October 5, 2015
Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weeky September 28- October 04: Independent Civil Society Organizations Condemn Suppression of Hanoi Police against Members of Luong Tam TV
Defenders’ Weekly | Oct 04, 2015
On October 1, 18 unsanctioned civil society organizations and four individuals voiced their support for the joint statement of the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience and the Brothers for Democracy Association condemning the suppression by the Hanoi police against five members of the independent Luong Tam (Conscience) TV. The five-member group was detained and questioned on September 23 after they produced three video clips to report human rights violations in Vietnam and broadcast them on the Internet, the first of which was released on August 19.
On October 2, diplomats from foreign embassies in Hanoi, including the U.S., Australia, Canada, Sweden, Norway and France met with the five members of Luong Tam TV who reported their detention and. The foreign diplomats expressed their support for freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Vietnam, saying they will closely follow the case.
On the same day, diplomats from Embassies of the U.S., Australia, Norway and New Zealand met with some Vietnamese dissidents who presented ongoing human rights violations in Vietnam. Mr. David V.Muehlke from the U.S.’s Embassy in Hanoi said he will include their opinions on his report to the U.S. Department of State.
Vietnam’s human rights situation was discussed at the Conference on Freedom of Religions and Beliefs for the Southeast Asia which was held in Bangkok on September 29-October 1.
Police in the northern province of Thai Binh arrested Tran Anh Kim, a former political prisoner, charging him of “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the country’s Penal Code. They will hold him for the next four months to investigate his alleged crime, the same for which he was convicted and sentenced to five years and six months in prison in 2009.
and many other important news.
——————– Sept 28———————-
Authorities in Dak Lak Suppress Huynh Thuc Vy- Le Khanh Duy
Authorities in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak recently have intensified their persecution against human rights activists Huynh Thuc Vy and Le Khanh Duy.
On September 28, local police summoned the couple to the police headquarters of Buon Ho town on the next day, but the pro-democracy couple said they refused to go since they have nothing to talk with the police.
Two weeks before, local authorities also invited them to the cultural house of Thong Nhat ward where they reside to attend a meeting which aimed to publicly accuse them for human rights activities which are considered anti-government. The local authorities tried to use the meeting to isolate the couple, as they successfully did in Quang Nam province, the home town of Vy.
One participant said around 100 local people attended the meeting. Participants were given by local authorities VND40,000 and stayed the whole day to criticize Vy and Duy.
Long An 15-year-old Boy Faces 15-year Imprisonment
Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan, 15, who was arrested in connection to a land grabbing case in Thach Hoa district in Long An province, is accused of “intentionally inflicting injury on or causing harm to the health of other persons to severely injure state officials”. He faces imprisonment of up to 15 years if found guilty.
The investigation was completed and the case was sent to the Thanh Hoa district’s People’s Procuracy for the first hearing.
Earlier this month, his father Nguyen Trung Can and mother Mai Thi Kim Huong were tried and imprisoned for causing public disorder after they opposed local authorities’ seizure of their land in April.
—————- Sept 29———-
Police to Protect Communist Party and Government: Major General
The duty of the police forces is to protect the ruling communist party and its government, so the forces carefully select students for police institutions, said Major General Do Ngoc Can, deputy head of the General Department of Politics under the Ministry of Public Security.
In order to be accepted in police universities and colleges, the candidates must have “good family” with “clean records” among their relatives, said Gen. Can in his interview with the VietnamNet website.
Recently, many young people want to study in police institutions as the students in these institutions don’t have to pay tuitions. In addition, incomes of police officers are very high, which many attribute to systemic corruption in the forces.
Ministry of Finance Violates Human Rights
Recently, Vietnam’s Ministry of Finance has proposed to impose foreign trip bans for individuals whose unpaid personal tax amounts to over VND50 million ($2,222).
The same ministry has also proposed the government to write off tax arrears of many state-owned enterprises which have to pay taxes of over VND10 trillion.
One official from the ministry said the government may write off bad debts of many state-owned enterprises which still account for a large portion of the nation’s economy and enjoy many privileges bestowed by the government.
Draft Law on Association May Not Be Being Submitted to Parliament for Discussion
Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung of Vietnam’s legislative body National Assembly (NA) said the NA’s Standing Committee needs to consider whether to submit the draft Law on Association to the parliament in its upcoming one-month sitting for discussion and approval, or delay for further discussion.
Speaking at a closing ceremony of the 41st meeting of the Standing Committee on September 24, Mr. Hung said the draft law has many sensitive issues which require further discussions.
Lawmaker Duong Trung Quoc said the draft law would not be submitted to the NA for discussion and approval in this term.
Vietnam is expected to conduct the general election in May, after the ruling communist party’s National Congress in early 2016.
The delay is likely aimed at preventing the establishment of independent trade unions as well as other independent civil societies which may challenge the political monopoly of the ruling communists, said observers.
The move may affect the Vietnam’s negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement under which Vietnam has to allow independent trade unions and improve working conditions for laborers.
Doisongphapluat: Thường vụ Quốc hội bàn về việc lập hội
Hanoi Court Sentences Land Petitioner to 18 Months in Prison
The People’s Court in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi on Monday sentenced a land petitioner to 18 months in prison in a nominally open trial that was in fact closed to the public and the defendant’s relatives.
The court found Vu Thi Hai, a resident from the northern province of Ninh Binh, guilty of causing public disorders near the parliament’s building three months ago.
On June 9, Hai and many other land petitioners strived to approach the building of Vietnam’s legislative body National Assembly in the city’s center in a bid to meet with lawmakers to hand over their petitions to them. However, security forces detained her and some others, taking them to Ha Dong district where they released others but kept widow Hai and later charged her for conducting public disturbance under Article 245 of the country’s Penal Code.
On the day of the trial, authorities in Hanoi deployed a large number of police officers and plainclothes agents to block other land petitioners from approaching the court house on Doi Can street. Authorities did not allow Duong Van Tuyen, a son of Hai’s, to enter the courtroom.
Police detained dozens of land petitioners who unfurled banners and chanted outside of the courtroom to demand for Hai’s unconditional release, taking them to Ha Dong, about 15 kilometers from the city’s center and released them later that day.
Hai became a land petitioner several years ago after local authorities allegedly cheated her family and transferred the ownership of about five hectares of her family’s land to local communal cadres.
Hai protested the grabbing by going to government agencies in different levels from the home district to the highest level in Hanoi to file complaints against the illegal land seizure. However, not only had her voice been ignored, the police considered her as a trouble maker and often harassed her and other land petitioners.
Tuyen, who has tried to seek justice for his mother, has also been suppressed by Hanoi’s police. Security forces in the capital city deported him on September 1, several hours before the grand parade which marked the country’s 70th independence day.
Mrs. Hai joined hundreds of other land petitioners nationwide to rally in Hanoi’s streets and gather in front of government buildings to demand for the return of their land or market price compensation for their illegally-seized land. They live in streets, sleep in parks and often receive financial supports from people.
Hanoi police have regularly attacked these petitioners, beating them and destroying their temporary tents or hiring thugs to throw dirty substances at them in a bid to expel them back to their home provinces.
Numerous Vietnamese land petitioners have been arrested and charged with conducting public disturbance under Article 245 of the Penal Code. Many of them have been jailed for peaceful protest against illegal land seizure, according to local media.
Land seizure is one of the systematic issues in communist Vietnam where all land belongs to the state and residents have only the right to use it.
According to the current Land Law, the government can take land from the people for defense purposes and socio-economic development. In many localities, local authorities have seized land from residents for urban and industrial development without paying adequate compensations.
Illegal land seizures in many Vietnamese provinces and cities have triggered strong protest from the land owners. In 2013, aquatic farmer Doan Van Vuon used hand-made explosives to attack policemen and soldiers who came to evict his family from his rented land, injuring two soldiers. Vuon was sentenced to seven years in jail.
============== Sept 30============
Security Forces in Ha Nam Province Intensify Suppression of Local Activists
Security forces in Vietnam’s northern province of Ha Nam have conducted numerous operations to suppress local activists, turning their lives into nightmare, the victims have complained.
In recent days, the private house of Mr. Truong Minh Huong in Ba Sao commune, Kim Bang district has been surrounded by numerous strangers whom he claims are plainclothes agents. The strangers have been insulting Mr. Huong and his family members, and sometime throw stones and rotten eggs at his house.
They broke several windows of Mr. Huong’s house and a camera, the victim said on his Facebook page.
The thugs have threatened to kill Huong, and made noises all day and night around his house. Mr. Huong informed local police about the harassment, but they took no actions.
Mr. Huong, 66, is a land petitioner. Since 2007, he has sent numerous petitions to many state agencies to complain about illegal seizure of thousands of square of land by local authorities. He has also participated in anti-China protests as well as pro-democracy gatherings in Hanoi. He has also assisted other land petitioners in other localities.
Mr. Huong has been detained several times by police in Kim Bang district who tortured him during the detentions. In addition, he was assaulted on December 10 last year by two thugs allegedly hired by local authorities who want to silence him.
Around the same time, police in Phu Ly city have also sent a number of plainclothes agents to harass Tran Thi Nga, a local labor and land rights activist. The agents are stationed around the rent house where Ms. Nga lives with her two children. They have blocked her, not allowing her to go out.
In late July, police in Thanh Liem district kidnapped Mrs. Ha Thi Duc, 82, when she was on her way to attend the trial of her son Nguyen Van Thien, who was arrested after he accused local officials of corruption and wrongdoings in the evictions of local residents from their land. Thien was sentenced to four years in jail while his mother was kept by local authorities until she died on September 26.
Local authorities organized the funeral of Mrs. Duc without the agreement of her family. They also did not allow her children, nephews and nieces to attend the funeral.
Authorities in Ha Nam province, which is about 60 kilometers from Hanoi, refused to launch an investigation into Mrs. Duc’s kidnapping despite demands by her relatives.
Ms. Nga and Mr. Huong have called on human rights bodies and the public to pay attention to their cases and to take actions to demand Vietnam’s authorities to stop persecuting them.
——————— Oct 1——————–
Human Rights Violations in Vietnam Raised in Southeast Asia Conference on Freedom of Religions, Beliefs
Human rights violations in Vietnam, especially violations of freedom of religion or belief, were raised at a regional conference held in Bangkok on September 29- October 1.
Heiner Beilefeldt, UN’s Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, who visited Vietnam last June said that Vietnam’s authorities have demanded all religions to register in order to be recognized.
Vietnam’s government has also politicized religions in a bid to control them, Mr. Beilefeldt said, adding that the communist government does not want the people to publicly discuss religions and beliefs.
Vietnam’s security forces barred a number of representatives of unsanctioned religious organizations from taking international flights to Bangkok to attend the event.
Young Activist in Hanoi Rejected by Landlord Due to Peaceful Protests
A young student known on Facebook as Hoang Thanh has had his rental contract discontinued after Hanoi police pressured the landlord.
The reason is that student Thanh has actively attended social activities, including protests against the Ministry of Education and Training for its poor policies which have affected millions of students.
Thanh said he was forced to move although the one-year renting contract was signed on September 24.
This is the second time Thanh was ejected by landlords after pressure from local police.
Blogger Pham Le Vuong Cac, a human rights activist, has also met difficulties in renting a room in Hanoi for the same reason.
Joint Statement on Harassment and Threat to Luong Tam TV
Luong Tam TV (Conscience TV) is a program with short video clips on Youtube, established by the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience (FVPoC) in collaboration with the Brothers for Democracy Association (BFDA). This program aims to express the truth about the situation in Vietnam, comments about the problems of the country, in order to mobilize the consciousness and enlighten the conscience of our fellow citizens, towards a society with justice and freedom and democracy.
But, after just three video clips (starting from Aug 19, 2015), the Communist authorities cracked down on it. On Sep 23, 2015, the Hanoi police arrested all five team members of Luong Tam TV, including journalist Nguyen Vu Binh, anchor Le Yen, cameraman Pham Dac Dat, video technique Nguyen Manh Cuong, and translator Le Thu Ha. They then confiscated all their personal belongings and Luong Tam TV’s equipments, including 1 camcorders, 1 camera Sony Anpha 58, 1 lightening kit for studio with 4 tripods and 4 lights, 3 laptops, 1 tablet, 4 phones, 3 USB, USD $100, furniture and other devices for the studio.
Given the serious situation,
1- The FVPoC and BFDA affirm that:
a – The Luong Tam TV program is completely consistent with Article19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights:
“1 – Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2 – Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”
b – The Luong Tam TV program is completely consistent with Vietnam’s law. According to the Constitution, carrying out this activity is a basic human right, including freedom of expression and freedom of press that people enjoy. According to the rules and regulations of the press law, television or radio stations that have headquarters, broadcast into air through satellites or Internet must obtain the government’s permission. Luong Tam TV carries just short video clips of 7-12 minute duration on YouTube network of the United States – thus should not have to ask permission and cannot be banned.
c – In addition, in June 2014, at the 26th meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, the Hanoi authorities have declared commitment to support 182/227 recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review. Among the accepted recommendations, there is a lot more directly related to freedom of speech, such as: Implementing more measures to promote free expression and free media consistent with the most progressive international standards; ongoing measures to allow access to the Internet without limit to all its citizens, at the same time ensuring freedom of expression and speech of each person, as well as free press and the media (Estonia); Setting aside space for non-state media and making the article 79, 88 and 258 of Penal code more specific and consistent with the international obligations on freedom of expression (Australia).
2- FVPoC and BFDA condemn the following acts:.
a – The authorities blatantly violated the international covenants, national law and showing contempt for the Human rights Council.
a – The Hanoi authorities and the police applied illegal, abject measures, such as stopping activists on the road, causing traffic accidents, mobilizing crowds to arrest them, and confiscatingequipments and belongings (computers, cameras, phones, money).
When dozens of friends and supporters came to the police station to protest peacefully, the authorities mobilized hundreds of public security forces and para-militia to attack and insult them.
. 3- FVPoC and BFDA declare that:
a – We will maintain the operation of Luong Tam TV program in collaboration with many other civil society organizations, because it is the rights and obligations of citizens to live with our conscience and spread democracy and human rights.
b – The authorities must immediately end their harassment of and threat against those who have participated in the Luong Tam TV program, at the same time return all the equipments confiscated to Luong Tam TV staff.
c – We urge the Communist Party – amid the country’s fall into all sorts of political and economic crises – that it is time to listen to the voices of its people, in terms of goodwill of the movement of democracy and recognize the contributions of civil society organizations, rather than banning arbitrarily, suppressing brutally, and arresting crazily.
Vietnam, Oct 01, 2015
Initiated by two civil society organizations:
Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience: Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, Father Phan Van Loi
Brotherhood for Democracy Association: Mr. Pham Van Troi, Lawyer Nguyen Van Dai
Supported by the undersigned civil society organizations:
Independent Journalist Association of Vietnam: Phạm Chí Dũng (Ph.D.)
Bach Dang Giang Foundation: Phạm Bá Hải (MBE)
Evangelical Lutheran Community Church Vietnam-America: Pastor Nguyen Hoang Hoa.
Bầu Bí Association: Mr. Nguyễn Lê Hùng
Delegation of Vietnamese United Buddhists Church: Ven. Thich Khong Tanh
Evangelical Protestant Chuong Bo Church: Pastor Nguyen Manh Hung
Association to Protect Freedom of Religion: Ms. Ha Thi Van.
Hoa Hao Buddhist Church, Purity: Mr. Le Quang Hien.
Vietnamese Women for Human Rights: Mrs.Huynh Thuc Vy, Ms.Tran Thuy Nga
Vietnam Path Movement: Mr. Hoàng Văn Dũng
Defend The Defenders: MSc. Vu Quoc Ngu.
Saigon Time: Father Lê Ngọc Thanh
Religion and Minority Defenders: Mr. Huynh Trong Hieu
Viet Labor: Ms. Do Thi Minh Hanh
Bloc 8406: Mr. Do Nam Hai
Nguyen Kim Dien Group: Father Nguyen Huu Giai
Friendship Association of Political and Religious Prisoners: Mr. Nguyen Bac Truyen
Non-violent Movement: Dr. Nguyen Dan Que
Mr. Nguyen Tuong Thuy
Mr. Hoang Hung
Mr. Nguyen Van Tuc
Ms. Pham Thanh Nghien
Foreign Diplomats Concerned about Suppression against Luong Tam TV
On October 2, diplomats from foreign embassies in Hanoi, including the U.S., Australia, Canada, Sweden, Norway and France met with the five members of Luong Tam TV.
Attending the meeting were Mr. David Muehlke from the U.S.’s Embassy, Mr. Jean Philip from the French Embassy, Mr. Graham Knight from the UK’s Embassy, Ms. Monique Lamoureux from the Canadian Embassy, Ms. Victoria Rhodin Sandstrom from the Swedish Embassy and Ms. Kari Eken Wollebaek from the Norwegian Embassy.
From the Luong Tam TV were journalist Nguyen Vu Binh, anchor Le Yen, cameraman Pham Dac Dat, video technician Nguyen Manh Cuong, and translator Le Thu Ha.
During the meeting, the Luong Tam TV staff reported their detention and interrogation by the Hanoi police on September 23.
The foreign diplomats expressed their support for freedom of expression and freedom of press in Vietnam, saying they will closely follow the case.
———————– Oct 3——————-
Thai Binh Police Prosecute Pro-democracy Activist Eight Months after Release from Prison
Police in Vietnam’s northern province of Thai Binh have decided to prosecute Mr. Tran Anh Kim, a local pro-democracy activist and former political prisoner, charging him of “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the country’s Penal Code.
Mr. Kim, who completed his five and half years imprisonment in January, was arrested on September 21. He will be held for the next four months for investigation, the local police informed his wife Thom on October 1.
Police told Mrs. Thom that they found a number of documents in his laptop which aimed to promote multi-party democracy to challenge the ruling communist party.
If convicted, the 66-year-old democracy advocate will face imprisonment of between twelve and twenty years, according to the current Vietnamese Penal Code.
Two weeks ago, security forces in Thai Binh kidnapped Mr. Kim and detained his wife for hours as well as searched his house and took away a number of his items. His arrest was likely a bid to silence ongoing public calls for political change ahead of the National Congress of the ruling communist party scheduled in early 2016.
Mrs. Thom said at 10 am on Monday September 21, 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 officers used their keys to open her house and when she went inside, she realized that the house was searched and some items were missing. They refused to provide full information about Kim’s status during the first few days after the arrest.
Mrs. Thom called on the local public, foreign governments and international human rights bodies to demand for his unconditional release. The Vietnamese communist government has used the controversial Penal Code article to charge him for exercising his rights enshrined in the country’s Constitution 2013 and the international conventions it has ratified, she said.
Mr. Kim, 66, is a 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 charged for attempts to overthrow the people’s government under Article 79 of the Penal Code. Later, he was sentenced to 5-and-a-half years in jail.
During 1995-2005, he participated in a number of groups which promote multi-party democracy, including the 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.
The ruling Vietnamese communists have vowed to keep the country under a one-party regime. The communist leaders have ordered security forces to prevent the establishment of an opposition party.
The communist government has intensified political crackdown against local dissidents and human rights activists several months ahead of the ruling communist party’s National Congress.
Numerous pro-democracy activists and human rights defenders have been briefly detained or summoned to police stations for interrogations. Vietnam’s security forces have also used plainclothes agents or hired criminals to brutally assault local activists, causing severe injuries to the attacked people.
Vietnam is negotiating with the U.S. and 11 other countries for membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. Hanoi has promised to enhance its human rights situation, but it has taken only modest efforts in the field, according to international human rights bodies.
In the past two years, Vietnam has granted early release to a number of political prisoners, including legal expert France-trained Cu Huy Ha Vu and prominent bloggers Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay) and Ta Phong Tan.
Vietnam is still holding between 150 and 200 prisoners of conscience, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch. Vietnam always denies it, saying it imprisons only law violators.
======== Oct 4=========
Foreign Diplomats Receive Vietnamese Dissidents in Hanoi
On October 2, diplomats from Embassies of the U.S., Australia, Norway and New Zealand in Vietnam met with some local dissidents who presented ongoing human rights violations in Vietnam.
Attending the meeting in Daewoo Hotel in Hanoi were Mr. David V.Muehlke from the U.S. Embassy, Ms. Rose McConnell from the Australian Embassy, Ms. Monique Lamoureux from Canadian Embassy, Ms. Kari Eken Wollebek from Norwegian Embassy and Mr. Robbie Taylor from New Zealand Embassy. Local activists who attended the event were Ms. Tran Thuy Nga and Truong Minh Huong from Ha Nam, Mr. Chu Manh Son from Nghe An and Mr. Truong Minh Tam from Hanoi.
At the meeting, Ms. Nga reported the ongoing suppression by Ha Nam police against her. She also reported the Ha Nam police’s kidnapping of 82-year-old Ha Thi Duc on the day of the trial of her son Nguyen Van Thien, who was imprisoned for his anti-corruption activities. Mrs. Duc later died in hospital while she was still under the control of police.
Mr. Tam, who was a prisoner of conscience, reported the ongoing persecution by Vietnamese authorities against political prisoners Dang Xuan Dieu, Ho Duc Hoa, and Nguyen Dang Minh Man. He urged foreign diplomats to pay special attention to Mr. Dieu’s case as Dieu’s health is very poor and his family members are not allowed to visit him or provide him with food and drugs.
Mr. David V.Muehlke from the U.S.’s Embassy in Hanoi said he will include their opinions on his report to the U.S. Department of State.
Religious Activist Duong Thi Tron Released After Nine Years in Prison
Duong Thi Tron, a religious rights activist in Dong Thap province, on October 4 completed her nine-year imprisonment and returned to her home in Tan Hoa commune in Lai Vung district.
Mrs. Tron, 68, was arrested in 2006 after she organized a number of peaceful demonstrations of Hoa Hao Buddhist followers to protest Vietnam’s government suppression against followers of unsanctioned religious groups.
Her husband, Mr. Nguyen Van Tho, was also imprisoned for six years.
After returning home, she is still under close surveillance by the local police who have blocked other Hoa Hao Buddhist followers from coming to welcome her.
Despite her weak health, Mrs. Tron strongly slams Vietnam’s violations of religious freedom.