Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly September 21-27: Reporters of Independent Luong Tam TV Detained, Questioned
Defenders’ Weekly | Sep 27, 2015
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On September 23, Hanoi police detained six local activists to investigate their roles in producing and posting independent online Luong Tam (Conscience) TV programs which report human rights violations in Vietnam. Police interrogated and confiscated a number of personalitems of Le Yen and Nguyen Vu Binh before releasing them mid night of the same day.
Many independent civil organizations and individuals issued a joint statement to condemn the sentencing of 12 land petitioners in ThachHoa district, Long An province.
Security forces in Thai Binh province detained former political prisoner Tran Anh Kim whose fate is still unknown even for his family.
And other news
Vietnam Urged to Free Other Prisoners of Conscience
Vietnam should release all prisoners of conscience and allow local residents to express their political views without fear of retribution, said the U.S. and international human rights bodies.
The U.S. Embassy in Hanoi said it welcomes the recent decision of the Vietnamese government to release blogger Ta Phong Tan, who has been serving her ten-year imprisonment on conviction of anti-state propaganda.
“We welcome the decision by Vietnamese authorities to release Ta Phong Tan, who decided to travel to the United States after her release from prison,” Public Affairs Officer Terry White at the United States embassy in Hanoi was quoted as saying by Reuters.
On September 19, Miss Tan, who has been jailed for online articles about corruption and human rights violations since 2010, was brought from a prison to an airport where she was forced to take an international flight to the U.S.
While applauding Vietnam’s release of Miss Tan, the New York-based Human Rights Watch has criticized Hanoi’s move to force freed political dissident to live in exile.
“This release continues Vietnam’s cynical practice of releasing high profile dissidents from prison directly into forced exile, with immediate departure from the country being the price of their freedom,” said Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director for Human Rights Watch.
These methods actually reflected a tightening of political control of Vietnam’s communist government, said Mr. Robertson.
Miss Tan, who is a former police officer, is the third political dissident to live in exile in the U.S. after being released from prison. Last year, legal expert Dr. Cu Huy Ha Vu and prominent blogger Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay) were also forced into exile.
Responding to the release, the Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the Vietnamese move and calls on the communist government in Vietnam to release all other journalists and bloggers imprisoned in the country.
“The release of Vietnamese blogger Ta Phong Tan is gratifying news, but Vietnam is still holding more than a dozen journalists behind bars in connection with their work,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator.
“Vietnamese authorities should do all they can, including repeal the country’s harsh anti-press laws, to ensure that journalists are able to work and report freely,” Mr. Dietz noted.
Unsanctioned Civil Organizations Condemn Hard Sentences Given to 12 Land Petitioners in Long An
Many unregistered civil organizations have issued a joint statement to condemn the decision of authorities in Long An province to imprison 12 local land petitioners with total 26 years in prison and 90 months of probation in an unfair trial on September 15-16.
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 orderedto pay a compensation of VND17 million to injured policemen.
RSF Calls on Vietnam to Free Other 15 Journalists, Bloggers
Reporters Without Borders is relieved by blogger Ta Phong Tan’s release after three years in prison on an anti-state propaganda charge but points out that 15 other citizen-journalists are still detained in Vietnam.
The move came after Vietnam freed Miss Tan, who was sentenced to ten years in prison for criticizing corruption and human rights violations in the police and judicial system on her blog “Cong Ly v Su That” (Justice and Truth).
Vietnam continues to be one of the world’s biggest prisons for bloggers and online information activities.
Tran Anh Kim, a 66-year-old member of the Bloc 8406 pro-democracy movement and recipient of the Human Rights Watch Hellman/Hammett award in 2009, has been held in secret since his arrest yesterday in the northern province of Thai Binh.
After his arrest on a charge of anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the Penal Code in July 2009, he spent more than five years in prison and was not released until last January.
“We are delighted to learn that Ta Phong Tan has been freed after being held for three years in deplorable conditions,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk.
“At the same time, we would also like to point out that 15 bloggers and citizen-journalists are still in Vietnamese jails for exercising their right to provide their fellow citizens and the rest of the world with information, including information about the state of human rights in Vietnam. We again call on the authorities to release all of them.”
With regards legal grounds for jailing dissidents, the Vietnamese authorities have recourse to an arsenal of arbitrary laws with systematically vague wording such as Article 258 of the Penal Code, under which “abusing democratic freedoms” is punishable by imprisonment.
Police violence against bloggers is also particularly worrying, especially as the authorities often enlist members of the criminal underworld to carry out these acts of violence. The choice of targets and the brutality used indicate that the regime is taking an increasingly harder line with dissent.
Reporters Without Borders published a damning report entitled “Programmed death of freedom of information” in September 2013. The jailing of citizen-journalists and bloggers continued in 2014.
Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of the 15 citizen-journalists still detained in Vietnam:
Held since 12 February 2015: Pham Minh Vu – Blogger
Held since 27 December 2014: Nguyen Ngoc Gia (Nguyen Dinh Ngoc) – Blogger
Held since 5 May 2014: Nguyen Huu Vinh – Ba Sam
Held since 5 May 2014: Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy
Held since 11 February 2014: Bui Thi Minh Hang
Held since 11 September 2013: Ngo Hao – Online activist
Held since 19 October 2012: Dinh Nguyen Kha – Blogger
Held since 1 December 2011: Le Thanh Tung
Held since 19 September 2011: Tran Vu Anh Binh – Online activist
Held since 30 July 2011: Dang Xuan Dieu – Vietnam Redemptorist News reporter
Held since 30 July 2011: Ho Duc Hoa – Vietnam Redemptorist News reporter
Held since 25 July 2011: Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly
Held since 28 April 2011: Nguyen Cong Chinh – Preacher, online activist
Held since April 2011: Nguyen Ngoc Cuong
Held since 7 July 2010: Tran Huynh Duy Thuc
In July 2013, Reporters Without Borders launched a petition for the release of bloggers held by the Vietnamese authorities. Some of them have since been freed but the fight continues.
Vietnam is ranked 175thout of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
Freed Blogger Ta Phong Tan Threatens Legal Action Against Hanoi
Prominent political dissident Ta Phong Tan, who was freed on September 19 and forced to live in exile in the U.S.,says she and another online activist plan to take action against Vietnamese authorities in international court.
Miss Tan, author of the blog “Cong Ly v Su That” – Vietnamese for “Justice and Truth”, told VOA Monday that she and fellow dissident Nguyen Van Hai, who writes under the name Dieu Cay, were wrongfully imprisoned.
“We [together with blogger Dieu Cay] would bring Vietnam to international court [for jailing us]. I brought with me all the necessary documents for the lawsuit. During trials, they [Vietnamese authorities] used my writings to accuse me, but they dared not argue with me about what they said [I did]. They did not let me face prosecutors over those writings. They seriously violated Vietnamese laws, not to mention international ones. According to the laws, I am not guilty,” said Miss Tan.
Tan added that she had no choice but to accept exile in the U.S.
“I was given two options: one is to complete a 10-year term in prison, then five years under house arrest, and the other is to go to the U.S. In a bad situation, I had to choose a better one as I must continue my fight [for basic freedom rights of Vietnamese]. When the social and economic circumstances change in Vietnam, I would return to the country to help my compatriots,” she said.
She added that she would rather go abroad to carry on her cause than staying in prison. “I could not do anything in jail. I spent four years of my life doing nothing there. It was a waste of my time.”
Police in Binh Duong Beat Local Citizento Death
Police in My Phuoc commune, Ben Cat city, Binh Duong province on September 11 beat to death Ho Hoan Dan during a police raid against rooster fight betting.
When police came to a place where people gathered to gamble, people ran away. Police beat some, including Dan, the 48-year-old man. After the police withdrew, people found Dan dead and lying on a street.
Dan’s family said it will sue the local police for beating him to death.
Entrepreneur Tran Huynh DuyThuc Wants to Stay in Vietnam
Entrepreneur Tran Huynh DuyThuc, who is serving his 16-year imprisonment on conviction of anti-government activities, says he would stay in the country to fight for the nation’s democracy and human rights enhancement.
Mr. Thuc is among the political dissidents the U.S. has urged Vietnam’s government to release.
In 2014, in response to international pressure, Vietnam released Dr. Cu Huy Ha Vu and prominent blogger Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay) but forced them to live in exile in the U.S.
On September 19, Hanoi freed Ta Phong Tan, who was also forced to live in exile in the U.S.
Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam Holds First Public Meeting without Being Suppressed by Security Forces
On September 23, the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam held its first public meeting in Saigon without being troubled by local authorities.
The event attracted participation of many members of the unsanctioned organization in the southern and central regions.
Since its establishment on July 4 last year, the association of independent journalists conducted a number of meetings. In previous gatherings, police barred many key bloggers from going out while tried to disperse the meetings.
Thai Binh Police Kidnap Local Dissident, Detain His Wife
Police in Vietnam’s northern province of Thai Binh have kidnapped a local political dissident, detaining his wife for hours as well as searching his house and taking away a number of his items, Ngo DuyQuyen, a Hanoi-based activist said.
Mr. Quyen said he received a telephone call from Mrs. Thom, the wife of former political prisoner Tran Anh Kim from Thai Binh in evening of Monday [September 21].
Mrs. Thom said at 10 am of Monday, when she was in her office in Thai Binh city, police came and forcibly took her to a local police station where they held her until 5 pm. After that, police officers brought her to her private house.
Police officer used their keys to open her house and when she went inside, she recognized that the house was searched and some items were missing.
When Mrs. Thom tried to use her cell phone to call her husband, Mr. Kim, police officers violently took her cell phone.
She ran out and used another cell phone to inform Mr. Quyen that her husband maybe arrested by local police in the morning. Police then detained her in order to prevent her from spreading the information about the arrest.
Mr. Quyen said few minutes later he tried to contact her by cell phone but the connection was lost.
Mr. Kim, 66, is a pro-democracy activist, former lieutenant of the Vietnam People’s Army, and deputy head of the military political department of Thai Binh city before 1990s. He was arrested in July 2009 and chased for attempts of overthrowing the people’s government under Article 79 of the Criminal Code. Later, he was sentenced to 5 years and half in jail.
The army officer completed his sentence on January this year.
During 1995-2005, he participated in a number of groups which promote multi-party democracy, including the pro-democracy 8406 Bloc.
He assisted farmers whose land was illegally seized by local authorities in seeking justice, and participated in anti-corruption campaigns.
Mr. Kim was honored with the Hellman/Hammett prize given by the New York-based Human Rights Watch in 2009.
Vietnam has deployed a tough policy to harass former political prisoners, not allowing them to live a normal life and putting their activities under close surveillance.
Local police have also persecuted other people who want to visit former prisoners of conscience.
In early 2015, Thai Binh police harassed a group of Hanoi-based activists who came to visit Mr. Kim. They brutally beat a number of activists and broke their car.
Despite the local authorities’ persecution, Mr. Kim declared that he will not give up fighting for multi-party democracy in the Southeast Asian nation.
Draft Law on Association is Regressive and Violates Basic Human Rights
The draft Law on Association, which will be submitted to the Vietnamese parliament for approval soon, is regressive and violates basic human rights, said 22 independent civil society organizations (CSOs).
In the draft by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, there are a number of areas, which would further infringe upon fundamental freedoms of association. In short, the draft law serves to further bolster the communist party’s stranglehold on civic spaces in the country. The primary function of the draft law is to enhance the government’s mandate to regulate, control, monitor, and manage civil society, said the unsanctioned civil organizations.
Accordingly, a number of clauses and articles in the draft law would further restrict the registration process and increase government control to the point that all independence would be lost.
Presently, independent civil society organizations are not allowed to register and must operate in a hostile environment that includes constant harassment and occasional violent attacks and arrest. The draft law, rather than solving such problems, would result in more of the same, solidifying a legal framework for preserving and upholding the unfriendly conditions that are already in place.
Notably, while independent groups, including all groups focused on human rights, are blocked from operating legally, the draft law also places certain groups and associations in a position of privilege. “There is a double-standard in the law. The Fatherland Front and other government-run organizations have one set of rules, and the rest of us have another”, says Huynh ThucVy, a signing author of the joint statement and coordinator of the independent CSO Vietnamese women for Human Rights (VNWHR).
This bias in the law comes as no surprise, as internal, regional, and international civil society engagement is already performed by a carefully managed regime of “GONGOs”, or Government Organized NGOs. Mrs. Vy notes: “This framework is a serious problem. While the government sends delegations abroad posing as civil society, they block us from participation…” The draft law, with its current language, aims to “maintain the privileged status of these Communist Party organs.”
Hanoi Police Beat Activists Before Releasing Reporters of Conscience TV Channel
Security forces in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi have brutally beaten local activists before releasing six other individuals who are said to involve in producing and launching of an independent television channel Luong Tam TV or Conscience TV.
Authorities in Hai Ba Trung district police on evening of September 23 deployed numerous policemen and thugs to suppress a group of about two dozens activists coming to demand for the unconditional release of Nguyen Vu Binh, Le Yen, Le Thu Ha, Nguyen Manh Cuong, Pham Dac Dat and Tran Duc Thinh, who were detained by local police in the morning.
When the activists gathered in front of the district police headquarters, police demanded them to leave the areas and when they refused, security forces and thugs attacked them, violently dispersing the crowd. Policemen severely beat a number of activists, including female bloggers Doan Trang and Thao Gao.
Before attacking activists, police blocked streets leading to the police building.
Despite facing suppression of police, more and more people came to support activists who hang banners requesting Hanoi police to free the six detained individuals.
At mid night, police released Binh, Yen, Ha, Cuong, Dat and Thinh. Their detentions were said to be linked tothe online broadcasting Luong Tam TV Channel which debuted on August 19, the first of its kind which reports human rights violations in the communist nation in Southeast Asia.
Yen, 23, appearing in Luong Tam TV Channel as a reporter and editor, was arrested in her private house in Cau Giay district in early morning of September 23. Mr. Binh, a former political prisoner, said police detained him and confiscated a number of his items, including camera and laptop. Others said they were arrested on streets.
During the detention, police officers questioned them about their roles in making and launching three editions of Luong Tam TV.
All of the detained activists are members of the unsanctioned Brotherhood of Democracy, a pro-democracy group which advocates for multi-party democracy and human rights enhancement in Vietnam which has been ruled by communists for decades.
Local activists said the Luong Tam TV Channel has issued three broadcasts which are circulated on YouTube, each lasting about eight minutes.
(You can see all three broadcasts of Luong Tam TV Channel by following links:
Vietnam has over seven hundreds of newspapers and nearly one hundred of television channels but all of them are under close supervision of the communist party’s Commission for Propaganda and Education and the Ministry of Information and Communication.
The communist government in Hanoi has strived not to allow establishment of private newspapers and other broadcast means.
It has intensified political crackdown against local political dissidents and human rights activists ahead of the 12th National Congress of the ruling party slated for early 2016.
Supreme People’s Court Suspends Appeal in Case of Fatal Police Beating of Ngo ThanhKieu
On September 22, the Supreme People’s Court in Danang suspended the appeal in a case in which five police officers in Phu Yen tortured to death Ngo ThanhKieu, who was detained for allegation of property theft.
Mr. Kieu was arrested on May 13, 2012. He was later found dead in a police station, with numerous injuries on his body.
A group of five police officers in Phu Yen were accused of torturing Kieu, causing his death during interrogation.
Police in Dong Thap Province Suppress Followers of Buddhist HoaHao Sect
On September 25, followers of Buddhist HoaHao sector tried to gather in a private house of Nguyen Van Dien in Tan Phuoc commune, Lai Vung district, Dong Thap province to commemorate late leader Huynh Phu So.
However, local police blocked all roads leading to Dien’s house. They also held administrative check to suppress followers. In addition, they sent thugs to cause troubles for peaceful followers.
Mr. Nguyen Van Tho, 70, said when he was barred by policemen, he used his cell phone to film them, but the police violently took his device and erased all pictures and videos.
Mr. Dien said he has been under close surveillance in these occasions.
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