Vietnam Human Rights Defenders Weekly December 28, 2015- January 03, 2016: U.S. Ambassador Concerned about ongoing Vietnamese crackdown against Prodemocracy and Human Rights Activists
Defenders’ Weekly | Jan 03, 2016
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On December 29, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius issued a press release expressing his concern on Vietnam’s arrests of and persecution against local activists who peacefully demand for the right to establish independent labor unions. The U.S. government has also urged Vietnam’s communist government to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience and allow all individuals to express their political opinions without being harassed.
On the first day of 2016, the Interfaith Council in the country released a statement condemning the government’s plan to take the land on which Lien Tri Pagoda is located for a urban development project and calls for international and domestic support for the pagoda to withstand the pressure of the local authorities.
Catholic priest Anton Dang Huu Nam from Tan Yen parish, Vinh diocese was beaten by thugs at 10 PM of December 31.
And other important news
Vietnam Women for Human Rights Releases Reports on 2015 Persecution against Female Activists
The unsanctioned Vietnam Women for Human Rights on December 28 released a report titled 2015 HUMAN RIGHTS DOSSIER which described the most serious violations of Vietnam’s government against local female activists.
Among victims were blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (aka Me Nam or Mushroom Mother), Tran Thuy Nga, Doan Trang, Phuong Uyen and Le Thu Ha.
For details: 2015 HUMAN RIGHTS DOSSIER
HPNNQ: Hồ sơ Nhân Quyền 2015
Statement by U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius
vietnam.usembassy.gov, December 29, 2015
I am deeply concerned by recent reports of harassment and detentions of peaceful human rights advocates, to include the December 16 arrest of Nguyen Van Dai, and information that Hoang Duc Binh, Do Thi Minh Hanh, and other peaceful labor rights activists reportedly were assaulted by police in Ho Chi Minh City on December 25.
This disturbing trend, at this time, threatens to overshadow Vietnam’s progress on human rights in recent years. I urge the Vietnamese government to investigate reports of these assaults immediately and to hold accountable any officials responsible.
The United States calls on Vietnam to ensure its laws and actions are consistent with its international obligations and commitments. We also urge the government to release unconditionally all prisoners of conscience and allow all individuals in Vietnam to express their political views without fear of retribution.
Vietnam President Asks Police Forces to Prevent Political Opposition Establishment
Vietnam’s police forces need to put more efforts to prevent the establishment of political opposition to ensure the country’s political stability, said President Truong Tan Sang.
Speaking at the 71st conference of the police forces in Hanoi on December 29, President Sang has requested public security forces to mobilize all their strength to safeguard national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity while maintaining political stability and peaceful environment for national development.
The security forces must effectively deal with conspiracies of hostile forces, said Mr. Sang, who is a member of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV)’s Politburo, the highest decision-making body in the Southeast Asian nation.
Sang, who is a strong candidate for the party’s top position for the next five-year term, also called for expanding cooperation with foreign security agencies and international organizations to prevent and combat crimes.
During the conference, participants discussed main solutions to ensure security and safety for a number of upcoming key political events, including the 12th National Congress and the general and local elections for the 2016-2021 period.
Vietnamese authorities prohibit thousands of Kontum Christians from celebrating Christmas
Asia News: Christmas was banned in Vietnam’s Kontum (Central Highlands) province, where the authorities cancelled Christmas Mass celebrations in at least two parishes of the diocese, leaving thousands of expectant faithful astonished. The first parish involved was Đăk Lâk, in the municipality of Đăk Môn, Đăk Glei district, where there were about 5 thousand people.
The second was Xê- Đăng, in the village of Kon Pia, district Tumơrôn, where more than three thousand people had gathered. It is home to a majority of Montagnards and tribal (Kinh, SE-Jang, Ho-lang and Jeh).
Fr. Dominique Trần Văn Vũ, parochial vicar at Đăk Lâk, confirms that “the authorities of Kontum prevented priests from celebrating Christmas Mass” in these “remote and mountainous areas “. He speaks of attack on religious freedom, with the government authorities blocking the liturgies because celebrated by two priests in their view “unwelcome” who did not receive “prior approval.” “For the government – he adds – we have no ‘legal status’ in society, we cannot celebrate and we must entrust all our functions to the bishop”.
The case of the banned Christmas celebrations in Kontum has been justified by a previous ban imposed on two priests. In recent days, the local People’s Committee (composed of the Communist Party) sent a letter to the Bishop, announcing their intention to stop functions in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities. The authorities also invited the bishop to “register” and “send a written request” in order to proceed in the future with the Masses, as well as send other “priests” to take the place of those deemed “unwelcome”.
Interviewed by AsiaNews Mrs. Theresa Hoa, of Đăk Lâk, confirms that “the authorities prevented the priests from saying mass” and that government officials “have thus violated the Constitution and the laws of Vietnam” that, in theory, guarantee religious freedom. An opinion shared by other parishioners, who denounce “serious human rights violations”.
The diocese includes the provinces of Kontum and Gialai, in the central highland of Vietnam, an area of about 23 thousand square kilometers. Out of a population of about 2 million inhabitants, Catholics number almost 300 thousand, 16%. The population is made up of several ethnic groups, the majority the kinh. Extreme poverty and leprosy are still open wounds in society. The diocese can count on 70 priests, 347 religious men and women and 1,400 members of the Yao Phu Association, who carry out catechism and evangelization in the mountainous areas. A few months a new bishop Mgr. Aloisio Nguyễn Hùng Vi, was appointed.
The Catholics of the diocese also face attacks on religious freedom, which are a constant against the Montagnard people and have soured in recent times. In early October, the former Bishop Michael Hoàng Duc Oanh wrote an open letter to local authorities against the decision of the provincial administration to demolish a house church in a small village located in a remote area of the diocese.
In addition, recently a district of the diocese has been the subject of the attack of the communist authorities, who have threatened to demolish 22 chapels used for services and prayers.
Vietnam’s 87 million people include 48 per cent Buddhists, more than 7 per cent Catholics, 5.6 per cent syncretistic and 20 per cent atheist.
As a small, albeit significant minority, the Christian community is particularly active in education, health and social affairs.
Conversely, religious freedom has steadily eroded in recent years. Under Decree 92, more controls and restrictions have been imposed on religious practice, boosting the power of the Communist Party and the one-party state.
The authorities have targeted religious leaders, including Buddhist and Catholic leaders, as well as entire communities.
=========== Dec 30==========
Vietnamese Internet Critics Warned
Vietnam Right Now: The Vietnamese government has warned against the use of the internet to attack the Communist Party, amid swirling rumours of divisions and infighting in the run-up to the party congress in January.
It condemned what it called “toxic activity” on social media, which has become a forum for political comment unimaginable during the previous decades of Communist Party control.
Commentators from inside and outside the country have taken to the web to critique and lampoon an opaque political system that remains a taboo subject for the state controlled media.
“These pages are most distorting and talking bad about our party’s leaders, government and policies,” said Truong Minh Tuan, the deputy minister of information and communications, in a post on the government’s Facebook page.
“We expect more such bad pages appearing around the congress and election,” he said.
Half the population now has access to the internet. Photo courtesy Thanh Nien
The government has already tried to intimidate its most persistent critics with selected arrests and violent street attacks by plainclothes vigilantes acting as proxies for the security forces.
It’s a sign of the acute political sensitivity of party bosses as they prepare to select new top leaders for party and state after the congress at the end of January.
Many observers see a power struggle behind the scenes, between a faction led by the ambitious prime minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, and those in the camp of the party general-secretary, Nguyen Phu Trong.
Mr Dung is seen as more favourable to economic reform and a closer alignment with the United States, while conservative factions remain closer to China.
Allegations of corruption against leading players and their families are particularly unwelcome. Rival politicians are often suspected of using innuendo and smears to advance their own cause in the run-up to major transfers of power.
The repression of dissident voices has gone ahead despite the risk of alienating key trading partners such as the US and the EU.
——————— Dec 31———————
Catholic Priest in Nghe An Attacked by Thugs and Policemen
At 10 PM on December 31, just two hours prior to the new year, Catholic priest Anton Dang Huu Nam from Tan Yen parish, Vinh diorce, was beaten by thugs when he went to worship at a local church.
Former political prisoner Paulus Le Son said local followers recognized the police chief of An Hoa commune, Quynh Luu district, Nghe An province, among the attackers.
Priest Nam is among the most vocal religious clerks who speak out for justice and peace. He often chairs praying ceremonies to demand for unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience.
Vietnam Interfaith Council Calls for Support to Deal with Land Seizure Plan
The Vietnam Interfaith Council on January 1 issued a statement calling for international and domestic support for Lien Tri Pagoda in Thu Thiem, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City which is under threat of being demolished by the local authorities for new urban development project.
The pagoda, managed by Venerable Thich Khong Tanh, is the place where thousands of Buddhists followers visit every day. It is also the location to host disadvantaged peoples as well as meetings of local activists.
Recently, authorities in HCMC want to remove the pagoda to take its land for a new Thu Thiem urban project despite strong protest from Venerable Tanh and other monks.
Arrested Human Rights Lawyer Nguyen Van Dai Yet to Meet Lawyer
Defend the Defenders: Human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, who was arrested on December 16 together with his assistant Le Thu Ha, has yet to have been allowed to get access to his lawyer nor meet with his relatives.
After more than ten days after his arrest, the Investigation Agency Department under the Ministry of Public Security agreed to allow his wife to provide him with basic goods and foodstuff. However, she was not allowed to meet him nor send letters.
In the same situation is Ms. Ha, who is officially charged with “anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s Penal Code ten days after being detained.
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