December 14, 2015
Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly December 7-13: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Other Human Rights Bodies Condemn Vietnam’s Ongoing Harassment against Local Activists
Defenders’ Weekly | Dec 13, 2015
On December 11, Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said the agency is very concerned about the the recent spate of violent attacks on human rights defenders in Vietnam. The agency requested the Vietnamese communist government to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators and take measures to ensure security of all human rights defenders, she said.
The move was taken after the last Sunday’s attack by a group of about 20 men armed with sticks against Mr. Nguyen Van Dai, a prominent lawyer and three other human rights defenders.
Earlier, the Amnesty International and the Reporters Without Borders also voiced their concerns about the brutal assault against Mr. Dai and his fellows as well as other barbaric attacks against Vietnamese political dissidents and human rights activists.
The People’s Court of Hanoi on December 9 rejected the appeal of land petitioner Vu Thi Hai, who is charged of causing public disorders when she and other land petitioners peacefully protested before the parliament’s building in June. However, the court reduced her sentence from 18 months to 15 months in prison.
On December 6, Vietnam’s authorities blocked four activists from leaving the country when they were on their way to Myanmar where they will take part in a visit organized by the U.S.-based pro-democracy group Viet Tan to meet with Myanmar’smain opposition party to exchange experience in promoting multi-party democracy.
and many other important news.
Vietnam Security Forces Block Four Activists from Visiting Myanmar
Vietnam’s security forces on Sunday [December 6] barred four activists from leaving to country to Myanmar to learn experience in a trip organized by the U.S.-backed pro-democracy Viet Tan group.
Writer Pham Chi Thanh, who runs Ba Dam Xoe blog, and poet Nguyen Tuong Thuy, vice president of the unsanctioned Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, were stopped by security agents in the Hanoi-based Noi Bai International Airport when the two bloggers were on their way to take an international flight to Myanmar.
Meanwhile, activists Truong Van Dung and Le Sy Binh were blocked by border guards in the Moc Bai Border Gate in the southwestern province of Tay Ninh which borders Cambodia’s province of Svay Rieng when they tried to go to Phnom Penh where they were due to take an international flight to Myanmar.
In all four cases, security forces said the reason for blocking them is national security according to the government’s Decree 136 without explaining in details.
The activists said they were invited by the NLD in a bid to share experiences in democratic and human rights promotion.
Mr. Thanh is a dissident who has produced a number of books criticizing the communist government. He was summoned many times by Hanoi police for questioning about his writings.
Mr. Thuy has posted a number of articles criticizing the government’s poor economic management, systemic corruption and weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea. Last year, when he returned from the U.S., he was detained for questioning by security forces in the Noi Bai International Airport.
Meanwhile, Mr. Dung is one of the most prominent activists in anti-China demonstrations in Hanoi, and a human rights advocate. He has been assaulted many times by plainclothes agents.
Along with jailing and harassing local political dissidents and human rights defenders, Vietnam has barred them 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 travelling 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.
Wife of Jailed Vietnamese Environmental Activist Appeals to UN, Foreign Groups For Help
Members of an environmental protection group jailed two years ago in Vietnam on charges of plotting to overthrow the government are innocent and should be freed, the wife of the group’s leader said this week, adding that she has asked international organizations to intervene in the case.
Twenty-two members of the Council for the Laws and Public Affairs of Bia Son, named for a mountain in south central Vietnam’s coastal Phu Yen province, went on trial on Jan. 28, 2013, with group leader Phan Van Thu, 65, later sentenced to life in prison and 20 others handed lengthy terms.
Group members, many of them elderly and ill, were not involved in politics and had worked only to “protect the environment in the daytime and practice religion at night,” Vo Than Thuy, Thu’s wife, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
“So why did they accuse us of plotting to overthrow the government?” Vo asked.
Prosecutors in Phu Yen had failed to provide witnesses or evidence of guilt at the group’s five-day trial in Phu Yen, Vo said.
“They talked about ‘hundreds of documents,’ but what were those documents about?” she asked, adding, “We asked them to show those documents to everyone and to give them to the media so that people could see for themselves what the Council really is.”
“But they didn’t present anything they should have,” Vo said.
Appeal for international help
Group members, many of them Buddhist, had worked only to protect the environment and to teach and practice their faith, she said.
“Do we really have justice in this society?” she asked.
On Nov. 21, Vo sent requests to international organizations for help in her husband’s case after appeals were turned down by officials in Hanoi and Da Nang city, to which handling of the case had been transferred, she said.
Included in the petition were the Human Rights Council of the U.N., the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedoms (USCIRF) and other rights advocacy groups, the U.S. State Department, and Western embassies in Hanoi, Vo said, adding that replies to the petition have not yet been received.
Truong Thi Hiep, wife of 51-year-old Council member Le Trong Cu, now serving a 12-year term, told RFA that her husband like other members of the group had done nothing for which he deserved to be jailed.
“We have sent so many petitions and letters, but this government does only what it wants,” she said.
Viet Nam: End wave of brutal attacks against human rights defenders
The Vietnamese authorities must put an end to a wave of vicious and violent attacks on human rights defenders and end the persistent impunity by ensuring those responsible are brought to justice, Amnesty International said.
In the latest attack on Sunday 6 December, four activists – including prominent human rights lawyer and former prisoner of conscience Nguyễn Văn Đài – were abducted and beaten by a group of 20 men in plainclothes. They were returning from a public forum on constitutional rights in Nghệ An province, which the authorities had tried to shut down.
“Brutal attacks on human rights defenders have become routine in Viet Nam yet no steps have been taken to bring those responsible to justice. This wave of violence must end immediately.”
John Coughlan, Amnesty International’s Viet Nam Researcher
“Brutal attacks on human rights defenders have become routine in Viet Nam yet no steps have been taken to bring those responsible to justice. This wave of violence must end immediately,” said John Coughlan, Amnesty International’s Viet Nam Researcher.
“Peaceful activists in Viet Nam are working under harsh conditions and suffer impermissible restrictions on their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. It is outrageous that they have to risk both their health and liberty simply for speaking up for human rights.”
The four activists – Nguyễn Văn Đài, Trần Quang Trung, Vũ Văn Minh and a fourth, unnamed man – were intercepted when travelling home to Ha Noi by taxi. They were pulled out of a taxi along with the driver, and assaulted with wooden clubs. The plainclothes men put Nguyễn Văn Đài in the back of a van where he was repeatedly punched and bludgeoned with wooden sticks before being dumped on Cua Lo beach, some 20 kms from Vinh city. The other men were beaten on the side of the road, Trần Quang Trung was hit with a wooden club until the club broke.
Nguyễn Văn Đài received injuries to his face and eye, and was robbed of his wallet, mobile phone and jacket, while Trần Quang Trung suffered an injury to his ankle.
Since being released from prison in March 2011 after serving four years on trumped up charges of conducting propaganda against the state, Nguyễn Văn Đài has been the victim of intimidation and several attacks.
In May 2014, he sustained head injuries after being assaulted by six men in plainclothes. In January this year, two unidentified men broke into his home, and threatened to assault Đài and burn his home down.
A pattern of violence
This is the latest in a series of attacks and violence against human rights defenders in Viet Nam, which have intensified over the past 18 months. Amnesty International is aware of dozens of such attacks, most of which are not reported by the state controlled media.
On 3 November, two lawyers Trần Thu Nam and Lê Văn Luân were beaten by masked men as they left the family home of Do Dang Du, a 17-year-old who died in custody in Hà Nội in October. The lawyers had been providing legal advice to the young man’s family. While the authorities announced an investigation into the attack, following complaints by the victims, no arrests have been made.
On 22 November, labour activists and former prisoners of conscience, Đỗ Thị Minh Hạnh and Trương Minh Đức, were beaten by men in plainclothes before being detained by uniformed police in Long Bình, Đồng Nai province. The pair had travelled to Long Bình to provide advice on the case of 2,000 factory workers who had been sacked by their South Korean employers.
No one has been held responsible for any of these attacks.
Independent investigative body
Amnesty International is calling on the Vietnamese authorities to take immediate steps to end the pattern of attacks and violence and to hold those responsible to account.
Viet Nam must establish an independent and impartial body to investigate these attacks and prosecute those responsible, regardless of their status or official capacity.
“The only way to stop this cycle of attacks and violence is to put an end to the impunity of perpetrators, and send a clear signal that beatings of human rights defenders are unacceptable,” said John Coughlan.
Hanoi Court Rejects Appeal of Land Petitioner Vu Thi Hai but Reduces Sentence to 15 Months
The People’s Court in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi on Wednesday [December 09] rejected the appeal of Ninh Binh province-based land petitioner Vu Thi Hai but reduced her 18-month imprisonment to 15 months in jail in a nominally opentrial that was in fact closed to the public and the defendant’s relatives.
The appeal court still found widow Hai, a resident from the northern province of Ninh Binh, guilty of causing public disorders near the parliament’s building five months ago although four defense lawyers demonstrated that the charge is unfounded and demanded for her immediate release, said human rights lawyer Tran Thu Nam, one of the lawyers.
The sentence was reduced as the appeal court found that the sentence of the first hearing in late September too heavy, lawyer Nam added.
Le Van Luan, who is also one of the four defendse lawyers, said the court’s verdict was based only on two decisions on administrative fines against widow Hai of the Hanoi municipal People’s Committee which were issued illegally.
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 causing public disturbance under Article 245 of the country’s Penal Code.
Similar to the trial three months ago, authorities in Hanoi today deployed a large number of police officers and plainclothes agents to block hundreds of land petitioners from approaching the courtroom on Hai Ba Trung street in the city’s center. Authorities detained Duong Van Tuyen, a son of Hai’s, and kept him in police station until late afternoon after the appeal ended.
Police also shortly detained activists Ngo Duy Quyen and Kim Chi, who earlier tried to enter the courtroom, on their way from the court to their houses.
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 land 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 complaints been ignored, the police considered her as a trouble maker and often harassed her and other land petitioners.
Duong Van 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.
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 lived in the streets, slept in parks and often received financial supports from the public.
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 causing 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 or users. 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 but was released in late August on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Vietnam’s independence.
Citizen-journalist Nguyen Van Dai Badly Beaten
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is shocked by the severe beating that citizen-journalist and cyber-activist Nguyen Van Dai received from plainclothes policemen in the northern province of Nghe An on 6 December, shortly after he participated in a discussion about human rights in Vietnam and the 2013 constitution.
Around 60 people had attended the meeting, held at the home of former prisoner of conscience Tran Huu Duc in the Nam Dan district of Nghe An province as part of a “Human Rights in Vietnam Week” that ended today, 10 December, declared Human Rights Day by the UN General Assembly 65 years ago.
“We are appalled by this brutal attack targeting Nguyen Van Dai,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “Everyone knows he is persecuted constantly by the authorities because of his commitment to freedom of information and human rights.”
“We call on the international community to press the Vietnamese authorities to stop employing these thuggish methods, which have turned Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s administration into a government of gangsters.”
The attack on Nguyen Van Dai occurred shortly after he left the meeting to return to his Hanoi home in a taxi with fellow human rights activists Ly Quang Son, Vu Van Minh and Le Manh Thang. They were forced to stop by masked men in a van with no license plates and men on motorcycles, identified by Dai as plainclothes policemen.
They dragged Dai to a vehicle, gave him a severe beating, took his mobile phone, wallet containing about 500 dollars and other personal items, and finally released him about 50 km from where the meeting took place. A few hours later, an attempt was made to arrest him as he tried to return home by bus. In the end, it took him two days to return to his home in Hanoi.
In an interview for Radio Free Asia a few weeks ago, Dai described how the authorities have been harassing him and the people working for Luong Tam TV (Conscience TV), an independent Web TV channel, since its launch last August.
Seven of its employees were arrested on 23 and 24 September. The homes of the dissident Nguyen Vu Binh and the presenter Le Thi Yen were searched. Some of the TV station’s equipment was confiscated. And the police questioned Dai after these arrests.
“In order to change the minds of this country’s leaders, we have to tell the people about the basic rights that they have naturally, so that they are aware of them and know how to exercise them,” Dai told RSF.
“The attacks will not discourage me. I call on international NGOs and democratic governments to do anything they can to stop the violence that the Vietnamese police have increasingly used in recent years against human rights activists and independent news providers.”
Dai was the target of similar attacks in May 2014 that were not investigated. And in June 2013, he reported that his home was bugged. After obtaining a microphone detector, he found the authorities were spying on him from a room next to his apartment. His discovery drew attention to the regime’s growing use of “physical” methods to spy on and censor bloggers.
One of the leaders of Vietnam’s pro-democracy movement, a signatory of the Bloc 8406 appeal and staunch human rights defender, Dai often posts articles advocating democracy on websites based outside Vietnam. In 2007, he was sentenced to four years in prison on a charge of anti-government propaganda.
Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
Vietnam Police Attack against Labor Activists Raised in German Parliament
During a session of the German Bundestag on December 3 which discussed a resolution aiming to enhance protection for human rights defenders, lawmaker Frank Heinrich reported the case of Vietnamese labor activists Do Thi Minh Hanh and Truong Minh Duc who were beaten by Vietnamese police when the duo assisted local workers.
Mr. Heinrich said he was informed about the assault of the Vietnamese authorities against the two activists when they were providing legal assistance for 2,000 workers who were illegally fired by a South Korean footwear companywhich supplies a number of world giant footwear producers such as Nike and Adidas.
Ms. Hanh and Mr. Duc were brutally beaten by plainclothes agents before being detained by Vietnamese police in the southern province of Dong Nai.
After the discussion, the Bundestag–the German Parliament–adopted the resolution named “Enhanced protection of human rights defenders worldwide”.
Land Petitioners Demonstrate to Condemn Vietnam’s Human Rights Violations
On the occasion of International Human Rights [December 10], hundreds of Vietnamese land petitioners gathered before the government building in Ha Dong district in the capital city of Hanoi.
Chanting slogans and hanging banners to demand Vietnam’s government to stop persecution against human rights defenders, the protestors also rallied on main streets in the district.
Demonstrators requested the police forces to stop torture. They also asked for the immediate release of Nguyen Van Chuong, Le Van Manh and Ho Duy Hai, who were tortured and unfairly sentenced to death in murder cases.
Furthermore, they demanded for freedom of expression, assembly and religions and belief.
Thousands of Vietnamese farmers from across the nation whose land was taken by local authorities for cheap compensation have been living in Hanoi streets to seek justice.
Viet Nam: UN rights office alarmed at series of attacks against human rights defenders
11 December 2015 – Alarmed by the recent spate of violent attacks on human rights defenders in Viet Nam, the United Nations rights agency today expressed concern at the “apparent failure” of the Vietnamese authorities to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators and urged the Government to take measures to ensure security of all human rights defenders.
“We urge the Government of Viet Nam to take urgent measures to ensure the security of all human rights defenders and to undertake prompt, thorough and impartial investigations of all the reported incidents involving human rights defenders,” Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told journalists at a press briefing in Geneva.
According to Ms. Shamdasani, the third such incident took place since September, when Mr. Nguyen Van Dai, a prominent lawyer and three other human rights defenders were beaten by a group of about 20 men armed with sticks at a training forum they were conducting.
She added that the police attempted to halt the forum but the 60 participants refused to leave, forcing the police to stay and monitor the session, following which the attack took place.
Further, Ms. Shamdasani said that in two other recent cases, in November and September, human rights lawyers and activists were attacked, apparently in reprisal for their work on sensitive cases.
“We have expressed our concern to the Vietnamese authorities over these attacks and sought clarification on serious allegations that plainclothes policemen were involved,” she added.
Ms. Shamdasani stressed that human rights defenders are entitled to particular protection by State authorities under international human rights law.
“The relevant standards are outlined in the Declaration on the right and responsibility of individuals, groups and organs of society to promote and protect universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms (Declaration on Human Rights Defenders), which was adopted by the UN General Assembly by consensus in 1999,” Ms. Shamdasani concluded.
Vietnam: Denied medical treatment unless she confesses: Tran Thi Thuy
Prisoner of conscience Tran Thi Thuy, currently serving an eight year sentence in Viet Nam, is being denied medical treatment for a tumor on her uterus in circumstances that could amount to torture. Although diagnosed by a prison doctor and despite being in severe pain, she has been told she will receive no treatment unless she “confesses” to the crimes for which she was convicted.
Tran Thi Thuy first became ill around April 2015 while detained in a facility at Long Khánh town in Ðồng Nai Province. A prison doctor diagnosed a tumor on her uterus, but she was not provided with treatment. A prison officer told her to admit her crimes or “die in prison”. She has difficulty walking, needing a crutch or help. Her family have provided her with traditional medicine. She also has high blood pressure for which she takes medication. Tran Thi Thuy is in severe physical pain and has told her family that she has felt on the verge of death at several points in recent months. The denial of medical treatment in these circumstances could amount to torture and therefore a violation of the Convention against Torture, which came into force in Viet Nam in February after ratification last year.
Tran Thi Thuy is a trader, Hoa Hao Buddhist and land rights activist. She was arrested in August 2010 and tried with six other land rights activists by BếnTre Provincial People’s Court on 30 May 2011. She was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment under Article 79 of the Penal Code for “activities aimed at overthrowing” the state, and five years’ house arrest on release. According to the indictment, all the activists accused of having joined or been associated with Viet Tan, an overseas-based group peacefully campaigning for democracy in Viet Nam. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has stated that the detention of the seven activists including Tran Thi Thuy is arbitrary and should be remedied by their release and compensation.
Tran Thi Thuy is currently detained in An Phuoc Detention Centre, Bình Duong province, which is approximately 900 km from where her family lives; it takes them three days to get there.
Little Change Seen in Vietnam’s New Draft Law on Religion
What is religious freedom? This is the question posed in a video recently posted on Facebook, which includes interviews with members of the public as well as religious leaders, lawyers and activists.
Remarkably, the video was made in Vietnam, a country that continues to restrict freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief.
The Association to Protect Freedom of Religion (APFOR), which produced the film, says it aims to help “everyone in Vietnam fulfill their right to freedom of religion … fighting any attempt to restrain or obstruct the exercise of this right.”
It’s a courageous and timely initiative: a new draft law on religion and belief is likely to be passed in Vietnam in 2016.
This will be the first such law in Vietnam, although there is already an Ordinance on Belief and Religion (2004). Decree 92 (2013) provides guidance on its implementation.
Decree 92 has been criticized by religious leaders and activists for its ambiguous terminology and bureaucratic obstacles, and for making registration a mandatory requirement.
Registration extends far beyond the simple recognition of a religious community: permission is needed for internal decisions such as the appointment of clergy, the planning of religious festivals, travel inside and outside the country, and setting of curriculum for religious training.
Unfortunately, the new draft law has adopted many of the problems and circular requirements found in Decree 92.
On a positive note, the government did invite religious communities to submit feedback on the fourth draft of the law in April 2015.
As another association video shows, most of the comments received have concerned registration.
Many religious groups also observe that the draft law is not in line with international standards on freedom of religion or belief.
A statement by independent Hoa Hao Buddhists says the registration system is a way to “screen out many beliefs or religions … and drive many of them into illegality.”
Auxiliary Bishop Pierre Nguyen Van Vien of Vinh said: “The term ‘recognized by the government’ appears many times … as if government approval is a precondition for the government to respect citizens’ freedom of religion. This is inappropriate.”
Many of these concerns have been echoed by international human rights organizations. A joint statement by more than 35 civil society organizations calls on the Vietnamese government to revise the draft law to conform to international human rights law, in consultation with both recognized and independent religion or belief communities in Vietnam, and experts such as the U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Heiner Bielefeldt.
One activist trying to raise awareness of the issue inside Vietnam, who wishes to remain anonymous, says it is still difficult for citizens to speak up.
Registered religious organizations are in some ways more able to criticize the administrative burden brought about by the law, but are under pressure to make sure their comments do not antagonize the authorities.
Nonregistered groups have also spoken out, but their voices have largely gone unheard. In addition, some nonregistered organizations feel it is better to focus on reporting cases of religious persecution, ignoring the draft law altogether rather than putting their energies into a “hopeless” legal system.
In articles published on the law, state media have not included criticisms from either registered or nonregistered groups.
Despite these obstacles, some of the commentaries by religious groups appear to have had some effect.
The Hanoi-based daily Viet Nam News reported late last month that National Assembly deputy Khuc Thi Duyen had criticized a regulation in the draft law, which states that religious institutions can only be officially recognized if they have been in operation for at least 10 years. The measure could lead to “a restriction in the freedom to practice religion,” Khuc told other lawmakers.
Several other deputies have also voiced the opinion that the law should “align the domestic legal framework with international conventions that Vietnam has joined.” But others continue to demand more detailed regulations on banned religious practices, and calling for further prohibitions on abusing faith to undermine national unity, the kind of language criticized by religious organizations for being open to abuse.
It is difficult to see, at this point, which school of thought will have the most influence on the final version of the law.
Father Anthony Le Ngoc Thanh, APFOR’s director of spiritual formation, believes there is no need for such a law.
“There should not be a specific legislation governing religion as we already have provisions in the civil, administrative and penal codes to address related matters,” he says.
He adds that if a law must be introduced, it should be “for the purposes of guaranteeing citizens the right to freedom of religion and religious associations the right to practice their doctrines without interference, rather than assisting the state in controlling religious life. It should be remembered first and foremost that religious participation is a right, not a crime.”
Bielefeldt has emphasized that the law presents an opportunity to introduce substantive revisions to strengthen freedom of religion or belief. But so far, the publicized drafts appear to inherit and solidify, rather than correct, many of these existing problems.
Nevertheless, it appears that there are those within the National Assembly who see a need to improve the protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief in Vietnam.
The next few months will be very important: divided opinion among government officials means there is still room for debate, making the work of religious leaders and activists to raise awareness of the law even more essential.
The author is a researcher on Vietnam and other East Asian countries for Christian Solidarity Worldwide and is based in London
Catholic Followers in Dong Yen Block National Road to Protest Illegal Detentions
Thousands of Catholic followers in Dong Yen Parish, Ky Anh town in the central province of Ha Tinh on December 11 blocked the National Road No. 1 to protest the illegal detention of two staffs of the local church.
The gathering totally blocked the road from early morning.
The move came after local authorities detained Mr. Hoang Van Thang and Mr. Nguyen Xuan Phuong without warranty and had not informed their families when they came back from works in the evening of December 10. The two men are responsible for security of the Dong Yen Catholic Church. The police did not unveiled the reason for arrests.
Dong Yen is near the Taiwan-invested Formosa industrial complex. Authorities in Ha Tinh have tried to seize a large areas of land of Catholic followers in Dong Yen to build urban areas and supporting services for the complex.
Over a thousand of Dong Yen followers have rejected to hand over their land for cheap compesation so the authorities have deployed a number of measures to harass residents in the parish. They even demolished the local school, making 155 primary school students having no place to study since 2014.
Several months ago, police arrested one follower but released him one day later after the parish detained four police officers to demand for a swap.
Dong Yen followers agreed to return home until Ha Tinh province’s authorities pledged to release the two detained citizens.
Pastor Pham Ngoc Thach Asks Police to Make Ten Commitments
Christian Pastor Pham Ngoc Thanh in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Dak Lak, who is regularly summoned by the local police for questioning, has listed ten things that police must do if they want him to go to the police station.
Among these things are
-Police must specify the content of the working meeting
– Police must respect laws, commit not to torture and apply other measures for coerced confession.
– Lawyers are allowed to attend the working meeting in order to prevent torture
– Police must make video- and audio-recording during the whole meeting.
– Police must pay compensation to the summoned for the time spent working with police.
Pastor Thach is a former prisoner of conscience. After being released several years ago, he continues to work for promoting human rights in Vietnam.
Hanoi Police Prosecute Thugs Attacking Two Lawyers in Early November
The People’s Procuracy of Hanoi on December 11 approved the decision to prosecute a group of seven thugs who brutally beat two human rights lawyers Tran Thu Nam and Le Van Luan on November 3.
Dang Quang Huy, Nguyen Duy Ninh, Luu Cong Thang, Do Xuan Nguyen, Cao Van Huan, Nguyen Duy Manh and Nguyen Gia Tu in Chuong My district will be probed for intentional attack against the two lawyers.
Police said Dong Phuong Yen communal policeman Nguyen Van Cuu did not participate in the attack as the victims claimed.
Lawyer Nguyen Hoang Trung said 99 lawyers will defend the victims.
Former Prisoner of Conscience Phuong Uyen Detained in Ho Chi Minh City, Local Activists Gather to Demand for Her Release
Security agents in Vietnam’s southern economic hub Ho Chi Minh City on December 13 arrested Nguyen Phuong Uyen, a former prisoner of conscience, when she was with her friends in a local cafeteria.
Uyen was detained at 11 AM, put on a police car, and taken to the police station in Cau Kho ward in District 1. Her friends tried to connect her by cell phone but failed.
Ms. Nguyen Chieu Anh, the owner of the cafeteria, was also summoned to the police station in Da Kao ward in the same district.
Witnesses said the local authorities deployed a large number of police officers, including plainclothes ones, to block the areas surrounding the cafeteria.
Informed by the detention, dozens of human rights activists in HCM City gathered in police station to demand for her release. However, the police denied they were holding her.
Police have deployed a number of thugs and government supporters to threaten activists. They also deployed a bus, threatening to detain them.
Local activists said the reason for Phuong Uyen’s detention may be that she has a book named The Dream of Thuy (Ước Mơ của Thủy) of young author Le Viet Ky Nhi in her suitcase. The book, with an introduction written by Phuong UYen, tells about author’s willingess to reform the country. It is considered a challenge for the one-party regime in Vietnam.
Phuong Uyen was arrested by police in the southern province of Long An in November 2012 on allegation of conducting anti-state propaganda, when she was a third year student in the HCMC-based University of Food Technology. In 2013, she was sentenced by the court of first instance to six years in prison but the appeal court later in the same year sentenced her to three years in probation. She was released in August 2013.
Since being freed, Phuong Uyen has been a subject of regular harassment of police. In September 2013, she was beaten and detained by Hanoi’s police when she visited local activists.
Vietnam’s government has intensified crackdown against political dissidents and human rights activists several months ahead of the ruling communist party’s National Congress slated in early 2016.
A number of activists, including Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam), Tran Anh Kim and Nguyen Viet Dung, have been arrested while many others, including human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and labor activist Do Thi Minh Hanh, have been brutally attacked by plainclothes policemen.