January 11, 2016
Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly January 4-10: Vietnam’s Government Continues Harassing Political Dissidents, Social Activists and Human Rights Defenders
Defenders’ Weekly | Jan 10, 2016
Two weeks ahead of the 12th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam, security forces have tightened their control, continuing their persecution against local dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders.
Within three days between January 7 and January 9, police in Hanoi and Nghe An kidnapped two activists Nguyen Huy Tuan and Truong Minh Tam and robbed them before leaving them in remote areas. Tuan was beaten severely.
The Vietnam Interfaith Council sent its letter to UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt to report recent government harassment of religious followers.
Vietnam decided to bring prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam) and his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy to court on January 19. The duo was arrested in May 2014 and charged with anti-state activities under Article 258 of the Penal Code. Mr. Vinh and Ms. Thuy could face between two and seven years in jail.
As many as 26 domestic and foreign human rights bodies jointly issue a petition calling Vietnam to immediately and unconditionally release prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Le Thu Ha, who were arrested on December 16 last year and accused of conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the Penal Code.
And many other important news
============ Jan 04=========================
Despite crackdown, Free Viet Labor determinedly remains unflinching
Dan Lam Bao: In early November 2015, the Vietnamese communist government, along with 11 other countries, signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in which labor interests are respected and defended with a view to accept workers’ freedom to form independent labor unions.
However, the communist regime resorted to violence to brutally suppress labor rights activists in Vietnam right after making those commitments.
On 22 November 2015, Ms. Do Thi Minh Hanh and Mr. Truong Minh Duc, two Free Viet Labor Federation members, were detained and severely beaten while they were consulting a lawyer to help workers in Dong Nai province in their struggle to secure their legitimate rights.
The most recent incident was the December 25 arrest and brutal beating of Hoang Duc Binh, who had in his possession 4,000 Free Viet Labor leaflets which quoted Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s statements on the founding of independent labor unions.
Besides, at least eight other social activists were also brutally assaulted as they showed up at the police station at Hoa Thanh ward, Tan Phu district, Saigon to demand Binh’s release.
These behaviors have once more revealed the treacherous face of Vietnam’s communist regime, especially with regard to its international commitments.
Despite the brutal repressive behaviors of the communist police, Ms. Do Thi Minh Hanh – Free Viet Labor representative – insisted that the struggle be continued to form authentic independent labor unions through which workers’ legitimate rights can be defended nationwide.
Hanh herself was also arrested and mercilessly hit on 25th December 2015 when she arrived at the police station to secure the release of Binh.
Danlambao had an interview with Hanh on 26th December, 2015. She said:
“Hoang Binh was taken into custody at Hoa Thanh ward police station, Tan Phu district since he helped me with carrying 4,000 LaborViet leaflets to send to workers. These leaflets contain Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s statement that there should be independent unions in Vietnam. This is the very reason why he was arrested.
We gathered at Hoa Thanh police station to secure Binh’s release. In here, the police used ‘aggressive women like tigresses wanting to devour their prey and murderous-looking thugs seemingly poised to eat us alive.’
Phat, I witnessed, was mercilessly beaten and dragged into the station though he was only 15. Also, I saw my partner Bang being dragged inside. I was hit on the face and scratched; my mouth gagged, I was violently pulled and overpowered by nearly ten women.
What’s more, cameras and cell phones of some young passers-by who inadvertently took photos at the scene were snatched. They themselves were hit and pinched so badly that some bled. One, whose arm had been broken before, had to beg the police to release his arm. But the more he begged, the more they deliberately squeezed his arm.
What I saw yesterday was quite indescribable; it’s horrible.”
Blatant disregard for international commitments
The government here has never expected an independent labor union in Vietnam, but they signed TPP which contains their commitment to form independent labor unions. The fact, however, is that I was assaulted recently in Dong Nai province. Also, one VietLabor member, who was carrying our leaflets containing PM Dung’s statement, was detained; those who came to the police station to demand his release were ruthlessly repressed. This is quite a sad truth for Vietnam as the authorities are going against what they signed in TPP.
These moves are more conspicuous and horrible than the commitments they made to join WTO.
Actually, there were exciting stages during the process of finalizing and signing TPP. People were following it from the beginning and dreaming about a Vietnam, where democracy and human rights improve with a view to enable this country to stay away from China’s orbit.
But things are different in reality. Everything seems to be reversed after the signing. Labor rights activists were thought to be better protected, but in fact they are being ruthlessly repressed these days, in almost every respect; not only labor rights activists but also human rights advocates, like lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and Ms.Nguyen Thi Thu Ha, are in the same boat.
This has shown that they currently want to deliberately annul TPP and do it aggressively, getting rid of the commitments they made earlier.
I’m really uneasy and feel worried about the prospect of labor unions in Vietnam. Current developments have shown that it’s unlikely to form one in this country.
Recent arrests of human rights and freedom activists can be seen as a devastating blow or as a really special “gift” sent to the U.S. and other TPP signatories.
This crackdown, in my view, can be seen as a challenge telling the West that they are “really strong”. It’s unclear whether they are strong or not; I’ve got no specific evidence to prove.
They are ready to get rid of whatever commitments they have made. The message is “ Wait there… We won’t let the commitments made in TPP become reality.”
By what means? By means of repressing, detaining and imprisoning those who struggle for human rights, especially those who advocate independent labor unions.
Determined to form the independent labor union
We’ve been through a lot. I’ve told my partners that our ideal and love for work will exist forever.
Getting jailed one day, like Hoang Binh now, is something quite predictable. I really care about him, but I believe that somewhere in prison he’s smiling as he has realized something good for the path chosen. For the remaining partners, we are no different.
I myself have been in jail. I’ll regret nothing if I am unfortunately taken there again. Maybe my partners will be upset, but maintain the morale amongst us and carry on with our work. Do not give up and instead firmly believe in the future.
No matter how hard it is, we need to struggle for true and authentic independent labor unions in Vietnam to defend the legitimate rights and interests of the workers.”
============ Jan 05
Viet Activist’s Harassment Continues After Leaving Prison
Asia Sentinel: Although Tran Minh Nhat, a former prisoner of conscience who was freed last month after four years in prison, it appears authorities are not letting up on him, he says. In an email to Asia Sentinel, Nhat said that although he was able to spend Christmas and New Year with his family, he and other family members have been continually harassed by thugs believed to be hired by police who destroyed his property and threw rocks at his house.
Nhat was one of 14 Vietnamese Catholic and Protestant bloggers, writers and political activists who were convicted in 2011 in a sensational trial in which they were accused of plotting to overthrow the government via links to the California-based Viet Tan, the Vietnam Reform Party, which is banned in the country itself. The mass conviction was the largest such show trial to be prosecuted in recent years. The defendants apparently had attended a training course in Bangkok held by Viet Tan.
In the 1980s, Viet Tan led a resistance movement against the Vietnamese Communist government, but for the past few decades it has declared that it is committed to peaceful political reform, democracy and human rights. Nguyen Thi Hue, a defense lawyer, told The Associated Press at the time of the two-day trial in the city of Vinh, in Nghe An Province that three defendants had been sentenced to 13 years and that 11 others had received terms of three to eight years. One of the three-year terms was suspended.
Nhat apparently was released early. He told local media that he was repeatedly asked to sign a confession but refused to do. Local media said he and others staged a hunger strike in prison to demand better treatment for inmates.
Although Vietnam appears to be slowly letting up, there are still incidents in which local police hire thugs to seek to quell dissent with their fists, particularly in property confiscation cases. Tran Minh Nhat is such a case, as was Nguyen Van Dai, a human rights lawyer and three friends who were attacked by as many as 20 plainclothes policemen while they were returning home to Hanoi after leading a forum in Nghe An Province after facilitating a human rights forum in Nam Dan district, 300 km. south near the Laotian border.
David Brown, a former US diplomat who writes regularly for Asia Sentinel, wrote recently that “In their zeal to simplify, both the Vietnamese party-state’s ideological guardians and its most vocal foreign critics obscure the real story: that though law and ideology have been slow to change, de facto the citizens of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam have become, in the last couple of decades and particularly in the last few years, remarkably more free to manage their own lives.”
Vietnam, Brown wrote, is no longer an insular state. Some 44 percent of citizens are now online and the regime has given up trying to block access to Facebook.
Young, mainly urban Vietnamese keep pushing back against arbitrary restrictions. Some pointedly question abuse of police power, but many more, presumably with less forethought, just resist being herded. Also, voluntary groups are emerging as significant actors in public life. They address the needs of an increasingly complex society. By law, all organizations must be approved by the state and are subject to state supervision. Some professional organizations, like the Lawyers Association or the Chamber of Commerce, have achieved substantial autonomy within that framework.
Hardliners have continued to give ground, although they insist that the regime’s internal security agencies must deal harshly with citizens who speak up for political pluralism.
Nhat is one of those who is paying the price for that. He is a member of the Roman Catholic Church’s Redemptory’s group, which has been active in movements for democracy and human rights. Redemptory’s activists have become increasingly assertive in Vietnamese movements fighting for democracy and human rights.
Human Rights Watch describes the Redemptorists as being known for strongly backing bloggers and other peaceful religious and rights activists. They have become a growing voice among movements for democracy and human rights, particularly in Nghe An, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City. Religiously affiliated activists have been targeted for arrest and other forms of harassment and intimidation, including restrictions on movement, violent assaults on individuals, and the deployment of armed security forces around churches.
“I am a social and religious activist and a reporter for Vietnam Redemptorist News,” Nhat said in his email. “Our high-profile case reflected the human rights violations occurring in Vietnam.”
Although he was allowed to spend the Christmas and New Year holiday with his family, the visit was continually disrupted by the work of thugs hired by police, he said. ‘On Dec. 24, my older brother, Tran Khac Dat, informed me that more than 155 Robusta coffee plants and 11 avocado trees were chopped on his property in Lam Ha. There were clear signs that these crops were chopped using an axe. Upon further inspection, it was observed that long irrigation pipes were tampered with which meant they require replacing.”
Two days later, he said, he discovered that pepper vines on his own property “were mysteriously and completely harvested. There was evidence of intrusion of property with parts of fencing surrounding the crops being cut through. As of today, more than 400 pepper vines were chemically poisoned and are currently dying.”
On Jan.1, another older brother, Tran Khac Duong, discovered that 382 of his pepper vines in his Lam Ha property were also chemically poisoned. Some further surrounding vines were also contaminated and destroyed by chemicals. Thirty of his pepper vines were also chopped down in the previous month.
On Jan. 2, he said, “I was investigating some sounds of intrusion onto our property when two rocks were thrown at my house at approximately 10:30pm. This caused my parents to be severely distraught and fearful of their safety during the night even within our own household. We have reported the incidents mentioned above to the police and have not received any response from them.”
========= Jan 06============
Joint Statement Calling for the Release of Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thu Ha
On 16 December 2015, prominent human rights lawyer, Mr. Nguyen Van Dai, 46, and his colleague, Ms. Le Thu Ha, 33, were arrested at their home and office in Hanoi, Vietnam, respectively. Both have been charged with “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code, a law that has been routinely and arbitrarily invoked by the government to suppress critical voices.
Mr. Nguyen and Ms. Le are being held in B14 prison in Hanoi. Requests by activists to visit them have been rejected and there are concerns that they are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. If convicted, Mr. Nguyen and Ms. Ha could face up to 20 years in prison.
We appeal to the Vietnamese government to honor its international and domestic obligations and to release Mr. Nguyen and Ms. Le immediately and unconditionally.
We also call on the international community to act and put pressure on the Vietnamese government regarding these cases which have a severe chilling effect on freedom of expression in Vietnam.
During Mr. Nguyen’s arrest, his home was searched thoroughly by approximately 20 police officers. His laptop, bank documents and many other personal items were confiscated, while his apartment remains under tight surveillance. Mr. Nguyen is a well-known peaceful campaigner for a multi-party democracy and the protection of human rights in Vietnam. He has devoted his life to providing legal assistance to the most vulnerable and marginalized people in society.
Mr. Nguyen has repeatedly been subjected to unwarranted persecution for undertaking his legitimate work. In 2007, he was convicted under Article 88 of the Penal Code (employing propaganda against the state) and sentenced to 4 years in prison and place under 4 years of house arrest. At the time, he had been holding seminars to teach students about the fundamentals of a free society and the rule of law.
Since Mr. Nguyen’s release from prison in 2011, he had been subjected to countless incidents of harassment and surveillance by police officers. He was still recovering from injuries sustained from a vicious assault by masked assailants on December 6, 2015, after he had attended a meeting to mark International Human Rights Day. He was badly beaten, robbed and thrown on the street.
Vietnam has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which protects the right to freedom of opinion and expression (Article 19), and the right to liberty and security of a person, which includes the right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention (Article 9).
The UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers specifically affirm that lawyers are “entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly” and that, “they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights”. The Basic Principles also set out a number of guarantees to ensure that lawyers are able to fulfill their professional roles without undue interference. Furthermore, Vietnam’s Constitution protects the right to freedom of opinion and speech (Article 25) and guarantees that no citizen may be arrested without a warrant and that the arrest and detention must be in accordance with the law (Article 20).
We therefore strongly urge the Vietnamese authorities to comply with Vietnam’s human rights obligations, and drop all charges against Mr. Nguyen and Ms. Le, who have been peacefully carrying out activities to promote and protect human rights.
We further urge the international community to strongly intervene at the highest possible levels to support the expeditious release of both human rights defenders.
Amnesty International –ENGLAND
Christian Solidarity Worldwide – ENGLAND
Front Line Defenders – IRELAND
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation – SOUTH AFRICA
Civil Rights Defenders – SWEDEN
International Service for Human Rights – SWITZERLAND
International Commission of Jurists – SWITZERLAND
Freedom House – USA
Human Rights Foundation – USA
Humanitarian China – USA
National Congress of Vietnamese Americans – USA
People In Need – CZECH REPUBLIC
Van Lang – CZECH REPUBLIC
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) – THAILAND
Foundation for Community Educational Media – THAILAND
SHANAH – BURMA
Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS) – INDONESIA
The Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) – INDONESIA
Legal Aid Center for the Press (LBH Pers) – INDONESIA
ASEAN SOGIE Caucus – PHILIPPINES
Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment (VOICE) – USA, AUSTRALIA, CANADA & EUROPE
Brotherhood for Democracy – VIETNAM
Civil Society Forum – VIETNAM
No-U Mien Trung – VIETNAM
Vietnam Path Movement – VIETNAM
Vietnamese Political & Religious Prisoners Friendship Association – VIETNAM
Vietnam Must End Arbitrary Detention of Human Rights Defenders
Civil Rights Defenders: In a statement released today, Civil Rights Defenders joins 25 civil society groups in calling on the Vietnamese authorities to immediately release and drop charges against human rights defenders Mr. Nguyễn Vãn Ðài and Ms. Lê Thu Hà, who have been in police custody in Hanoi after their arrest three weeks ago. The police have charged Ðài, a former prisoner of conscience, and his colleague Hà with “anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code, which carries a prison sentence of between three and 20 years.
The signatories have also highlighted concerns that the two defenders may be at risk of torture and other ill treatment in detention. Ðài was still recovering from injuries he sustained ten days before his arrest when he and three other activists were viciously attacked by stick-wielding, masked assailants in Nghe An province. The police have reportedly denied Ðài access to his lawyer and family members.
“Brave human rights defenders like Ðài and Hà do not belong behind bars and must be allowed to freely conduct their legitimate work defending and educating others about the rights guaranteed by the Vietnamese Constitution and by international law,” says Robert Hårdh, Executive Director of Civil Rights Defenders.
Ðài and Hà’s arrests came a month before the 12th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). Past party congresses were usually preceded by an escalation of crackdown on human rights advocates and dissidents.
There have been multiple incidents of violence against and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders, petitioners, religious followers, and their family members in 2015. Civil Rights Defenders has highlighted an alarming rise in such incidents in the second half of the year. Since Ðài and Hà’s arrests on 16th December, there have been reports of attacks targeting at least ten more activists and two young children of a woman activist.
The United Nations Human Rights Office for South East Asia has expressed its serious concern at Ðài’s arrest and called for his immediate release. Several concerned governments have also criticized the arrest. Germany’s Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid expresses shock and calls for his release and charges against him be dropped. The European Union spokesperson says the arrest “goes against Vietnam’s international human rights obligations” and calls for his immediate release as well as a full investigation into the assault against him. The European Union’s ambassador and ambassadors of EU Member States in Vietnam issued a joint statement expressing serious concerns over the arrest and calling for the release of “all peaceful advocates of human rights in the country.” A statement by the US ambassador to Vietnam echoes the EU’s concerns and calls. Legislators in Australia, Canada, and the United States have also issued similar statements of concern.
“The growing international concerns should make it very clear to the Vietnamese authorities that their treatment of human rights defenders is unacceptable,” says Robert Hårdh. “The on-going arbitrary detention of Ðài, Hà and other prisoners of conscience is reinforcing Vietnam’s reputation as a country under the rule of fear, not the rule of law.”
Vietnam Land Rights Activist Chased by Security Agents, Robbed and Beaten Severely Later
Defend the Defenders: Nguyen Huy Tuan, a land rights activist from Vietnam’s northern province of Hai Duong, on January 7 was chased by local security agents who later beat him severely and robbed his items when he fell unconscious, the victim said.
Tuan, who is assisting land petitioners to seek justice, traveled from his native town in Hai Duong to Hanoi. On his way, he stopped in Cam Dien commune, Cam Giang district where local farmers are protesting against local authorities for taking their land for an industrial zone development without paying reasonable compensation.
After a few minutes sitting at a tea shop, he was surrounded by numerous local security agents. Feeling unsafe, Tuan tried to leave the scene by a motorbike driven by a local farmer. The duo was forced to take different routes in a bid to escape from agents chasing after them.
Recognizing tht they were still being chased by security agents, Tuan told the driver to stop and took a taxi to head to Hanoi. When he tried to change a taxi, four agents approached and took him to a remote place and beat him until he fell unconscious.
Tuan regained consciousness two hours later and witnesses said the attackers took his suitcase which contains an iPad, an iPhone, and VND10 million ($444).
With help of a motorbike driver, Tuan called his relatives to take him to a hospital for treatment.
Tuan is among numerous Vietnamese activists beaten by security agents and hired thugs few months ahead of the National Congress of the ruling communist party which strives to maintain the country under a one-party regime.
Among the victims are human rights lawyers Nguyen Van Dai, Tran Thu Nam and Le Van Luan, bloggers Doan Trang, JB Nguyen Huu Vinh, and Nguyen Tuong Thuy, land rights activists Tran Thi Nga, labor activists Do Thi Minh Hanh and Truong Minh Duc, and pro-democracy activist Truong Van Dung.
Meanwhile, the family of former political prisoner Tran Anh Kim was unofficially informed that he was transferred from his native city of Thai Binh to the Hanoi-based B14 prison. The pro-democracy activist was arrested in early September and charged for anti-state activities under Article 79 of the country’s Penal Code eight months after completing his five-and-half-year imprisonment.
The current situation of Le Thanh Tung, a former prisoner of conscience and close friend of Mr. Kim, is unknown, said activists. About a month after the arrest of Mr. Kim, police searched the private house of Tung who said earlier that he went to a new place to do business. The police move triggered public concerns that Tung was re-arrested and probed for anti-state activities.
Former political prisoner Tran Minh Nhat in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong said local police secretly destroyed his family’s pepper plantation. In November-December last year, Nhat was beaten two times by local security agents.
============= Jan 8==========
Vietnam to Try Prominent Blogger on Jan 19, One Day Ahead of Party Congress
Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s communist government will bring prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam) and his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy to court on January 19, one day prior to the National Congress of the ruling communist party.
Mr. Vinh and Ms. Thuy, who were arrested in May 2014, will be tried on allegation of “abusing freedom and democracy to infringe upon the interests of the state” under Article 258 of the country’s Penal Code.
If proven guilty, they could face imprisonment of up to seven years, according to the Vietnamese law.
The People’s Court of Hanoi will be in charge of the trial, according to the notice sent to the defendants and their lawyers.
Mr. Vinh, a 58-year-old son of a senior communist official, was accused of posting online articles carrying out “incorrect contents that aim to defame the party and state,” on his news website AnhBaSam which has millions of regular readers.
After the arrests of Vinh and Thuy, the governments and politicians of the U.S., EU countries, and Canada as well as international human rights groups have called on the Vietnamese government to release the duo, saying they did nothing wrong but exercised their right of freedom of opinions and expression which is enshrined in the Vietnamese Constitution.
The Vietnamese communist government has used controversial articles such as Article 79, 88 and 258 to silence local critics, social activists and human rights defenders.
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said that independent news providers in Vietnam are subject to enhanced Internet surveillance, draconian directives, waves of arrests and sham trials in its annual Press Freedom Index released in December 2014.
Pressure increases for release of activists
Vietnam Right Now: Human rights groups from around the world have called on the Vietnamese government to release the lawyer, Nguyen Van Dai, and his colleague, Le Thu Ha, who were arrested last month.
In a joint statement, the 26 organizations from Europe, the United States and South-East Asia also called on the international community to increase pressure on the Vietnamese government over the two cases.
They expressed concern that the human rights activists, who were detained on December 16, could be subjected to torture or other ill treatment.
The groups include Amnesty International, Freedom House and Christian Solidarity Worldwide as well as organizations from Thailand, Indonesia and the Vietnamese overseas community.
The United States and European Union have already expressed grave concern about the arrest of Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thu Ha, which they said was at odds with the Vietnamese government’s commitment to improve its human rights record.
Both have been charged with conducting propaganda against the state under Article 88 of the Vietnamese penal code, which can carry a jail term of up to 20 years.
Nguyen Van Dai was arrested outside his home in Hanoi as he attempted to join a meeting with EU diplomats, who had just held their annual human rights dialogue with the Vietnamese government.
“Mr. Nguyen is a well-known peaceful campaigner for a multi-party democracy and the protection of human rights in Vietnam. He has devoted his life to providing legal assistance to the most vulnerable and marginalized people in society,” said the statement.
It said that he had suffered repeated persecution for his work, including a four year jail term followed by four years of house arrest imposed in 2007 – also under Article 88 of the penal code.
The statement said he was still recovering from injuries sustained in a vicious assault by masked assailants on December 6.
Fellow activists believe the attack and his subsequent arrest was triggered by his work to teach students about the fundamentals of a free society and the rule of law.
Analysts say the Vietnamese government has been obliged to tolerate a degree of free expression, given its difficulty controlling the widespread use of social media in the country.
However, the Communist Party hierarchy remains acutely sensitive to any attempt by activists to organize themselves into pressure groups.
The statement by the rights groups stresses that Vietnam is breaking its own international and domestic commitments in its attempt to crush dissent.
Vietnam has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to liberty and security of a person, which includes the right to not be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention.
The UN basic principles on the role of lawyers also affirm that they should be entitled to freedom of expression, freedom and assembly.
Article 25 of Vietnam’s own constitution also protects the right to freedom of opinion and speech and that no citizen may be arrested without a warrant.
————- Jan 09————-
Second Vietnamese Activist Kidnapped, Robbed in Three Days amid Tightening Security ahead of the Communist Party’s National Congress
Defend the Defenders: Mr. Truong Minh Tam, a member of the unsanctioned Vietnam Path Movement which fights for multi-party democracy and human rights enhancement in the Southeast Asian communist nation, has become the second victim of kidnap and robbery in the last three days.
In early morning of January 9, Mr. Tam arrived in the central province of Nghe An from Hanoi where he was invited to participate in a wedding of a local activist. After getting off a bus, he was kidnapped by four thugs who took him in a car and drove to a football field. The kidnappers said they are local policemen investigating a theft case in which victims described a suspect’s appearance similar to Mr. Tam’s.
The kidnappers confiscated Tam’s cell phone and when another car came, they took his suitcase which contained a laptop, personal documents and VND40 million ($1,770). Later, they took him in the car again and drove to the neighbor province of Thanh Hoa, where the thugs threw him on road after taking all his clothes except underclothes amid winter’s cold.
Tam said the kidnappers did not ask him about the theft case but robbed all his items and money, including his three-month salaries and gifts from other activists to the groom. Tam, who is also a former prisoner of conscience, had to wear old clothes from local residents in Do Len. With VND100,000 of donation from a local resident, he took a bus back to Ha Nam where he contacted his friends and relatives for support.
Mr. Ho Van Luc, the groom, said local security forces tightened control during his wedding, stationing officers in many places on roads from the bus station to his private house in a bid to threaten his guests from other localities.
In his interview given to human rights activist Tran Thi Nga in Ha Nam province, Tam said he did not blame Vietnam’s security forces for the kidnapping and robbing, however, he expressed deep concerns about worsening social security. Vietnam is not ruled by laws but by gangsters, he said.
Truong Minh Tam, an active protester against China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea, completed his one-year imprisonment on the fabricated charge of conducting financial fraud in October 2014. After returning home, Mr. Tam said in an interview to Radio Free Asia, that Vietnam’s government accused him of conducting financial fraud, but in fact, his case was political and during interrogations, investigating officers always ignored about the allegation but questioned him about his social activities instead.
After the trial and the appeal, he was placed in Prison No. 5 of the Ministry of Public Security in Yen Dinh district in Thanh Hoa province. He spent 167 days in a special room where prisoners are treated like animals without basic human rights.
In August last year, Tam was attacked and robbed after re-visiting the prison to take all legal documentation to prepare for challenging Vietnam’s authorities for illegally imprisoning him. He believed that police was behind the attack.
Since being released, Mr. Tam has devoted his life to fight for human rights enhancement as well as promote multi-party democracy in Vietnam. He also visited the U.S. in June last year and participated in a hearing of the U.S. Congress about torture and ill-treatment against prisoners, especially political prisoners in Vietnam. During the event, Tam condemned inhumane treatment of political prisoners at the hands of prison authorities, especially Dang Xuan Dieu, who was sentenced to 13 years in jail for peaceful political activities.
The kidnap and robbery of Tam is similar to the incident in Nghe An province on December 6 last year in which a group of around 20 local security agents kidnapped, assaulted, and robbed human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and his three colleagues after they attended a meeting to mark International Human Rights Day.
Two days earlier, on January 7, Mr. Nguyen Huy Tuan, a land rights activist in the northern province of Hai Duong, was also kidnapped, beaten and robbed by local security agents. The attackers beat him severely and took his suitcase consisting of an iPad, an iPhone and VND10 million.
The attacks against Vietnamese political dissidents, social activists and human rights are part of the ongoing persecution of the communist government which aims to silence government critics ahead of the 12th National Congress of the ruling communist party which strives to keep the country under a one-party regime.
Other victims of security officers and thugs are bloggers Doan Trang, JB Nguyen Huu Vinh, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, Tran Thi Nga and Truong Van Dung, labor activists Do Thi Minh Hanh and Truong Minh Duc, former political prisoners Tran Minh Nhat and Chu Manh Son.
Vietnam’s communist leaders have publicly ordered security forces to prevent the establishment of opposition parties while Minister of Public Security General Tran Dai Quang labeled 60 unregistered civil society organizations as “reactionary groups.”
In mid December last year, Vietnam arrested human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha, accusing them of conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the Penal Code. The communist government also decided to try prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh and his assistant Ms. Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, who were arrested in May 2014 and charged with conducting anti-state activities under Article 258 of the Penal Code.
The governments and many politicians of the U.S. and EU countries as well as international human rights groups have called on the Vietnamese government to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Dai, Ms. Thuy, Mr. Vinh and Ms. Ha and drop all charges against them, as well as free all prisoners of conscience. According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Vietnam is holding 130 political prisoners.
Foreign governments and international human rights groups have also asked Vietnam to stop persecution against local dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders, conduct serious investigations and bring perpetrators to court.
Political observers said the communist government in Vietnam may continue to arrest other activists and its persecution against local critics in the coming days, before and during the communist’s National Congress slated for January 20-28.
Vietnam Interfaith Council Condemns Harassment against Religious Followers in Early 2016
On January 9, the Vietnam Interfaith Council sent its report on the government’s recent harassment against religious groups and followers to Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt, UN Dr. Heiner Bielefeldt and foreign governments, international human rights bodies and foreign media.
The report highlighted three cases of the Vietnamese government persecution against religions:
– Prevent clerks and followers of True Hoa Hao Buddhist sector from organizing a ceremony to mark the 96th birthday of Founder Huynh Phu So. Many followers were barred from attending the ceremony held in Long Giang commune, Cho Moi district in the southern province of An Giang as police set up many checking points on roads not to allow people to go to the place.
– Authorities in the central province of Thua Thien –Hue deployed nearly 200 police officers to threaten the staff of the Thien An Monastery. After seizing Thien An pine forest, in 2004, local authorities took Thuy Tien Lake belonging to the monastery to build a recreational facility which is boycotted by citizens. Authorities in Hue have sought to seize 107 hectares of land of the monastery to build a biological tourism site.
– Catholic priest Anton Dang Huu Nam of Phu Yen parish in Vinh diocese was beaten by thugs on December 31, 2015. Currently, Father Nam is still under special treatment for injuries caused by thugs.
The Vietnam Interfaith Council calls on religious communities and people in the country to peacefully protest the government harassment against religious groups and followers.
Former Political Prisoner Le Thanh Tung Re-arrested
Defend the Defenders: Le Thanh Tung, a political dissident who completed his four-year imprisonment in mid 2015, was arrested in December last year.
Mr. Tung, who works in the same group with Mr. Tran Anh Kim, will face allegation of conducting anti-state propaganda activities under Article 88 of the Penal Code, the same charge against Mr. Kim who was detained in early September.
Tung was said to be arrested in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai in mid December and deported to Thai Binh for investigation. However, his wife has yet to receive official notice from authorities about his detention.
On December 24, police searched his house in Soc Son district in Hanoi and took away a number of his items and his wife’s cell phone despite strong protest of the woman.
Police refused to tell his wife where they keep him but pledged to inform her later this month.
Mr. Tung is a member of pro-democracy Bloc 8406. In 2011, he was arrested and sentenced to four years in prison and three years under house arrest on the fabricated charge of conducting anti-state propaganda.
He was released in June 2015, six months ahead of his term’s ending.
After being freed, Mr. Tung committed to continue to fight for multi-party democracy in Vietnam.
Vietnam’s government has intensified crackdown against local dissidents and human rights activists several months ahead of the 12th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam which is slated for January 20-28.
On December 16 last year, police arrested human rights advocate Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Le Thu Ha, charging them with conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the Penal Code.
In addition, security forces have also harassed other activists, including former prisoners of conscience Tran Minh Nhat and Truong Minh Tam, and land rights activist Nguyen Huy Tuan.
The Vietnamese persecution against local government critics have met strong protest from domestic public, foreign governments and politicians as well as international human rights bodies.
=============== Jan 10==============
Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience Condemns Continuous Harassment against Political Dissident
Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Lam Dong have constantly harassed local former political prisoner Tran Minh Nhat and his family. Within a ten-day span in November last year, he was severely beaten twice by policemen in Lam Ha district in broad daylight.
On December 24, unknown people chopped down seven pepper plants and used toxic substance to killed about 400 other plants in his family’s garden. Unidentified persons also secretly cut down about 155 coffee plants and 11 avocado plants in his brother’s plantation.
On January 1, thugs also used chemical to destroy about 382 pepper plants belonging to his second brother while during the late night of the next day, thugs threw stones at Nhat’s house.
Mr. Nhat reaffirmed that his family has good relations with neighbors. Since Nhat was released on August 27 last year, security forces in Lam Ha district have continuously persecuted him and his family.
Authorities in Duong Noi commune, Ha Dong district, Hanoi on January 4 broadcasted a news bulletin on a local speaker network which contained distorted information about the family of local dissident Can Thi Theu in a bid to intimidate Mrs. Theu, her husband and children who bravely oppose illegal seizure of local farmers’ land by the local authorities.
On January 7, land rights activist Nguyen Huy Tuan was attacked by four plainclothes agents when he traveled from Hai Duong province to Hanoi. The security agents kidnapped him and brought him to a remote area where they beat him severely and robbed him, taking away his iPad, iPhone and VND10 million ($444). (For full report of the attack, you can read here: http://www.vietnamhumanrightsdefenders.net/…/vietnam-land-…/ .
In early morning of January 9, human rights activist Truong Minh Tam went to Quynh Luu district in the central province of Nghe An to attend a wedding of a younger brother of former political prisoner Ho Duc Hoa. Upon arrival at a bus station in Quynh Luu, he was kidnapped by security agents of Nghe An who took him to a car, drove to a remote area and robbed him. They took all his items, including a laptop, an iPad and a cell phone as well as VND40 million. They forced him to another car, driving to a remote area and threw him on a road after taking his all clothes with exception of his underwear. (For full report of the attack, you can read here: http://www.vietnamhumanrightsdefenders.net/…/second-vietna…/ )
These attacks occurred in recent months showed Vietnam’s disrespect of citizens’ basic rights, including the rights of freedom of movement, peaceful assembly and expression and opinions, and the right to seek funding for activities that promote and defend human rights.
The Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience strongly protests all illegal activities to use plainclothes agents and thugs to beat and rob human rights activists, public speeches to propagandize distorted information against social activists and political dissidents. Vietnamese authorities must launch investigations into these activities which violate Vietnam’s law and international law and bring perpetrators to court.
January 10, 2016
Steering Committee of the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience