fate.

Mr. Dai has petitioned for years to demand for land which had been illegally revoked by the local authorities. He had led local land petitioners to hold demonstrations in fronts of government buildings in Hanoi.

GNsP: Thái Bình: công dân tham gia hoạt động Xã hội Dân sự bị mất tích


Two Vung Tau Bloggers Fined With VND10M

On September 17, the chief inspector of the Ba Ria-Vung Tau province’s Department of Information and Communication issued a decision to fine two local bloggers VND5 million each for their postings on their private blogs and Facebook accounts.

One of the two victims, blogger Doan Huu Long, said he has posted a number of articles since 2012 to criticize Vietnam’s communist government on bribery, poor socio-economic management and weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea.

Several years ago, Long was dismissed from a state official post.

SBTN: Hai blogger bị xử phạt hành chính 10 triệu đồng


Vietnam Security Forces Harass Young Activist Bach Huu Phuoc and His Family

Security forces in Ho Chi Minh City and the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong have harassed young activist Bach HuuPhuoc and his family after he returned from Thailand.

On September 17, police officers in HCMC summoned Phuoc to police station, forcing him to report about his recent trip to Thailand.

At the same time, police in Lam Dong summoned his father, Mr. Bach Y, to a local police station to question him about the activities of his son.

During the interrogation, Phuoc said he did not conduct illegal activities in Thailand so he has nothing to report.

Mr. Y refused to meet with local authorities, saying their moves are illegal and threaten his family.

IJAVN: An ninh sách nhiễu gia đình thanh niên trẻ Bạch Hữu Phước


Ha Tinh Authorities Forbids Dong Yen to Organize Classes for 155 Children

On September 17, police in KyAnh city in the central province of Ha Tinh have demanded people in Dong Yen village not to organize classes for their children.

In the 2014-2015 school year, authorities in Ha Tinh did not allow 155 children of between four and 16 years in Dong Yen village to go to classes of the Ky Loi Primary School. For the second consecutive year, children cannot go to school.

In late 2012, authorities in Ky Anh district started a program to resettle all people in Dong Yen parish to another place. However, Catholic followers in Dong Yen have refused to leave their land to move to another place.

In response, local authorities have not permitted Dong Yen children to go to the communal schools.

SBTN: Chính quyền Hà Tĩnh ngăn cấm thôn Đông Yên tự tổ chức dạy học cho 155 học sinh


Prominent Blogger Ta Phong Tan Released, Becoming Third Vietnamese Political Prisoner to Live in Exile in U.S.

Vietnam’s communist government, which wants support from the U.S. in the TPP trade agreement negotiations, has agreed to free prominent blogger Ta Phong Tan but forced her to live in the U.S., the RFA has reported.

According to the RFA, Miss Tan, who has been serving her ten-year imprisonment in the central province of Thanh Hoa, was released and brought to an airport where she was forced to take an international flight to Los Angeles during this weekend.

She is accompanied by Mr. David Muehlke, political officer of the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam, the news agency said.

Miss Tan, who was convicted for anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code in 2012, is the third political prisoner forced to live in exile in the U.S. Last year, prominent legal expert Cu Huy Ha Vu and well-known blogger Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay) were also taken from prison and brought directly to the U.S.

Like Dr. Vu and Mr. Hai, Tan was not allowed to meet with her relatives nor pay the first and the last visit to her mother Dang Thi Kim Lieng who died after immolating herself in the front of the building of the Bac Lieu provincial People’s Committee to protest the arrest and unfair trial of her daughter, who is a member of the Club of Independent Journalists.

After being sentenced, Miss Tan was transferred to a number of prisons which are located far from her family as the government wants to make troubles for her family to visit her. Prison authorities have treated her inhumanely, forcing her to conduct a number of hunger strikes to protest the severe living conditions in jail and the tough treatments of prison authorities. The last fast was around twenty days in May-June.

The U.S. and other democratic governments as well as numerous international human rights bodies have called on Vietnam to release Miss Tan and other prisoners of conscience who bravely criticized the local communist government for systemic corruption, mismanagements and weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea.

On the occasion of the World Free Press [May 3] this year, the U.S. Department of State named a number of journalists who are illegally imprisoned, including Ms. Tan from Vietnam. Secretary John Kerry said Ms. Tan was sentenced to ten years in jail just because she publicly condemned the government corruption.

In March 2013, Secretary Kerry and U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama awarded Ms. Tan as a 2013 woman of courage for her dedication to continually demanding a better government for her people, for her willingness to take risks for her beliefs, and for her life experience and skills as a writer that serve as an inspiration to women in Vietnam.

Vietnam is holding at least 135 political prisoners, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch. Dr. Vu said the Vietnamese government treats prisoners of conscience as commodities to barter with the U.S. and other Western countries for security and trade benefits as well as foreign aid. Vietnam has stocked a reserve of prisoners of conscience for future bargaining, he wrote in an article posted on the Washington Post in 2014.

RFA: Blogger Tạ Phong Tần được trả tự do và trên đường tới Mỹ

BBC: ‘Chị tôi sẽ vẫn đấu tranh sau khi ra tù’