November 22, 2015
Demdigest | Nov 20, 2015
Vietnam is using vague national security laws to stifle dissent and arrest critics. The United States and other signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) should press Vietnam to drop proposed legislation that would add even more rights-abusing penalties to its already draconian criminal code, says Human Rights Watch:
During 2014 and 2015, in the midst of negotiations over the TPP, Vietnam released 14 bloggers and activists under pressure from the US. However, others remain in police custody, some of whom have not been put on trial. Those serving sentences include the bloggers Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Bui Thi Minh Hang, Father Nguyen Van Ly; the musicians Tran Vu Anh Binh and Vo Minh Tri; the rights activistsDang Xuan Dieu, Ho Duc Hoa, and Nguyen Dang Minh Man; and the land rights activistHo Thi Bich Khuong. Others who have not been put on trial include the bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh (known as Anh Ba Sam), Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, and Nguyen Dinh Ngoc (known as Nguyen Ngoc Gia), who were arrested in 2014.
With the spotlight on labor rights, in June 2014 Vietnam released labor activist Do Thi Minh Hanh, who was arrested and charged in 2010 under article 89 for helping organize a wildcat strike. Hanh’s fellow activists Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung and Doan Huy Chuongremain behind bars. If the revised penal code is passed, Hanh, Hung, and Chuong could be arrested simply on the basis of the authorities’ worry that they might help organize strikes.
Vietnam’s prime minister posted a letter online on Thursday urging the public to use the Internet responsibly and build a “pure and clean internet”, in rare comments promoting cyberspace in a country renowned for crushing dissent, Reuters adds:
Dung, whose government has been credited with steering a series of liberal reforms to the economy to court more investors, is one of only a few among Vietnam’s leaders to have advocated the use of Facebook. The ruling Communist Party has until recently steered clear of a platform used by more than a third of its 90-million population….Reporters Without Borders has previously dubbed Vietnam an “enemy of the Internet” for its suppression of online dissidents.
Thich Quang Do (right), the 87-year-old leader of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), said he was honored by recent calls for U.S. President Barack Obama to push for his freedom when he meets with Vietnamese leaders on the sidelines of two regional meetings in the Philippines and Malaysia this week.
“I would like [to] send my deep gratitude to all the Nobel peace laureates and scholars who have paid great attention [to my situation],” Do told RFA’s Vietnamese Service in an interview from the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City, where he has been under effective house arrest since 2003. …Do said that since the UBCV’s late patriarch Thich Huyen Quang’s death in 2008, he had taken up the call for Vietnam’s communist government to “transition from authoritarianism to democracy.”
Open letter Do’s vow to continue his fight for democracy followed an open letter published Tuesday by the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) and several other rights organizations calling on Obama to press Vietnam’s government for the Buddhist leader’s release.
Carl Gershman, president of the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy(NED) and a signatory to the letter, told RFA Thursday that as “a great voice for religious liberty,” Do “stands for something not just for Vietnam, but for the whole world, and it’s very important that we stand with him.” He praised Do’s work on behalf of democracy, human rights and freedom of religions, adding that it is “absolutely urgent that the president use his visit to Asia to try to seek his release.”
“[This letter] helps put pressure on the [Vietnamese] government–if they want to be respected in the world, they cannot imprison people like Thich Quang Do–and it also gives hope to someone like him,” Gershman said. “You cannot either develop economically or have a good relationship with democratic countries if you imprison people like Thich Quang Do–it’s simply inconsistent with those objectives. So if they want to continue along these lines, I think they should not only release him, but they’re also going to have to open up politically.”