Vietnam Human Rights Defenders Weekly February 1-7: Hanoi-based Activist Detained as Vietnam Intensifies Political Crackdown

Defenders’ Weekly | Feb 07, 2016

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On February 4, security forces in Hanoi detained Ngo Duy Quyen, a local human rights defender and pro-democracy activist, searching his private apartment and confiscating numerous personal items, including two laptops and four cell phones. After long interrogation without receiving cooperation from the detainee, police released him at 11 PM of the same day.

Four days earlier, security forces in Danang also detained pro-democracy activist Nguyen Anh Tuan who came back to the home country after long foreign trip where he met with many legislators, civil society organizations and human rights defenders.

Amnesty International has launched a campaign to write petitions to Vietnam’s authorities to demand the communist government to ensure proper healthcare treatment for prisoner of conscience Bui Thi Minh Hang, who is suffering a number of severe diseases, including a painful stomach ulcer, low blood pressure, joint pain, frequent severe headaches and occasional blackouts.

The Vietnamese public has raised concern on the recent circular issued by the Ministry of Public Security which will empower the police force to expropriate properties of citizens, including their vehicles and communication devices. In recent years, police power abuse has been recorded widely in the authoritarian country.

And many other important news

========== February 1====

Vietnam May Release Well-known Activist into Exile in U.S.

Defend the Defenders:

Vietnam’s communist government may grant amnesty for well-known human rights activist Bui Thi Minh Hang one year before her three-year imprisonment ends but may force her into exile in the U.S., local bloggers said.

According to local activists, Vietnam has offered to allow her to leave the country, the same way it did with other activists including France-trained legal expert Cu Huy Ha Vu and prominent bloggers Nguyen Van Hai and Ta Phong Tan.

It is unclear whether Ms. Hang will accept the offer which the communist government in Hanoi says is based on humanitarian ground.

If she accepts the offer, Ms. Hang will very unlikely to be allowed to return

to the Southeast Asian country under Communist rule. In such a scenario, her imprisonment will be postponed but not considered completed, bloggers said.

Human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan, who completed his 30-month imprisonment on the trumped-up charge of tax evasion last year, said during his term, security officers made him the same offer many times, however, he rejected them, saying he would remain in Vietnam to fight for multi-party democracy and human rights protection and promotion.

Dr. Vu, who was sentenced to seven years for criticizing Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and his government, said the Vietnamese government treats local political dissidents as bargaining chips for exchange of economic benefits with the U.S. and other Western countries.

Ms. Hang, one of the most prominent activists protesting China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea, was arrested in March 2014

when she and other activists visited former political prisoner Nguyen Bac Truyen in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap. Security forces arrested her and two other religious activists Nguyen Van Minh and Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh and charged them with causing public disorders. In trials which failed to meet international standards for fair trial, she was sentenced to three years in jail for bogus traffic offense.

Hang, who is also a land rights activist, had been harassed by the communist government before. She was detained many times after participating in peaceful anti-China protests in Hanoi and Saigon, and was sent to re-habilitation facility by authorities in the capital city of Hanoi for months in a bid to silence her.

Since her arrest, many legislators and officials from the U.S. and EU countries as well as international human rights bodies have urged Vietnam to release her immediately and unconditionally.

Her family said that Ms. Hang’s health has worsened due to inhumane treatment of prison’s authorities. Last year, she conducted long hunger strike to protest degrading treatments of prison’s authorities against her and other prisoners, especially prisoners of conscience.

According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Vietnam is holding at least 130 political prisoners while Hanoi always denies to imprisoning any but only law violators.


Vietnamese Activist Detained Upon Coming Home from Long Journey Abroad

Defend the Defenders:

Vietnam’s security forces have detained young activist Nguyen Anh Tuan immediately after the pro-democracy advocate returned to the home country from a long trip overseas, local media has reported.

Security agents took Mr. Tuan when he arrived in Danang Airport in his home city in late night of January 31 for interrogation and released him the next morning.

Mr. Tuan, born in 1990, graduated bachelor degree from the National Administration Academy in 2012. An outstanding student, he was proposed to become a member of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam, however, Tuan rejected the proposal although the party’s membership may help him to become official in important state agencies.

During the student’s years, in a bid to protest controversial Article 88 of the Penal Code, Tuan made a statement confessing to holding anti-state documents, and wrote a letter requesting the Supreme People’s Court to issue an arrest warrant against him. In the communist nation, the government has often used the article to silence government critics.

After graduating, Tuan went abroad to learn about democracy and human rights. He went to over 20 countries, including countries in the EU, the U.S. and Australia to meet with foreign legislators, human rights bodies and social activists to learn and share experience in the promotion of democracy and human rights as well as reporting on human rights violations in his home country.

In 2014, he and other activists participated in the UN’s Universal Periodic Review to report on the human rights violations in the communist-ruled Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Vietnam’s communist government has intensified crackdown against political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders in a bid to keep the country under a one-party regime. Along with persecuting activists, the government has banned a number of them from going abroad, and harassed those who return home after visiting foreign countries.

Many activists returning to Vietnam have been detained for interrogation. The victims of such police abuse include prominent economist Dr.

Nguyen Quang A, blogger and pro-democracy activists Doan Trang, Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Truong Minh Tam.

Political suppression is expected to be harder in Vietnam after many police generals have been elected to the new leadership of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam in its 12th National Congress which ended on January 28. Four police generals have been elected to the party’s Politburo, two in the Secretariat and three others in the party’s Central Committee for the 2016-2020 period. Minister of Public Security General Tran Dai Quang, who labeled all independent civil society organizations as “anti-state” groups, is set to become the next president.

=======February 2=========

Police Generals Dominate Vietnam New Leadership, More Political Crackdown Expected

Defend the Defenders:

Vietnam is expected to intensify crackdown against local political dissidents, social activists and human rights advocates in the next few years as a number of police generals have been elected to the highest bodies of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam in the 2016-2021 term, experts said.

At the 12th National Congress held in Hanoi on Jan 21-28, four police generals were elected to the party’s 19-member Politburo, the highest decision-making body in the communist nation. Two others were elected to the Secretariat, the party’s body responsible for its daily works.

Along with the re-election of Minister of Public Security General Tran Dai Quang, who is set to succeed President Truong Tan Sang, Deputy Minister Senior Lieutenant General To Lam, former police generals Pham Minh Chinh and Nguyen Hoa Binh and Nguyen Van Nen have become new members of the Politburo.

Gen. Lam, who is the head of the security forces, is likely to succeed Mr. Quang as Minister of Public Security in July.

Mr. Chinh and Mr. Binh were Deputy Ministers of Public Security while Mr. Nen was a police officer before being appointed as the head of the Government Office

Chinh is expected to head the party’s Commission of Organization while Binh is expected to leave his current post as chief of the Supreme People’s Court of Vietnam. The trio is in the Secretariat for the 2016-2020 period.

The congress also elected Deputy Ministers of Public Security Bui Van Nam and Nguyen Van Thanh to the 200-member Central Committee. In addition, Lieutenant General Nguyen Duc Chung, head of the Police Department in Hanoi, was also included in the committee which is the highest party body between consecutive National Congresses.

Vietnam has intensified crackdown against government critics, social activists and human rights defenders nationwide in recent years. The Ministry of Public Security claimed it had arrested and dealt with 1,410 cases involving 2,680 people who had “violated national security”, a term which is often used by the communist government to silence local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders. Minister Quang also labeled independent civil society organizations as opposition groups.

The latest victim of Vietnam’s ongoing persecution is human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, who was arrested on Dec 16 last year together with his assistant Le Thu Ha.

In addition, many activists have been attacked by police and thugs, the Amnesty International said, adding 69 male and female activists are known to have been targeted in 36 violent attacks, perpetrated by police or men in plain-clothes, widely believed to be working for, or with, the police.

According to the ministry, 226 detainees died in police custody in the period between October 2010 and September 2014, and police said most of their deaths were caused by illness and suicides. Around 20 people were killed in police station last year and the number of victims has amount to three in January this year.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch said police torture is systemic in Vietnam.

===== January 03=======

Urgent Action- Human Rights Defender Denied Medical Care

Amnesty International: Vietnamese human rights defender Bùi Thị Minh Hằng is being denied medical treatment for various health problems, despite repeated requests. She is serving a three-year sentence on fabricated charges of “causing public disorder”.

Bùi Thị Minh Hằng, imprisoned since February 2014, is in poor health. She has a painful stomach ulcer, low blood pressure, joint pain, frequent severe headaches and occasional blackouts. Despite repeated requests, she has received no medical treatment, and her health is at risk of deteriorating further.

Bùi Thị Minh Hằng was arrested on 11 February 2014 as she travelled with a group of 20 others to visit human rights lawyer Nguyễn Bắc Truyển, who had been attacked and detained for interrogation by police on 9 February in Dong Thap province. The group were travelling on motorbikes from Ho Chi Minh City when they were stopped by traffic police about 10 km from their destination. They were then attacked by a large group of security officials and other unidentified men and beaten with truncheons and other weapons, before being arrested and taken to Lap Vo police station for interrogation. On 12 February Bùi Thị Minh Hằng and two others were charged w ith causing “serious obstruction to traffic…” under Article 245 of the Penal Code; 18 others were released. They were tried on 26 August 2014 by Dong Thap Provincial People’s Court, and Bùi Thị Minh Hằng was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. The sentence was upheld on appeal.

Bùi Thị Minh Hằng is an outspoken activist, well-known in Viet Nam for her participation in peaceful anti-China protests over the long-running territorial disputes in the South China/East Sea. She has also helped victims of land confiscation, disseminating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to communities and extending support to other human rights activists. She is currently detained at Gia Trung Prison in Gia Lai province in the Central Highlands, some 1,000 km from where her family lives, making visits very difficult.

Please write immediately in English, Vietnamese or your own language:

Demanding the authorities release Bùi Thị Minh Hằng immediately and unconditionally, as she is a prisoner of conscience detained solely for her peaceful activities defending human rights;

Urge the authorities that while still detained, she should be immediately provided with appropriate medical care, and treated in accordance with the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Offenders, including access to family and doctors.



Minister of Public Security

Gen Tran Dai Quang

Ministry of Public Security

44 Yet Kieu Street, Hoan Kiem district

Ha Noi, Viet Nam

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Minister of Foreign Affairs

Pham Binh Minh

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

1 Ton That Dam Street, Ba Dinh district

Ha Noi, Viet Nam

Fax: + 844 3823 1872


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Additional Information

Bùi Thị Minh Hằng has twice undertaken a hunger strike during her imprisonment. Firstly in pre-trial detention when she was held incommunicado from the time of her arrest on 11 February until the end of March when she was allowed to meet her son and a lawyer. Then in April 2015, in protest at abusive treatment by prison guards and harassment by other prisoners.

Amnesty International considers Bùi Thị Minh Hằng to be a prisoner of conscience, held solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression. The charges brought against her and her co-defendants are fabricated and politically-motivated.

Unprovoked physical attacks by security officers, plain-clothed police and unidentified men against activists have become more frequent. No one has been held accountable, despite complaints having been made by victims of attacks to the authorities.

Viet Nam is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which guarantees the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. However, these rights are severely restricted in law and practice in Viet Nam.

Vaguely worded articles in the national security section of Viet Nam’s 1999 Penal Code and Article 258 (Abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens) are frequently used to criminalize peaceful dissenting views or activities. In some cases, baseless charges against peaceful activists are fabricated, such as Article 161 for “tax evasion” and Article 245 for “causing public disorder”. Those at risk include people advocating for peaceful political change, criticizing government policies, or calling for respect for human rights. Dozens of bloggers, labour rights and land rights activists, political activists, religious followers, human rights defenders and social justice activists, and even song writers are currently imprisoned for their peaceful activism.

Prison conditions in Viet Nam are harsh, with inadequate food and health care that falls short of the minimum requirements set out in the UN Standard Minimum Rules and other international standards. Prisoners of conscience have been held in solitary confinement as a punishment or in isolation for lengthy periods. They have also been subjected to ill-treatment, including beatings by other prisoners with no intervention by prison guards. Some prisoners of conscience are frequently moved from one detention facility to another, often without their families being informed. Several prisoners of conscience have undertaken hunger strikes in protest at abusive treatment and poor conditions of detention.


Communists to Continue to Dominate Vietnam Parliament in Next Term

Defend the Defenders:

Members of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) will continue to dominate Vietnam’s legislative body, the National Assembly, in the 2016-2021 term, according to the recent resolution of the parliament’s Standing Committee.

As many as 80 members of the CPV’s Central Committee will participate in the 500-member parliament which will be set up after the country’s general election scheduled on May 21 this year.

The NA’s Standing Committee set the number of non-communists to be between 20 and 50.

The to-be-established parliament will have 198 members from central agencies, 11 members from the party’s apparatuses, 18 members from the government and its agencies, and 114 full-time members.

The rubber stamp parliament will have 15 members from army and three from police forces. Only seven entrepreneurs will be selected for the legislative body, including three from the state sector and four from the private sector.

Provinces and cities will have 302 members in the parliament which is set to have 162 members from ethnic minorities and 90 females, at least.

The first session of the parliament will be held in July to elect the nation’s key posts, including the president, the prime minister and the top legislator,

the Standing Committee said in its resolution.

After the 12th National Congress of the CPV, Minister of Public Security General Tran Dai Quang, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and NA’s Vice Chairwoman are set to respectively succeed incumbent Truong Tan Sang, PM Nguyen Tan Dung and NA Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung who were not re-elected to the party’s Central Committee for the 2016-2020 period.

The National Election Council is required to strictly follow the resolution while the communist-controlled Fatherland Front will take important roles in introducing candidates and verifying their eligibility.

In Vietnam, which has been ruled by communists for decades, the parliament has duties to approve all decisions taken by the Politburo and the Central Committee of the CPV. Since its first tenure in 1946, draft laws have been introduced not by legislators but by government bodies and other state agencies.

====== January 04=========

Vietnamese Pro-democracy Activist Detained, Private Residence Searched

Defend the Defenders:

Security forces in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi on February 4 detained pro-democracy activist and human rights defender Ngo Duy Quyen and searched his private residence, confiscating a number of communication devices and other personal items, the victim said.

Mr. Quyen, 40, was held by security agents when he was delivering his agricultural products to his regular clients in Hanoi. At the same time, policemen came to his apartment in Dong Da district to search his personal items, including two laptops and four cell phones as well as many books and documents.

Police verbally announced that they detained Mr. Quyen and searched his apartment to investigate his role in a case which “has signs” of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” under Article 258 of the country’s Penal Code. However, police neither gave him a copy of the warrants for the detention and the apartment search nor allowed him and his relatives to read the original documents.

After a long interrogation which lasted from the afternoon and until midnight, police released him but asked him to come back to police station on the next day. Quyen said police also confiscated all his money from selling chickens.

During the interrogation, security officers said they want to clarify Quyen’s role in a joint petition of civil society organizations which had been sent to state agencies to raise their concerns on recent deaths of many detainees in police stations and detention facilities. Few months ago, Quyen, on behalf of many independent civil society organizations, sent the petition to a number of state agencies, including the president’s office, the Supreme People’s Procuracy and the Supreme People’s Court to demand for full investigation of the death of many detainees in custody.

However, Quyen refused to cooperate with the police since they failed to show any documents from the procuracy about his detention and the search of his apartment. He also refused to come to the police station later as they demanded.

Mr. Quyen, the husband of prominent former political prisoner Le Thi Cong Nhan and an older brother of former prisoner of conscience Ngo Quynh, is an anti-China activist, participating in many peaceful protests in Hanoi in the 2011-2014 period to protest China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea.

He had been detained many times during peaceful anti-China demonstrations.

Due to his political activities, he has been suppressed by local authorities. Under police’s pressure, Quyen was forced to quit his job as legal expert in a law company. He tried to work in other fields, however, he was forced to abandon them because he could not tolerate systemic corruption among state officials.

Finally, Quyen returned to his hometown in Bac Giang, and together with his brother Quynh, he set up an organic farm for the production of chicken, ducks, fish and vegetables. His high-quality products meet high demand, and he became a regular supplier of safe farm produce for social activists in Hanoi and adjacent localities.

Quyen is a key member of a charity organization named People Solidarity which has provided financial assistance to prisoners of conscience and their families as well as land petitioners. The unsanctioned human rights body has provided limited but valuable supports for hundreds of activists nationwide.

Quyen’s detention is the first political case in Vietnam one week after the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam ended its 12th National Congress, with election of the new leadership for the next five-year term. Police generals have dominated the new leadership, with four generals elected to the party’s 19-member Politburo, the most powerful body in the communist nation, and two others in the party’s Secretariat. Three other police generals were elected to the 200-member Central Committee which has the highest power in

between consecutive party congresses.

The detention took place on the same day when Vietnam and 11 other nations signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in New Zealand. The pact, which is expected to boost trade and investment between Vietnam and other Asia-Pacific nations, needs approval of parliaments of the countries members, some of which are concerned about increasing human rights violations in Vietnam.

Mr. Pham Van Troi, leader of the unsanctioned Brotherhood for Democracy, said the police’s main goal in detaining Quyen is to search his apartment for documents of his wife Nhan, who is one of the key members of the independent Lao Dong Viet (Viet Labor) which advocates for workers’ rights. In recent days, police in Ho Chi Minh City have intensified their surveillance on other leaders of Lao Dong Viet, including former prisoners of conscience Do Thi Minh Hanh, Mr. Troi noted.

Vietnam has yet to allow workers to form their independent labor unions to protect their rights while the Vietnam General Trade Union is under government control and has no activities to effectively protect workers’ rights.

The communists have vowed to maintain the country under a one-party regime, and their government has used controversial Penal Code articles such as Articles 79, 88 and 258 to silence political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders. The ruling party has ordered the country’s security forces to prevent the establishment of opposition parties while Minister of Public Security General Tran Dai Quang, who is set to succeed incumbent President Truong Tan Sang in July, labeled 60 unregistered civil societies as “reactionary groups.”

With more police generals taking up key positions in the party and state agencies, Vietnam is expected to continue its socialism path and prioritize the deepening of the comprehensive strategic partnership with China, which has been increasingly aggressive in the East Sea to turn the sea into its own lake, observers said, adding more political suppression will be seen in coming days.

According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Vietnam is holding at least 130 political prisoners while Hanoi consistently denies it is keeping any prisoner of conscience and insists that only law violators are imprisoned.


Vietnamese Worried about New Rule Allowing Police to Search, Seize Properties

Defend the Defenders: The recent circular of Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security which will empower

the police force to expropriate properties of citizens, including their vehicles and communication devices, has triggered widespread concerns, according to the state media.

Mr. Le Van Cuong, member of the country’s legislative body National Assembly, said the ministry needs to build specific regulations for the implementation of its Circular 01 to avoid police abuse.

Before implementing the circular, the ministry should rethink in a bid to ensure the right of citizens to their property which is enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution, Mr. Cuong noted, adding the Constitution is the highest legal document of the country and other legal documents must comply with it.

Last month, the ministry also issued a circular requesting drivers to purchase fire distinguishers for their vehicles. The regulation met strong protest of car owners while experts said fire distinguishers may cause harm to cars since they easily detonate at high temperature.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Legal Normative Document Post-Review under the Ministry of Justice said it is reviewing Circular 01 to assess whether it violates the country’s Constitution.

Major General Tran The Quan, deputy head of the Department of Legal and Legal Administrative Reform said only the minister of Public Security and chairmen of the provincial People’s Committee can grant the authority of expropriation to policemen in specific cases which are related to national security.

=== ===== February 05========

Canadian Senator Thanh Hai Ngo Condemns Trial Process of Minor by the Vietnamese People’s Court

Ottawa, February 5, 2015 – Today Senator Thanh Hai Ngo issued the following statement in response to Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan’s postponed appeal trial:

“I am deeply concerned about the unreasonable trial process that followed the unfair arrest, and the harsh sentence of Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan.

“The Peoples Court of Long An province’s decision to further postpone Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan’s appeal trial without allowing him to apply for bail is another indication that the People’s Court system fails to follow its own proper procedures and respect the rights of a juvenile defendant.

“This unreasonable court process of a minor violates international law and stands as another disappointment to the already harsh prison sentence of 4.5 years, the fine of VND 42.6 million ($1,880), and the brutal treatment of the juvenile’s parents by the police.

“I call upon international human rights agencies and the international community to work together to challenge this unfair court decision and to take legal action, not only to ensure the immediate release of Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan, but also to protect the rights of minors and to uphold the land ownership rights of Vietnamese citizens.