November 23, 2015
Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly November 16-22: HRW Warns that Vietnam Intensifies Crackdown to Silence Dissent despite TPP Commitments
Defenders’ Weekly | Nov 22, 2015
The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the U.S. and other countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement to put pressure on Vietnam and demand it not to approve laws which violate human rights.
On November 22, police in the southern province of Dong Nai detained and brutally beat Do Thi Minh Hanh and Truong Minh Duc when the two labor activists tried to assist local workers who were illegally fired by the South Korea-invested Yupoong Vietnam Co. Ltd. The 30-year-old female activist was barbarically assaulted by five policemen until fell unsconscious.
The London-based Amnesty International and numerous civil society organizations have called on Vietnam to free Buddhist monk Thich Quang Do, a former political prisoner who is under house arrest in Saigon.
Mr. Pham Minh Vu, a member of the Brotherhood of Democracy and was unfairly sentenced to 18 months in prison last year, completed his imprisonment on November 15.
On November 17, former political prisoner Tran Minh Nhat said he filled a denunciation which condemns the attack of police in Lam Ha district led by Chief Dinh Huy Thai against him and his friend Chu Manh Son on November 8. On the same day, plainclothes policemen assaulted Nhat and detained him at a police station in Lam Ha ward when he went to the district center for medical examination of the injuries he suffered from the attacks ten days earlier.
And other news
Vietnam Should Allow Private Media: Lawmaker
Vietnam should allow private media to meet the socio-economic development trend in the long run, a lawmaker said at the ongoing session of the National Assembly (NA), the country’s highest legislative body.
The permission would be suitable with the global trend and support the country’s development process as long as the content would be closely managed by state authorities, lawmaker Bui Thi An said at a discussion on the amendment to the Law on Press on November 14.
Earlier at the session, Le Nhu Tien, deputy head of the NA’s Committee for Culture, Education, Youth and Children, said that lawmakers’ proposals on tolerating private media would not be satisfied soon.
Allowing the private sector to join the media landscape would show the country’s greater tolerance of the freedom of press than before, Mr. Tien said, noting that the move is aimed at diversifying the news sources and easing the financial burden on state press agencies.
Private media, however, would cause possible chaos to the press which marks the operation of 845 agencies currently, Mr. Tien noted.
Vietnam has maintained a ban on private media for the past seven decades. General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong has reaffirmed this policy several times.
Vietnam has been criticized by international and domestic by rights groups for intensified censorship on the press.
So far, dozens of people who advocated for press freedom, including bloggers and freelancers, have been put behind the bar for years, according to human rights bodies.
Vietnam continues to be one of the worst jailers of bloggers in the world, with 29 netizens being imprisoned, said the U.S.-based non-governmental watchdog Freedom House in its Internet freedom report for the period between June 2014 and May 2015.
Vietnam Security Forces Block Activist from Attending Regional NGOs Conference in Malaysia
Security forces in Ho Chi Minh City on November 16 barred a local human rights activist from taking an international flight to Kuala Lumpur where she is invited to attend the ACSC/APF 2015 Conference Engaging 27th ASEAN Summit Workshop, which is held in the Malaysian capital city on November 16-20.
Mr. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Lua, a representative of the independent Vietnam Women for Human Rights (VNWHR), was blocked by security forces in HCM City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport in early morning of Monday when she was on her way to the regional gathering of non-government organizations (NGOs) to raise voices of independent Vietnamese civil society organizations which have been excluded from Vietnam’s “National Process” of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC-APF).
Police said they barred her foreign trip for national security reasons but gave no more details, said Mrs. Huynh Thuc Vy, co-coordinator of the VNWHR.
On the same day, 20 unsanctioned civil society organizations (CSOs) in Vietnam issued a joint statement to the ACSC/APF 2015 Conference Engaging 27th ASEAN Summit Workshop, the Regional Steering Committee (RSC), the National Organizing Committee (NOC) and the ACSC/APF conference “People-Centered ASEAN Community: Making It Happen” which is held in Kuala Lumpur on November 17-19 to inform them that the Vietnamese independent CSOs are excluded from Vietnam’s “National Process”.
In their letter, CSOs said Vietnam’s “National Process” remains completely controlled by the most hard-line Hanoi-based government-organized non-government organizations (GONGOs). For this event, they undemocratically handpicked their three Hanoi-based representatives from the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations (VUFO) for scholarships and gave the rest to their two RSC members, already handpicked for participation. In this case, not only independent groups, but also GONGOs from southern and central Vietnam were excluded, being informed about the conference and the scholarship decision at the same time.
Along with jailing and harassing local political dissidents and human rights defenders, Vietnam has barred numerous activists from meeting with foreign diplomats and traveling abroad to attend international conferences and workshops.
According to a report of the Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders released on September 14, authorities in Vietnam have blocked at least 33 human rights defenders and activists from freely traveling abroad or internally in March-September, 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).
“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 Program Director at Civil Rights Defenders.
Anti-China Activist, Jailed on Fabricated Charge, Completes 18-month Imprisonment
Anti-China activist Pham Minh Vu, who is also a democracy campaigner, on November 15 completed his 18-month imprisonment. He was convicted on the fabricated charge of conducting activities “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” under Article 258 of the Criminal Code.
On May 15 last year, the Quang Tri province-based student, together with his two friends, Le Thi Phuong Anh and Do Nam Trung from the unsanctioned Brotherhood of Democracy, went from the capital city to southern Vietnam in a bid to cover news about violent anti-China demonstrations by local residents and workers.
On the first day of arrival in Dong Nai province, the trio was detained by policemen, who beat them brutally. Initially, police accused the three activists of inciting anti-China riots in which angry workers attacked Chinese workers and destroyed China-invested factories in Dong Nai province’s industrial zones. However, due to lack of solid evidence, Vietnam’s investigation agency changed the allegation.
In a close trial on February 12 this year, the People’s Court of the southern province of Dong Nai found the trio guilty and sentenced Vu to 18 months in jail, while Trung and Anh received respective 14 months and 12 months in prison. The latter two were already freed on May and July.
On Monday, Vu was welcomed by a number of activists who came to the Xuan Loc prison in Dong Nai province to pick him up.
Earlier upon his release, Trung said the trio was beaten by mobile policemen upon their detention in 2014. He was severely pressured by interrogating officers during the pre-trial period to admit to those crimes that he has not committed.
The living conditions in the Xuan Loc prison are very tough, he said, adding the food was bad and prisoners have to buy additional food to meet nutritional requirements.
In mid-May last year, tens of thousands of Vietnamese rallied on streets to protest China’s illegal placement of a drilling rig in Vietnam’s central offshore. Some of these rallies turned violent in which angry Vietnamese destroyed hundreds of China-invested factories and beat Chinese nationals. Many companies from Taiwan and South Korea were also attacked by mistake.
According to state media, some deaths from the two sides were recorded. Pro-democracy activists and human rights campaigners did not support the violent demonstrations, observers said.
After normalizing the situations, Vietnam’s security forces arrested and brought to the courts numerous individuals for destruction of properties. However, those who organized the violent attacks are likely still not caught.
Vietnam, the country most affected by China’s expansionism in the East Sea, only verbally protests Beijing’s aggressive moves.
The communist government has suppressed and intimidated numerous anti-China activists, putting many of them in prison.
Joint Statement of the independent civil society organizations in Vietnam to the ACSC/APF 2015 Conference Engaging 27th ASEAN Summit Workshop
To the Regional Steering Committee (RSC);
To National Organizing Committee (NOC);
To all participants, included and excluded from the ACSC/APF conference “People-Centered ASEAN Community: Making It Happen” on 17-19 November 2015 in Kuala Lumpur
We, the independent civil society organizations (ICSOs) of Vietnam, regrettably must inform the RCS, the NOC, and our ASEAN CSO friends that we were again excluded from Vietnam’s “National Process”. We were only informed of this important civil society event through chance from unofficial sources.
Vietnam’s “National Process” remains completely controlled by the most hardline Hanoi-based GONGOs of the Vietnamese communist government. For this event, they undemocratically handpicked their three Hanoi-based representatives from the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations (VUFO) for scholarships and gave the rest to their two RSC members, already handpicked for participation. In this case, not only independent groups, but also GONGOs from southern and central Vietnam were excluded, being informed about the conference and the scholarship decision at the same time.
The aim of this careful, closed, and undemocratic selection is tight control and an attempt to monopolize ACSC/APF space with a single voice. This voice will never speak out against the government atrocities or human rights violations. This voice will suggest democracy is not for everyone in ASEAN. This voice will tell you that there is no problem for the Montagnard Protestants in the Central Highlands, the other ethnic minorities in the Northern mountainous region of Vietnam, the Khmer Krom Buddhists in the South, the independent human rights activists, the dissident journalists, or the farmers who are being robbed by the Vietnamese government. It is the voice of the Communist Party and not of the people and not of civil society.
GONGOs are not just a problem for us in Vietnam. We know that other ASEAN countries face similar problems. We must express our concern to hear that the same Laos GONGOs that took stances against free speech and inclusiveness declined to organize ACSC/APF 2016 all gave themselves scholarships to attend this event.
The GONGOs’ domination in totalitarian countries or those countries building democracy in ASEAN is currently a serious regional problem. Independent civil society organizations cannot strongly develop their activities and potential if GONGOs are monopolizing space and scholarships, and controlling the conversations in ACSC/APF.
We must ask how ourselves how we plan successfully to build a “people-centered” ASEAN community if the voices from within the ACSC/APF derive from the GONGOs under directives to protect the interests of States rather than to protect ASEAN peoples? In avoiding dealing with the GONGO problem, the ACSC/APF puts this goal and its very credibility at risk. We feel that now must be the time for us all to work to overcome the “GONGO problem”.
We, the undersigned organizations, would like present the following recommendations to the RSC, the NOC, and the ACSC/APF community:
- We propose that the 2015“Guiding Principles and Engagement Modality” should be turned into a meaningful instrument to support inclusiveness and to ensure the participation of independent CSOs. These guidelines were a great development, but so far have not been enforced. We suggest effective enforcement through the development of a clear process and procedures when there are violations of this binding document.
- We urge all participants to engage the representatives of VUFO in friendly conversation. We urge you all to ask them what they think about our travel bans and confiscated passports. Please ask them about their views on the new draft law on religion or the draft law on associations or independent groups denied registration and branded illegal. Would they support our human rights to movement and free association?
- We suggest that ACSC/APF develop a regional ASEAN Working Group or ACSC/APF Committee to specifically address the GONGO problem. This group should deeply examine the National Processes and other issues in order to seek solutions that protect and increase space for independent civil society. We also suggest setting up independent observers from other countries or regional groups instead of self-reporting.
- While we and others are blocked from attending ACSC/APF in person, we urge the ACSC/APF to seek creative solutions like remote participation or to arrange for safe consultative meetings.
We sincerely appreciate your attention and support. We wish that this ACSC/APF Conference has fruitful results.
Vietnam, November 16, 2015
1) Vietnamese Women for Human Rights, represented by Huynh Thuc Vy, Tran Thi Hai and Tran Thi Nga
2) Bach Dang Giang Foundation, represented by Pham Ba Hai
3) Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience, represented by Dr. Nguyen Dan Que
4) Religion and Ethnic Minorities Defenders, represented by Huynh Trong Hieu
5) Nguyen Kim Dien Priests group, represented by Rev. Nguyen Huu Giai and Rev. Phan Van Loi
6) Brotherhood for Democracy, represented by Pham Van Troi and Nguyen Trung Ton
7) Vietnam-US Lutheran Alliance Church, represented by Pastor Nguyen Hoang Hoa
8) Association of Bau Bi Tuong Than, represented by Nguyen Le Hung
9) Delegation of Vietnamese United Buddhists Church, represented by the Ven. Thich Khong Tanh
10) Hoa Hao Buddhists Church, Purity, represented by Le Quang Hien
11) Bloc 8406, represented by Do Nam Hai
12) Association to Protect Freedom of Religion, represented by Ha Thi Van
13) Defend the Defenders, represented by Vu Quoc Ngu
14) Independent Caodaist Church, Tay Ninh, represented by Hua Phi, Nguyen Kim Lan, Bach Phung
15) Caodaist Nhon Sanh Bloc, represented by Vo Van Quang, Tran Ngoc Suong and Tran Quoc Tien
16) Vietnam Human Rights Center, represented by lawyer Nguyen Van Dai
HCMC Activists not Allowed to Commemorate Paris Victims
In late evening of November 16, a group of young activists in Ho Chi Minh City planned to hold a candlelight vigil to commemorate the victims of terrorist attacks in Paris three days earlier, however, local authorities did not allow the vigil to proceed.
Five minutes after the activists gathered in Nguyen Hue street in the city’s center, security agents came and said they cannot light candles in a bid to prevent fire.
Four Vietnamese Jailed for Beating Drug User to Death in Rehabilitation Facility
The People’s Court in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi on November 16 sentenced four people to between 13 years and 19 years in prison for beating to death a drug user in a rehabilitation facility two years ago, state media has reported.
Nguyen Duc Toan, a serviceman of the Hanoi community-based Rehabilitation Center, and drug users Quach Duy Thep, Dang Dinh Hieu and Le Thanh Xuan were found guilty of causing fatal injuries to Bui Van K., 29, a drug user who served compulsory rehabilitation at the center.
Two other servicemen Dinh Thanh Tung and Nguyen Thanh Hai working at the center were sentenced to 16 months and 20 months, respectively, of probation for negligence, according to the Phap luat Thanh pho Ho Chi Minh newspaper reported Tuesday.
According to the court verdict, in the early hours of August 9, 2013, K. tried to escape from the center. Serviceman Toan ordered drug user Thep to chase him. After catching K., the duo brought him to a closed room where they handcuffed him to a window and beat him with baton, shoes and footgear.
Hieu and Thanh, two drug users from the adjacent room came and joined Toan and Thep to torture K. while servicemen Tung and Hai looked on.
The perpetrators stopped the beating when they found that K. had fallen unconscious. They brought him to the center’s medical clinic but K. died before receiving first aid.
The autopsy showed that K. died due to numerous fatal injuries caused by the beating.
Vietnam applies mandatory rehab policies to some groups of drug users in a total of 150 rehabilitation centers across the country. Such forced detoxification method has drawn international criticism.
Drug users are now present in all 63 cities and provinces across Vietnam, said a report of the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs presented at the ongoing session of the National Assembly, the country’s highest legislative body.
The country has more than 204,000 drug users with an annual average growth of 7%, the ministry said. Up to 72% of drug addicts use heroin while 14.5% use amphetamine, it said.
Human rights activists said drug users are treated inhumanely in rehabilitation facilities. They are forced to perform hard labor and live under severe conditions despite their families having to pay high fees for their treatment there.
In addition, they are subjected to torture by servicemen and other drug users.
The effectiveness of rehabilitation is under question as drug can be bought from servicemen, some sources claimed.
Last month, Do Dang Du, 17-year-old boy in Chuong My district, Hanoi, died from severe injuries during custody in Hanoi’s Detention Facility No. 3. The Hanoi police said Du was beaten by other detainees, however, the victim’s family and its lawyers said the police’s explanation contains many disputed or unsubstantiated assertions.
Between October 2011 and September 2014, 226 detainees and prisoners died in police stations. Police said their deaths were mostly caused by suicides and illness, however, families of the victims suspect that police torture and inhumane treatments were the main causes of the deaths.
Vietnam ratified the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. However, the situation has not improved as around ten people have been founded dead or severely injured in police stations nationwide so far this year.
Only a few police perpetrators have been punished with light sentences, human rights activists noted.
Winners of Vietnam Human Rights Awards 2015 Announced
The Vietnam Human Rights Network has announced that this year, the Vietnam Human Rights 2015 awards will be given to Buddhist monk Thich Khong Tanh, pro-democracy activist Ho Thi Bich Khuong and land right activist Bui Thi Minh Hang for their peaceful activists to improve human rights situation in Vietnam.
The selection was made from 25 candidates nominated from organizations in Vietnam and abroad.
The prizes will be handed over to the winner in a ceremony on December 11 in Little Saigon in South California.
Ms. Khuong and Ms. Hang are currently imprisoned for their political activities in Vietnam
Police in Vietnam’s Central Highlands Barbarically Beat Local Dissident, Second Time within Ten Days
Security forces in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Lam Dong on November 17 brutally attacked a local political dissident and detained him to a police station until late afternoon, the victim said.
This is the second assault within ten days by the police in Lam Ha district against Tran Minh Nhat, who completed his four-year imprisonment on August 27 on the charge of subversion under Article 79 of the country’s Penal Code.
In the afternoon of Tuesday, Mr. Nhat, accompanied by his father, went to a private medical clinic in Lam Ha district’s center about four kilometers from his house for a medical examination of the injuries he suffered from the police attack on the previous Sunday [November 8].
Plainclothes agents closely followed them and they assaulted 27-year-old Nhat on the return way at around 3 PM. Nhat said a group of between six and eight men in motorbikes without registrations ordered his father to stop their motorbike and started to beat him. The victim said he recognized one of the attacker as a person named Minh.
One man grabbed Nhat’s neck while others attacked him severely in broad daylight. Later, they forced Nhat and his father to go to a police station in Lam Ha ward because he violated the three-year house arrest rules.
In the police station, Nhat asked the police for explanation, however, they did not respond. Nhat contacted senior police officers from the Lam Dong province’s Police Department but received no answers.
Last month, Lam Dong police agreed to allow Nhat to travel within the province for healthcare treatment, Nhat said.
In late afternoon, they let Nhat and his father leave the police station.
Nhat said he feels pains in many parts of his body, especially his neck. He feels pain even when he drinks water.
He said the medical examination showed that he has severe injury in the chest area due to the attacks also committed by police in Lam Ha district ten days ago.
On November 8, Nhat and his friend Chu Manh Son, a former prisoner of conscience, traveled from Ho Chi Minh City to Lam Ha. When the bus arrived in the district, policemen stopped the vehicle and beat Nhat and detained the duo at a police station for interrogation until late evening of the same day.
Mr. Nhat said the same policeman named Minh blocked him while another policeman named Long barbarically beat him in the bus under witness of other passengers.
Police robbed a cell phone and a camera memory card from Mr. Son and four books from Mr. Nhat as well as some T-shirts with logos which call for human rights and multi-party democracy.
Dinh Huy Thai, head of the Lam Ha district police, threatened the duo that the police will not ensure security for them when they go out of the police station. In fact, police sent thugs to chase the two activists but the two former political prisoners successfully avoided being attacked.
Since being freed in late August, Nhat has been constantly harassed by local authorities who often summon him to local police station for interrogation.
On August 28, one day after he returned home from a prison, a number of activists came to visit him. On their way back, the visitors were brutally attacked by local police. The victims included land rights activist Ms. Tran Thi Nga, a member of the unsanctioned Vietnam Women for Human Rights, Mr. Truong Minh Tam, a member of the unregistered Vietnam Pathway, Mr. Le Dinh Luong, younger uncle of human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan, and a young couple who want to remain unnamed. Mr. Son was also among the activists severely assaulted by the police. Son, Tam and Luong were severely beaten, with many injuries and bleeding on their faces and heads.
Vietnam’s police have intensified crackdown against local political dissidents and human rights activists nationwide few months ahead of the ruling communist party’s National Congress slated in early 2016.
Police arrested former political prisoner Tran Anh Kim from Thai Binh and Nguyen Viet Dung, the leader and founder of the unsanctioned Republican Party of Vietnam and charged them under controversial Articles 79 and 245 of the country’s Penal Code, respectively. They remain in pre-trial detention.
Police in the central province of Nghe An continue to harass former political prisoner Tran Duc Thach in Dien Chau district. After plainclothes agents attacked him on mid day of October 15, local policemen kept throwing stones and bricks at his house
Mr. Thach, 63-year old writer and poet, said the lives of his family members are at risk as government-backed thugs and plainclothes security agents have carried out a number of attacks on his house with big bricks and stones since October 22, breaking doors, windows and the roof.
The attacks occur during daytime and at night, said Mr. Thach, who was jailed for his articles criticizing the communist socio-economic policies.
He informed local authorities about the assaults, however, they refused to intervene, saying he must catch the attackers red-handed first.
According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Vietnam is holding between 150 and 200 prisoners of conscience. Hanoi denies this by saying only law violators are imprisoned.
In addition, security forces are believed to have also deployed plainclothes agents or hired thugs to attack pro-democracy activists and human rights defenders in many localities, including the capital city of Hanoi. Among victims of government-backed assaults are human rights lawyers Tran Thu Nam and Le Van Luan, bloggers Doan Trang, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, Truong Van Dung, Nguyen Chi Tuyen, Trinh Anh Tuan and Truong Minh Huong.
The Communist Party of Vietnam has ruled the country for decades and it vows to make all efforts to keep the country under a one-party regime. The communist leaders have requested the police forces not to allow the formation of opposition party nor tolerate any government criticism.
Vietnam Police Chief Labels Independent CSOs as “Reactionary Groups”
Vietnamese Minister of Public Security General Tran Dai Quang said since mid 2012, around 350 local dissidents, social activists and human rights have formed over 60 unsanctioned civil society organizations (CSOs) which can be labeled as “reactionary groups”.
Speaking before the country’s parliament in its ongoing session in Hanoi on November 16, General Quang, who is a member of the powerful 16-person Politburo of the ruling communist party, said members of the unregistered CSOs are from 50 cities and provinces.
Quang, who is expected to be promoted to a higher position next year when the ruling party conducts its National Congress, also said since June 2012, Vietnam’s security forces have tackled 1,410 national security cases involving 2,680 individuals.
The security forces have successfully coped with all activities of hostile forces to ensure political stability, Quang said in the government’s report on public order for the 2012-2015 period.
There have been a number of anti-government demonstrations in the past four years, the police chief said.
He also reported that the police forces have detained nearly 290,000 individuals in 150,000 criminal cases since mid 2012. The figures include 45,000 people in 46,170 economic fraud cases, and 1,930 corrupted officials in 1,145 cases.
In the past three years, police have confiscated nearly three tons of heroin, one ton of synthetic drugs and nearly 1.7 million synthetic drug tablets in 43,000 cases, the minister said.
Crimes have become more and more severe with a number of serious cases in which many victims were murdered in barbarically ways, Quang said.
General Quang, who may become the prime minister for the next term, said the Ministry of Public Security will put all effort to bar dissidents and social activists from forming opposition parties and apply tough measures to deal with government critics.
Under one-party rule, Vietnam’s police have been considered the key forces for maintaining the communist party’s political monopoly.
The country’s Constitution states that people enjoys the right to freedom of association and assembly, however, the government requires all civil society organizations and religious groups to register, and considers unregistered bodies illegal.
The communist government has used controversial Penal Code articles, such as Article 79, 88, 245 and 258, to silence local political dissidents. In addition, it has issued decrees to criminalize peaceful demonstrations and workers’ strikes.
Along with arresting and imprisoning government critics and human rights defenders, Vietnam’s police have also deployed plainclothes agents and hired thugs to attack social activists, and harass them repeatedly.
According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Vietnam is holding between 150 and 200 prisoners of conscience while Hanoi always said it imprisons only law violators.
Numerous political dissidents, human rights and social activists, including environmentalists, have been brutally beaten in the past few years, especially in recent months, few months ahead of the communist party’s National Congress.
Next week, Vietnam’s parliament is scheduled to approve Law on Association which contains a number of requirements to limit the rights of associations enshrined in the country’s Constitution 2013, according to human rights groups.
The parliament and other state agencies have ignored petitions of unsanctioned CSOs on the country’s socio-economic development, especially in dealing with systemic corruption, poor economic management and weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea as well as enhancing human rights protection.
Vietnam Legislators Urge Gov’t Not to Intervene Deeply in CSOs
Vietnam’s government should not intervene deeply in the management and activities of civil society organizations (CSOs), said a number of members of the country’s legislative body National Assembly (NA).
Speaking in parliament during a discussion on the draft Law of Associations earlier this week as part of the ongoing session of the NA, Mr. Nguyen Van Rinh from the northern province of Hai Duong said the draft law consists of a number of complicated regulations for CSOs’ organization.
Most CSOs are operating with their own funding so the state should not regulate their organizational matters, he said.
He questioned the validity of a requirement of the draft which stipulates that the working regulations of CSOs are to be approved by a deputy minister of Home Affairs.
Legislator Le Dinh Khanh, also from Hai Duong said it is not wise for the government to intervene deeply in CSOs’ operation, including financial matters. According to the draft, all CSOs must submit financial reports to the provincial chairman of the People’s Committees. The provincial leaders have no time for reviewing their reports, he claimed.
The Deputy Chairman of the National Assembly Committee for Culture, Education, Youth and Children Le Nhu Tien said Vietnam should not turn CSOs into state administrative bodies. Currently, many CSOs are funded by the state budget while their leaders are retired state officials.
CSOs must operate with their funding, Mr. Tien said.
Mr. Nguyen Anh Son from Nam Dinh said Vietnam has 9,000 CSOs from central to grassroots levels with 7,400 staff, and their operations are financed by the state budget.
Meanwhile, Vietnam has around 60 independent CSOs which Minister of Public Security General Tran Dai Quang labels as “reactionary groups”.
Civil Society Urges Obama to Push for Release of Vietnamese Prisoner of Conscience
Amnesty International: As U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in Southeast Asia this week, ninety international personalities and civil society organizations worldwide have signed a letter urging Mr. Obama to press for the release of Vietnam’s most longstanding prisoner of conscience, Thich Quang Do, leader of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and prominent human rights defender. This is a symbolic year for the U.S. and Vietnam, as it marks 20 years of U.S.-Vietnam diplomatic relations and the 40th Anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.
Human rights are the signatories’ major concern. The letter was sent to President Obama as he makes a landmark visit to the Philippines and Malaysia to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit and the U.S.-ASEAN and East Asia Summits, where he will meet with Vietnamese leaders.
Initiated by the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (Paris) and the Rafto Foundation (Norway), together with Amnesty International, FIDH, Civil Rights Defenders, World Movement for Democracy, Lantos Foundation, PEN International, People in Need Foundation and Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme, the letter’s 90 signatories include Nobel Peace Prize laureates Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Mairead Maguire and Tawakkol Karman, religious figures such as Vaclav Maly, Bishop of Prague, José Raúl Vera López, Bishop of Saltillo Mexico, Bulambo Lembelembe Josué of the DR of Congo, academics, writers, journalists, legislators, 23 members of the European Parliament, Lord Avebury, Baroness Berridge and Lord Alton of the UK House of Lords, numerous Rafto Prize laureates, human rights defenders and democracy activists from all over the globe.
In Vietnam today, religious leaders, civil society activists and bloggers face daily harassments and intimidation from the authorities simply for peacefully expressing their views, and have no legal framework to protect them, at the same time as the country seeks to strengthen economic and security ties with the U.S, the authors wrote.
The signatories stress that U.S.-Vietnam relations are only sustainable if they are founded on the mutual respect of democratic freedoms and fundamental human rights including the freedoms of expression, association, religion or belief and movement. The release of Thich Quang Do, they said, would be a “truly historic gesture” that would “give Vietnam the opportunity to demonstrate its willingness for progress, and reaffirm the United States’ determination to make human rights the cornerstone of this strengthened relationship”.
Thich Quang Do is Fifth Supreme Patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), a renowned spiritual leader, scholar, dissident and 16-times Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Thich Quang Do, age 87 has spent more than three decades in detention for his peaceful advocacy of religious freedom, democracy and human rights. For protesting the creation of a State-sponsored Buddhist Church, in 1982, he was sent into internal exile in northern Vietnam for ten years along with his mother, who died of cold and hunger in the harsh environment. In 1995, he was sentenced to five years in prison for organizing a rescue mission for flood victims in the Mekong Delta.
Released in 1998 due to international pressure, notably thanks to an appeal by the then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Thich Quang Do was placed under house arrest at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City. “I went from a small prison into a larger prison,” he said. Since then, he has remained under house arrest without any formal indictment or charge. His communications are monitored and he is denied freedom of movement and citizenship rights.
Thich Quang Do is a recipient of the prestigious Rafto Prize for human rights defenders, and, along with others in the country’s democracy movement, the World Movement for Democracy’s “Democracy Courage Tribute”.
From house arrest, Thich Quang Do continues to press Vietnam to respect all human rights for all. In August 2015, he told visiting US Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski 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.” Thich Quang Do even evoked Mr. Obama’s possible visit to Vietnam, expressing hopes that the U.S. President would “win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people by speaking out for human rights.”
THÔNG CÁO BÁO CHÍ NGÀY 17.11.2015: Mười một tổ chức quốc tế và 90 nhân vật trên thế giới ký tên Thư gửi Tổng Thống Obama xin can thiệp trả tự do cho Đức Tăng Thống Thích Quảng Độ nhân chuyến công du vùng Đông Nam Á
Vietnamese bloggers held for over 18 months in pre-trial detention
CPJ -November 19, 2015- The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities in Vietnam to immediately release Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, who have been held in pre-trial detention since May 5, 2014 on anti-state charges over articles posted on their news site and aggregator Ba Sam and other blogging sites. Vinh’s health has declined in custody due to poor prison conditions, his wife, Le Thi Minh Ha, told CPJ via email.
“CPJ calls for the immediate and unconditional release of bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh and Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Vietnam will never be viewed and treated as a responsible member of the international community as long as these types of arbitrary and abusive detentions continue and are justified under bogus anti-state provisions.”
Minh Ha said she visited Vinh on October 22 at the B-14 Detention Center in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi. According to a petition and separate urgent request appeal for action that she filed with authorities requesting his release, Vinh has rashes on his legs, shoulders, back, and buttocks. The urgent request appeal said his condition was likely symptomatic of liver and blood disorders caused by a lack of exposure to natural sunlight.
Earlier this year, prison physician prescribed herbal medicine for Vinh, but the treatment was stopped after four days even though his symptoms persisted, according to Minh Ha. Her petition requested that Vinh be allowed hospital treatment and access to medicine. It also called on prison authorities to allow Vinh access to books, writing materials, and photographs of his family.
Authorities have so far failed to respond to any of the requests outlined in the petition for his release, Minh Ha told CPJ by email through a translator. She said Vinh was being held in a jail cell with a violent cellmate who frequently threatened him. She said she had not received any information on status or health of Thuy, who is being held at the same prison.
Vinh and Thuy were both charged with “abusing democratic freedoms to impinge on the interests of the state,” an anti-state offense under Article 258 of Vietnam’s penal code, in relation to 24 entries posted to the Ba Sam and other independent blog sites, according to reports. Convictions under the law carry a maximum prison sentence of seven years. Authorities have increasingly used the law to stifle criticism and persecute independent bloggers, according to CPJ research.
Under Vietnamese criminal procedures, suspects for offenses deemed serious by authorities may be held for a maximum of 20 months while investigations are ongoing. Authorities have not set a trial date for Vinh’s and Thuy’s case which, under local law, must be held by January 5, 2016 or the suspects released, according to Minh Ha. Minh Ha’s petition challenged the legal basis of the anti-state charges, arguing that no individual or organization has stated or proven that the 24 articles in question had violated their rights or interests.
At least three bloggers have been convicted under Article 258, CPJ research shows. Vietnam was holding at least 16 reporters behind bars, according to CPJ’s most recent prison census in December.
Vietnam Parliament Passes Law on Cyber Information Safety
Vietnam’s highest legislative body National Assembly on November 19 approved the Law on Cyber Information Safety, aiming to better control the flow of information on the Internet in the communist-controlled country as well as to prevent the use of cyber networks for terrorism purpose.
The law, to take effect starting on July 1, 2016, assigns the government to build detailed guidelines, responsibilities, and measures to prevent the use of Internet for terrorism purpose.
Among measures listed to prevent terrorism are (i) disabling the Internet sources of the activities and (ii) preventing the establishment and expansion of information on signals, factors, and methods and Internet usage as a means to carry out a terrorist act.
The law also highlights the need to share experience among agencies and with foreign competent authorities in controlling the Internet sources, searching and monitoring e-portals linked to terrorism.
In addition, the law also prohibits the collection, use, distribution, and illegal trading of personal information, and taking advantage of loopholes and weaknesses in the information systems to collect and exploit personal information.
Vietnam, whose population is over 91 million, has a high Internet penetration rate of 48%. However, international rights groups have often criticized Vietnam for its widespread Internet censorship.
According to Freedom House, Vietnam is rated “not free” with a score of 76 on a scale of 100-worst in the Freedom on the Net 2015. With 29 netizens imprisoned, Vietnam continues to be one of the worst jailers of bloggers in the world.
In the latest development, Vietnamese Minister of Public Security Tran Dai Quang said at a recent meeting that the police forces would strictly punish anyone who upload content that stirs up terrorism and Islamic extremism. The statement was made after many Vietnamese reportedly created fake Facebook accounts of the militant Islamic State members.
TPP Signatories Must Press Vietnam to Drop Proposed ‘Draconian’ Laws: Rights Group
(RFA) The U.S. and other signatories to a major free trade agreement between Pacific Rim countries should pressure Vietnam to drop proposed laws that would allow the authorities to expand a crackdown on critics of the one party communist government, a rights group said Friday.
Vietnam is using vague national security laws to stifle dissent, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement, adding that signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) must push Vietnam to halt legislation that would add even more penalties to its “already draconian criminal code.”
Twelve Pacific Rim countries—the U.S., Vietnam, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico and Peru—signed the TPP on October 5 after seven years of negotiations, agreeing to lower tariffs and establish a dispute settlement mechanism for trade.
Earlier this month, Vietnam’s public security minister General Tran Dai Quang announced that from June 2012 to November 2015 police had cracked down on 1,410 cases involving 2,680 people “who violated national security,” while more than 60 groups were “illegally formed” in the name of democracy and human rights.
Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW, called the announcement of the arrests and acknowledgement that Vietnam’s government is targeting democracy and human rights groups “deeply troubling.”
“This suggests the government is massively overusing the country’s repressive national security laws to criminalize peaceful expression and persecute critics,” Adams said.
HRW noted that Vietnam has a record of detaining people for long periods for alleged national security violations and urged the government to clarify the status of the 2,680 mentioned by General Quang, including their names, charges filed, convictions, and other details.
The group pointed to several “vaguely worded and loosely interpreted provisions” in Vietnam’s penal code used to imprison dissidents, including Article 79’s “activities aiming to overthrow the people’s administration,” Article 88’s “conducting propaganda against the state,” and Article 89’s “disrupting security”—which can be punished by death, and up to 20 and 15 years in jail, respectively.
Other provisions in the penal code target peaceful dissent, it said, including Article 258’s “abusing rights to democracy and freedom to infringe upon the interests of the state,” and Article 245’s “causing public disorder,” as well as charges such as tax evasion.
Meanwhile, Vietnam’s National Assembly—a rubber stamp parliament—is currently considering revising the country’s penal code and code of criminal procedure, and Human Rights Watch said proposed amendments allowing for harsher punishments “appear to be aimed at activists and critics.”
Proposed amendments would add harsher clauses to Article 109 (formerly Article 79) and Article 117 (formerly Article 88), according to HRW, while Article 118 (formerly Article 89) would gain a provision subjecting anyone found guilty of taking “actions in preparation of committing this crime” to between one and five years in jail.
“Current laws are bad enough and often used arbitrarily by the government to silence critics,” Adams said.
“But to imprison someone for up to five years just because the government thinks they may speak out or organize dissent is simply absurd.”
HRW noted that during TPP negotiations in 2014 and 2015, Vietnam released 14 bloggers and activists amid pressure from the U.S., though many others remain in police custody, some of whom have not been put on trial.
If the revised penal code is passed, the group said, labor activists convicted under Article 89 who were released from prison last year amid the negotiations could be rearrested by authorities simply based on concerns that they might help organize strikes.
Adams said that General Quang’s report suggests Vietnam will return to its policy of stamping out dissent now that the TPP is in place.
“It appears that the Vietnamese government played nice during TPP negotiations, but now that the agreement has been signed it is taking steps to tighten government control over critics,” he said.
So what did my husband, Anh Ba Sam, do?
Due to health issues associated with Northern Vietnam’s weather, I have not been able to be with my husband as often as a wife should in the past years; however, what I know about him remains consistent that he is a patriot who loves his country with all his heart. Moreover, he is an intellect, a blogger who always believes in the importance of the Internet to the democratization and development processes of the country. He had always used the Internet as a tool to pursue his fervent wish to “empower, enlighten, and secure the people.”
Anh Ba Sam site (with the following addresses: basam.info, anhbasam.wordpress.com, anhbasamnews.info) was found in 2007 with the purpose of “breaking the chains of slavery.” He also uses that as the goal for the site. He believes that the people of Vietnam can only form political opinions once they are fully informed.
In that spirit, Anh Ba Sam on a daily basis gathered all daily news related to political issues, from many sources such as state-own media, foreign news agencies, activists, journalists, personal blogs, and even from websites deemed “traitors” and “opposing the state” by Vietnam government.
In addition, Anh Ba Sam also provide his readers with links to 50 top pages of famous bloggers and civil organizations in Vietnam, 50 independent and state-own news sites, and 56 foreign media sites along with 19 websites with guides to overcome Internet censorship. Features provided by blogging technologies have facilitated readers to write comments about whatever event they hear about.
According to various sources, my husband and his colleagues since 2009 have posted on the Internet a few hundred thousands articles, among which are valuable information on Vietnam history from 1945 to 1995, and writings from famous Vietnamese writers. Everyday, the average viewership ranges around 100,000 views.
It is very likely that Decree No. 72/2013/ND-CP on the “management, provision, and the use of Internet services” was issued by the government to sensor Anh Ba Sam blog page. Paragraph 4 of Article 20 and Paragraph 4 of Article 26 of that Decree (effective September 1, 2013) prohibits blog and website owners in Vietnam from collecting information from the media or government sites. At the time, Anh Ba Sam was the only blog accessible to Vietnamese people which has a great volume of news data and such noticeable number of readers.
According to Alexa.com ranking, Anh Ba Sam blog as of now is still among the web pages viewed the most by people in Vietnam.
Vietnam: Widespread ‘National Security’ Arrests, Draconian New Laws Proposed Despite Trade Pact Pledges
(HRW) Vietnam is using vague national security laws to stifle dissent and arrest critics, Human Rights Watch said today. 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.
In November 2015, the public security minister, General Tran Dai Quang, reported to the National Assembly that from June 2012 until November 2015, “The police have received, arrested, and dealt with 1,410 cases involving 2,680 people who violated national security.” He said, “During this same period, opposition persons have illegally established more than 60 groups and organizations in the name of democracy and human rights, which have about 350 participants from 50 cities and provinces.”
“The Vietnam government’s announcement of thousands of arrests, while admitting that it is targeting democracy and human rights groups, is deeply troubling,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “This suggests the government is massively overusing the country’s repressive national security laws to criminalize peaceful expression and persecute critics.”
Vietnam’s National Assembly is considering a revised penal code and code of criminal procedure at its current session, which will close on November 28. The proposed amendments appear to be aimed at activists and critics. Instead of repealing its draconian laws, the government has proposed even harsher punishments for bloggers and rights activists.
Vietnam has a continuing record of detaining people for long periods for alleged national security violations, without access to legal counsel or family visits, and with inadequate medical care. The status of each of the 2,680 people Gen. Quang mentioned should be clarified as soon as possible. The Vietnamese government should release information on each of these cases, including the person’s name; the charges filed, if any; whether the person has been convicted; the amount of time each person was or has been held in custody; and other relevant details.
Vietnam frequently uses vaguely worded and loosely interpreted provisions in its penal code and other laws to imprison peaceful political and religious dissidents. These include “activities aiming to overthrow the people’s administration” (penal code article 79, penalty up to death sentence); “undermining national unity policy” (article 87, penalty up to 15 years in prison); “conducting propaganda against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (article 88, penalty up to 20 years); “disrupting security” (article 89, penalty up to 15 years); “fleeing abroad or stay abroad to oppose the people’s government” (article 91, penalty up to life sentence); and “supplemental punishment” which strips former prisoners convicted of “national security” crimes of certain rights, puts them on probation for up to five years, and allows confiscation of part or all of their property (article 92).
Vietnam also uses other articles in the penal code to target peaceful dissent, including “abusing rights to democracy and freedom to infringe upon the interests of the State and the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and citizens” (article 258), “causing public disorder” (article 245), and charges such as tax evasion.
Among the harsher provisions proposed are new clauses in article 109 (originally article 79), article 117 (originally article 88), and article 118 (originally article 89), which has a new clause that states, “The person who takes actions in preparation of committing this crime shall be subject to between one and five years of imprisonment.”
“Current laws are bad enough and often used arbitrarily by the government to silence critics,” Adams said. “But to imprison someone for up to five years just because the government thinks they may speak out or organize dissent is simply absurd.”
During 2014 and 2015, in the midst of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (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 activists Dang Xuan Dieu, Ho Duc Hoa, and Nguyen Dang Minh Man; and the land rights activist Ho 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 Chuong remain 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.
According to Gen. Quang’s report, the police have “timely prevented activities of opposition persons in the country who stirred and agitated the people to gather, march, and protest against the Party and the State. [The police] have actively attacked against [opposition groups] in the political realm and divided and isolated leading figures in order to prevent them from gathering forces in the form of ‘civil social organizations.’” Gen. Quang insisted that the tasks for the police include “preventing any plan to form and publicize domestic opposition political organizations, as well as activities that form and publicize illegal groups and organizations on the Internet.”
“It appears that the Vietnamese government played nice during TPP negotiations, but now that the agreement has been signed it is taking steps to tighten government control over critics,” Adams said.
Hanoi to Try Leader of Unsanctioned Republican Party of Vietnam on Dec 9
The communist government in Hanoi will bring Nguyen Viet Dung, the founder and leader of the unsanctioned Republican Party of Vietnam, to court on December 9, few months ahead of the 12th National Congress of the ruling communist party, his family said.
Mr. Dung, 30, an engineer graduated from the prestigious Hanoi University of Science and Technology, will be tried for committing public disorder under Article 245 of the country’s Penal Code in the first hearing in a Hanoi court, nine months after being detained by security forces in Vietnam’s capital city.
The People’s Court in Hoan Kiem district will carry out the trial and if found guilty, he faces imprisonment of between two and seven years, according to the Penal Code.
Dung’s family has hired lawyer Vo An Don to defend him. However, authorities in Hanoi have yet to grant permision for Mr. Don to meet his client currently held in the Hanoi Detention No. 1 located in Tu Liem district.
On April 12, Mr. Dung and four friends were detained by Hanoi security forces right after they attended a peaceful demonstration in the city’s center to protest the local government’s plan which aimed to chop down 6,700 aged valuable trees in some of the city’s key streets.
The police released his friends but kept Dung and accused him of “disturbing public order” and charged him under Article 245 of the Penal Code.
Following Mr. Dung’s arrest, police conducted a search of his home and seized many other items associated with the former Republic of Vietnam.
Local media reported that Dung has been severely tortured by Hanoi security officers during interrogation. Investigating officers of Hoan Kiem district beat Mr. Dung brutally when he refused to cooperate with them during the interrogation.
Dung received a number of severe injuries, including broken ribs by police torture and police sent him to the Hanoi-based Viet Duc Hospital for treatment, a source from Dung’s family said.
Dung has not been permitted to meet with his relatives since his arrest, his family told BBC.
Mr. Dung was born in 1986 in the central province of Nghe An, the home province of late President Ho Chi Minh, the founder of the ruling communist party.
After graduating from the prestigious Hanoi University of Science and Technology, Dung returned to his home town. In early April, Dung declared the founding of the Republican Party of Vietnam to fight for multi-party democracy and promote human rights in the Southeast Asian nation.
One month after his arrest, Mr. Chris Hayes, member of the Australian Parliament, called on the Australian Government to take action to demand Vietnam to release Mr. Dung.
In his letter dated May 13 sent to Foreign Minister Julia Bishop, Mr. Hayes said “the Australian Government which strongly advocates for human rights should take active interest in this matter and call for the immediately release of Nguyen Viet Dung.”
Mr. Hayes, an Australian Labor Party politician said the Vietnamese community in New South Wale where he was elected to the Australian House of Representatives in 2005, and Australia at large, is very concerned about the safety and wellbeing of Mr. Dung, together with hundreds of other dissidents who are being imprisoned in Vietnam for simply exercising their basic freedomsand human rights.
Vietnam, as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, has a responsibility to promote and respect human rights, Mr. Hayes said. However, Vietnam’s human rights record seems to be worsening, he noted.
The detention of Mr. Dung has drawn great concern among Vietnamese. The unsanctioned Vietnam Blogger Network (VBN) released a statement condemning his arrest, saying his participation in the peaceful demonstration cannot be labelled as public disturbance.
Based on the facts, the VBN considers the arrest of Mr. Dung by Hanoi’s police as arbitrary detention, showing the power abuse of police forces in the capital city. The arrest is a serious violation of human rights, it noted.
Mr. Dung’s detention is closely related to his role in the establishment of the Republican Party of Vietnam, local observers said, adding the ruling party has vowed to keep the nation under one-party regime, and ordered the security forces not to allow opposition to be established.
The communist government in Vietnam has harassed, persecuted and imprisoned all government critics, criminalizing those who bravely speak out about corruption, poor economic management and weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea.
Along with using controversial Articles 79, 88 and 258 of the Penal Code, Vietnam’s communist government has also used other criminal charges such as tax evasion and public disturbance to stifle local dissent.
According to international human rights bodies, Vietnam is imprisoning between 150 and 200 political dissidents, bloggers and human rights activists while Hanoi says it holds no prisoners of conscience but only law violators.
Meanwhile, torture is systemic in Vietnam. The lawyers have yet to be allowed to be present during interrogation while the right to remain silent is being introduced only in a draft law.
Vietnam Police Detain, Severely Beat Two Labor Activists Who Try to Assist Workers in Settling Contract Dispute
Police in Vietnam’s southern province of Dong Nai on November 22 detained two labor activists Do Minh Hanh and Truong Minh Duc and brutally beat them before releasing the duo mid night, the victims claimed.
On Sunday (November 22) afternoon, Ms. Hanh and Mr. Duc, two former political prisoners, went to Dong Nai to meet with representative of 2,000 workers of who were recently fired by the South Korea-invested Yupoong Vietnam Co. Ltd. When the duo talked with the group’s lawyer in a bid to seek for justice for the illegally-fired workers, security agents arrested the two Ho Chi Minh City-based activists.
Policemen brutally assaulted Hanh and Duc, two members of independent trade union Lao Dong Viet (Viet Labor), on the way from the Yupoon’s factory to the Long Binh polic station. Hanh said she was detained by five police officers who beat her continuously until she fell unconscious.
In the police station, the duo was questioned until mid night without receiving food or medical assistance. Police released the duo at 1.30 am on Monday (November 23).
Local activists came to bring the two activists to a hospital for urgent treatment. Mr. Duc, who was arrested in 2007 and sentenced to five years in prison on charge of “abusing democracy” under Article 258 of the Penal Code, suffered light injuries and recovered fast, but Ms. Hanh is still under special care due to extremely heavy injuries.
Since being released in 2012, Mr. Duc has become a target of police harassment. In November last year, he was brutally assaulted by plainclothes agents and suffered numerous severe injuries on his face, head and body.
Police have also constantly harassed 30-year-old Hanh after she was released in June last year. Two weeks ago, police in Ho Chi Minh City locked her house in a bid to block her from attending anti-China protest on the occasion of the official visit of President Xi Jinping to Vietnam.
Hanh has assisted Vietnamese workers in demanding for higher wages and better working conditions since 2004. In 2010, she was arrested while calling on workers in Tra Vinh to strike. She was sentenced to seven years in jail, but was released in late June 2014 due to international pressure.
In 2011, Hanh and Dr. Cu Huy Ha Vu were honored with the Vietnam Human Rights Awards given by the Vietnam Human Rights Network.
The detention and brutal assault of Hanh and Duc came 50 days after Vietnam, the U.S. and other ten nations completed negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement which is expected to boost trade and investment among the member of the bloc which accounts for 40% of the world’s economy.
In order to join the TPP, Vietnam pledged to allow independent trade unions and protect labor rights. Currently, the communist government controls the sole, officially recognized trade union which has collaborated with employers to suppress workers instead of protecting their rights.
Vietnam is likely to use technical barriers to limit formation and activities of independent trade unions, said political observers.
The Vietnamese government has tightened political control several months ahead of the ruling communist party’s National Congress slated for early 2016. It has launched a crackdown against political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders recently.
Along with arresting prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh and his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, Nguyen Viet Dung, the founder and leader of the unsanctioned Republican Party of Vietnam, and Tran Anh Kim, former political prisoner in Thai Binh, the police has deployed plainclothes agents and thugs to attack activists.
Former prisoners of conscience Tran Minh Nhat, Chu Manh Son and Tran Duc Thach, human rights lawyers Tran Thu Nam and Le Van Luan, bloggers Truong Van Dung, Tran Thi Nga, Truong Minh Hương and Nguyen Tuong Thuy are among the recent victims of the intensified persecution by Vietnam’s security forces which strive to prevent the formation of any opposition parties or movements.
Vietnam’s Minister of Public Security General Tran Dai Quang has labelled 60 unregistered civil society organizations which have voiced against systemic corruption, poor economic management and weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea, as “reactionary groups”.
Quang, who is expected to be promoted to one of the country’s four key leadership posts next year, has pledged to take tough measures to deal with government critics and human rights activists in coming months. He admitted that between June 2012 and November 2015, the police under his supervision have received, dealt with, and made arrests in 1,410 cases involving 2,680 people who violated national security.
On November 19, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said Vietnam is using vague national security laws to stifle dissent and arrest critics. It urged the U.S. and other signatories to the TPP to press Vietnam to drop proposed legislation that would add even more rights-abusing penalties to its already draconian criminal code.
“The Vietnam government’s announcement of thousands of arrests, while admitting that it is targeting democracy and human rights groups, is deeply troubling,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of the Human Rights Watch. “This suggests the government is massively overusing the country’s repressive national security laws to criminalize peaceful expression and persecute critics.”
Authorities in An Giang Limits Teachers, Students in Using Social Networks
The An Giang province’s Department of Education has issued a letter demanding local teachers and school students not to express their political view on social networks.
Specifically, teachers and students are asked not to make comment and like nor share statuses which are related to the ruling party and its government as well as local authorities and officials.
Earlier, a female state official was fined VND5 million ($220) after making a comment about the chairman of the province’s People’s Committee.
The move of An Giang’s authorities is illegal, going against the freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution 2013, human rights activists said.