Vietnam Human Rights Defenders Weekly March 14-20: Authorities in Central Highlands Province of Lam Dong Harass Activists Coming to Visit Persecuted Ex-prisoner of Conscience

Defenders’ Weekly | Mar 20, 2016

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On March 15, a group of 21 activists from the southern region went to visit former political prisoner Tran Minh Nhat in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong. During their stay in Mr. Nhat’s private residence, authorities in Lam Ha district deployed a number of police officers and plainclothes agents as well as numerous thugs to threaten and insult the guests. When the guests tried to go back to Saigon in the afternoon, the road was blocked by big stones and awaiting thugs ready to attack them with stones. The activists were forced to stay until the next day for their safety when authorities removed all barriers and withdrew the thugs.

Three days later, two political officers of the Australian and UK Embassies in Vietnam visited Nhat in his private residence in Lam Ha district. The diplomats were informed about the harassment, intimidation and persecution of local authorities against him and his family members since his release in late August last year.

Police in Ho Chi Minh City on March 20 detained and severely beat 15 local young activists who gathered in a local cafeteria to learn computer skills under instruction of Professor Dr. Pham Minh Hoang, a former political prisoner. The victims complained that they suffered serious injuries from the police attack. Police also confiscated a laptop of Mr. Hoang.

Mr. Martin Patzelt, a member of the German Parliament and member of its Human Rights Committee, plans to go to Vietnam to attend the trial against prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam) and his assistant Mrs. Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy scheduled on March 23.

Mr. Nguyen Van Manh from the northern province of Hung Yen claimed that he was severely tortured by three local police officers who suspected him of stealing some properties in his neighborhood. The perpetrators used electric baton to hit his genital, the victim claimed.

And other important news.

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============== March 14 ======

Many Prisoners of Conscience Conduct Hunger Strike in Xuyen Moc Prison

Many prisoners of conscience, including Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung, Tran Vu Anh Binh, Dinh Nguyen Kha, Lieu Ly and Tran Huynh Duy Thuc have conducted hunger strike since March 11 to protest the violations of the authorities of the Xuyen Moc prison.

The information was spread by Mr. Tran Van Huynh, the father of political prisoner Thuc who is serving his 16-year imprisonment on charge of anti-state activities. The father knows about the hunger strike when he visited his son on Sunday [March 13].

Participants in the hunger strike said they are protesting ongoing harassment and inhumane treatments of the prison’s authorities.

Xuyen Moc prison is located in Xuyen Moc district of the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau.

FB: Tù nhân lương tâm tuyệt thực tập thể tại trại giam Xuyên Mộc

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Buddhist Activist in Vietnam Central City Harassed by Local Security Forces

Security police in the central city of Hue are preparing to forcibly expel Buddhist Youth leader Le Cong Cau from his home because of his activities in support of the non-recognized Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV).

Mr. Cau informed the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) on March 12 that security police are forcing him to move out of the flat where he has lived for the past 13 years. Over the past month, he has been subjected to threats, harassments and interrogations, Police have intimidated his landlord, and groups of hired thugs and plain-clothed security agents are threatening to throw his possessions into the street if he does not move out immediately.

In a recent “working session” (interrogation) at the Truong An district Police station on March 9, police told him that they don’t want him to stay in their areas due to his support of the unsanctioned UBCV.

The arbitrary treatment of Mr. Cau is typical of the systematic harassments, intimidation, surveillance, physical assaults and detention faced by all followers of “non-recognized” religious movements, human rights defenders, bloggers and activists in Vietnam. In recent years, to avoid international condemnation, Vietnam has avoided high-profile political trials, but stepped up beatings and harassments against dissidents.

“Vietnam holds a seat at the UN Human Rights Council and seeks to strengthen ties with the international community, yet at home it perpetuates a climate of fear aimed at stifling independent civil society voices”, said Vo Van Ai, president of the Paris-based VCHR which has reported the case of Cau to the office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva.

Buddhist Youth leader Lê Công Cầu faces expulsion for supporting Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam

============ March 15=============

Vietnamese Activists Threatened while Visiting Former Political Prisoner in Central Highlands

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Lam Dong have deployed a large number of police officers, plainclothes agents and thugs to threaten a group of activists who are visiting a local former prisoner of conscience, the victims have said.

On March 15, the group, consisting of 21 activists from the southern region, went to visit Tran Minh Nhat in Da Don commune, Lam Ha district to support him as he has been constantly harassed by local authorities. When the visitors’ bus arrived near Nhat’s private residence, a group of people, possibly agitated by local authorities, came to demand the activists not to visit his family.

When the activists were inside Nhat’s house, a group of thugs and ethnic people gathered outside, throwing stones at and insulting the visitors, activist Do Duc Hop said in his video clip posted on Facebook. Police officers in plainclothes and using modern cameras constantly filmed all activities of the guests.

When the activists tried to leave the area to return to Saigon, they saw that the road was blocked by big stones and many thugs are around, ready to attack the bus with stones in the presence of numerous security officers. For their own safety, the guests decided to return to Nhat’s house. Authorities also cut off electricity of Nhat’s house, activists said.

The activists called Lam Dong province’s senior leaders, including Chairman of the executive body Doan Van Viet and communist party’s Secretary Nguyen Xuan Tien, however, their calls were unanswered, said blogger Nguyen Huu Tinh, one of the guests.

The activists said they didn’t know how they can return to Saigon safely. They said they may be beaten and accused of causing public disorders as other activists had been charged in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap in 2014 when they visited former political prisoner Nguyen Bac Truyen.

This is not the first time Nhat’s guests have been harassed by local authorities. In August last year, police officers and thugs attacked a group of activists when they left his house, causing severe injuries for a number of activists, including human rights campaigner Tran Thi Nga.

Since being released on August 27 last year after four years in prison on charge of “attempt to overthrow the people’s government” under Article 79 of the country’s Penal Code, Nhat has been the subject of harassment, intimidation and persecution by local authorities.

Nhat, who is under a three-year house arrest, has been severe beaten by Lam Ha district police and thugs three times since his release. Thugs, supported by the local police, have also attacked his house with stones and thrown dirty substances as well as pesticide to kill chickens and pepper plantation of his family.

Police in Lam Ha have done nothing to investigate the attacks after Nhat reported these attacks.

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100 Non-party Vietnamese Register for Parliament Rally in Election in May

Defend the Defenders: As many as 100 Vietnamese self-nominees have registered to run for seats in the country’s highest legislative body National Assembly in the general election scheduled on May 22, according to the Vietnam Fatherland Front (VFF), an affiliate of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam.

50 self-nominees came from Ho Chi Minh City, 47 came from Hanoi and the remaining three are from Danang, the biggest city in the central region, said the VFF which is authorized to verify the eligibility of the candidates.

The VFF has not unveiled the total number of the candidates for the parliament which is considered a rubber-stamp body by domestic and foreign political observers.

The VFF will organize meetings between the candidates and voters in their respective localities and those who fail to get approval from local citizens will not be included in the final list. Only nominees approved by the communist party will pass the procedure, said political analysts.

Many social activists had tried in the past to register as candidates for seats in the parliament, however, they had been rejected by local authorities in many ways, according to social networks. Authorities had used threats and other tricks to prevent them from submitting their documents to the election councils, activists said.

Vietnam will hold a general election to select 500 deputies for the parliament. The ruling communist party said the number of non-party lawmakers in the 14th session may rise to 50 from four in the current 13th session.

On May 22, local elections will also be conducted to elect deputies for local People’s Councils in provincial, district and communal levels. The procedures are also similar to those in the general election.

As many as 46 people have registered as self-nominees for People’s Councils, the VFF said.

============ March 16 ===========

“Reactionary Groups” Back Self-nominees for Vietnam NA Election: Official

Defend the Defenders: “Reactionary groups” are backing some self-nominees who are seeking seats in Vietnam’s highest legislative body National Assembly (NA) in the coming general election in May, said officials from the Election Committee in Hanoi.

Some self-nominees are receiving financial support from “domestic and foreign reactionary groups”, and using social networks for their election campaign, said an official from the Security subcommittee at a meeting in Hanoi on March 15 with participation of Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who is set to become the cabinet leader next month.

However, the official has not unveiled the names of “reactionary groups” and the involved nominees as well as details of the accusation.

This accusation is groundless and aims to eliminate independent people from the final list of candidates, said Dr. Nguyen Xuan Dien and Dr. Nguyen Quang A, two of 47 self-nominees in the capital city. Both have filed a protest to the National Election Council and state leaders demanding an investigation into the accusation.

As many as 100 self-nominees have registered to run for seats in the country’s parliament in the general election on May 22, according to the Vietnam Fatherland Front, the communist-controlled mass organization which is responsible for checking eligibility of all candidates.

Of the 100, 47 came from Hanoi, 50 from Ho Chi Minh City and three from Danang. Many of them are social activists who have vowed to fight for the country’s human rights enhancement as well as against corruption.

Not all self-nominees will be included in the final lists, some senior officials said without providing reasons for their elimination.

The Vietnam Fatherland Front will conduct meetings between nominees and voters from their respective living areas. Only those who receive support from local residents will be included in the candidates’ list.

In the previous election, many social activists were eliminated in this stage as authorities deployed a number of tricks to exclude unwanted nominees from the election. Tricks include making troubles in registration and organizing unfair meeting with local voters in which voters agitated by authorities to groundlessly accuse activists without giving them a chance to defend themselves

Vietnam will elect 500 deputies for the parliament in the 14th session. The number of independent lawmakers may rise to 50 from four in the 2011-2016 term. The structure of the parliament was formed by the communist party.

Next month, the parliament in the 13th session will formally approve senior posts, including the president, the prime minister and the top legislator who have been selected by the ruling communist party in January.

======== March 17=========

Vietnam Should Investigate Self-nominees Backed by “Reactionary Groups”

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s authorities should launch an investigation in order to clarify accusations that some self-nominees for the general election in May are backed by “reactionary groups”, said participants at the second mass meeting held by the Vietnam Fatherland Front (VFF) in Hanoi on March 17.

Earlier this week, a senior official from the Election Committee of Hanoi said some self-nominees are receiving financial support from “domestic and foreign reactionary groups”, and using social networks for their election campaign, however, he did not unveil any evidence to back his accusations, which have been covered by state-run media.

As many as 100 self-nominees have registered to contest seats in the country’s legislative body National Assembly in the 2016-2021 period. Of the 100, 47 came from Hanoi, 50 from Ho Chi Minh City and the remaining three from Danang.

Veteran Major General Le Ma Luong, a member of the VFF’s Presidency, said such statement should not be publicized without solid evidence. Other self-nominees will be affected, he said.

Nguyen Tuc, another member of the VFF’s Presidency, echoed the concern, saying this statement will prevent other citizens from rallying for the country’s lawmaking body in the 14th tenure.

Many activists who want to compete for becoming country’s legislators, including Dr. Nguyen Quang A and Dr. Nguyen Xuan Dien from Hanoi have filed their petitions to the National Election Council to demand the launch of an investigation into the accusation.

Meanwhile, participants of the VFF meeting approved the candidacy of 95 nominees who are members of the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam. All 19 members of the party’s Politburo are candidates for the coming general election scheduled on May 22.

The parliament in the next term will have 500 members, and the number of non-communist legislators may rise to 50 compared to four now.

Two months prior to the general election, the communist party already formed the structure of the parliament in the next session. They even selected the key posts of the government and other state agencies, including the Supreme People’s Procuracy and the Supreme People’s Court.

The parliament in the 13th session will hold its last election on March 21-April 14 to formally approve the posts of president, the prime minister and the top legislators, with respective candidacies of Minister of Public Security Tran Dai Quang, Deputy Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and NA’s Vice Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan.

================ March 18==============

Diplomats from Australia, UK Visit Persecuted Tran Minh Nhat in Lam Dong

In the afternoon of March 18, Ms. Rose McConnell, second secretary of the Australian Embassy and Mr. Graham Knight, head of the Political Department of the UK’s Embassy in Vietnam visited the private residence of former political prisoner Tran Minh Nhat in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, who has been constantly harassed by local authorities since his release in late August last year.

The two diplomats were informed by the victim about the ongoing harassment, intimidation and persecution of the authorities in Lam Ha district in recent months against Nhat and his family members.

The visit was made three days after the harassment and threats of the local police and thugs against a group of 21 activists coming from the southern region to visit Mr. Nhat and show support for him and his family.

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Vietnamese Cops Use Electrical Baton to Torture Suspect in His Genital

Defend the Defenders: Nguyen Van Manh, 34, from Vietnam’s northern province of Hung Yen said he was tortured by three police officers who used electrical baton to hit his penis, the Cong Ly newspaper reported Wednesday.

Manh said in the early morning of March 02, when he was at home, two individuals in plainclothes came and introduced themselves as police officers from the Hung Yen city police. They invited him to their office to help them with some work.

When he arrived in the police station, he was brought to a closed room. Later, one police officer in uniform and the two persons in plainclothes entered the room and started to interrogate him about a recent burglary in his Quang Chau commune.

Firstly, they confiscated his cell phone and when Manh said he did not know anything about the burglary of some worship items, the trio beat him. They tied his hands to the window bars and used electrical baton to hit his penis, the victim said to reporters.

The trio also used an equipment to clip his fingers in a bid to force him to confess.

Manh was beaten and questioned by three people until 3 PM. After that, they returned his cell phone and released him.

Returning home, he felt pains in his head and swollen face. He was brought to the Hung Ha General Hospital for checking.

Manh filed a petition to denounce the police officers for coercion through torture. Five days later, he was invited to the Hung Yen city police where police officer Phan Quang Manh, head of the Investigation team on social orders, apologized for the incident. When the victim requested the perpetrators to come to apologize to him in person, they refused.

The Hung Yen city police refused to work with reporters of Cong Ly newspaper on the case while Colonel Do Dinh Hao, head of the Hung Yen province’s Police department, pledged to investigate the case and “take proper measures.”

Torture is systemic in Vietnam although the communist nation ratified the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 2014. Hanoi has to submit the first report to the UN on the convention was due on March 5, 2016.

Hundreds of people have been killed or severely injured in police stations and detention facilities in recent years.

Few perpetrators have been disciplined for committing torture.

============== March 19=============

Government mulls response to independents

Vietnam Right Now: Some one hundred prospective independent candidates met the recent deadline to register for upcoming legislative elections.

But as they put their names forward, at the beginning of a daunting vetting process for the May 22 National Assembly election, they were greeted by what sounded like an ominous warning.

The Hanoi election committee alleged that “unsavory elements” were trying to influence the poll, and said some would-be candidates were funded by “domestic and foreign reactionary forces”.

The Communist party and its affiliates, however, have been sending out mixed messages, as they weigh up how to respond to what looks like an unprecedented challenge to the party’s monopoly on power.

“Electoral sabotage”

Some of the independents are pro-democracy campaigners and human rights activists that want to challenge the government’s claims that the system is democratic. Others are individuals with a range of causes who say they simply want to make the legislature more representative.

Amongst the latter group are another novelty for Vietnam: celebrity candidates, including the comedian, Nguyen Cong Vuong, and the singer, Mai Khoi, who is known for her explicit song lyrics and provocative costumes.

The Hanoi election committee did not back up its allegations against self-nominated candidates with any evidence. But the statement was seen as a warning of the harsh repression that the authorities could resort to silence their critics.

Some official media joined in the attack, with warnings about electoral sabotage tactics and biased information propagated by publications based overseas.

Other officials, however, have welcomed the electoral process, and by implication the fact that independents are trying to take part.

“It shows that the democratic spirit has prevailed…people want to contribute to society,” said the propaganda chief of the Hanoi electoral committee, Nguyen Van Phong, in comments quoted by official media that seemed to contradict the same body’s earlier statement.

Highly subjective

The Fatherland Front, the Communist party proxy responsible for vetting prospective candidates, also put out a positive statement.

“Favoring candidates nominated by certain affiliations is strictly forbidden, and any act of discrimination against any nominee is against the law,” said Nguyen Van Pha, vice chairman of the organization, in comments quoted by the Tuoi Tre newspaper.

“Candidates should lead an exemplary lifestyle and get on well with voters in their neighborhood, for it is them who will vote to approve his or her candidacy,” he added.

Independents complain, however, that such criteria is highly subjective, and they are held to account for any comments they have made in the past that are critical of the government and the current one-party system.

Some of the activists say they have faced many obstacles in the nomination process. Others have alleged increased monitoring by the police since they announced their intention to run.

Little hope

One leading prospective candidate, the former party member and entrepreneur, Nguyen Quang A, says he has little hope of being selected as a candidate.

He believes that his record as a campaigner for a more democratic system of government means that he will be blocked, despite a strong show of support from his supporters online.

All prospective candidates must pass through a number of stages in a vetting process that is controlled by the Fatherland Front.

Small numbers of independents have managed to secure nominations in past elections and been elected to seats in the National Assembly.

This year, however, the challenge to the system from known activists is much more explicit.

Analysts say that the newly reshuffled leadership’s response will contain important clues about its tolerance of dissent and attitude to political reform.

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German Lawmaker Plans to Attend Trial against Anh Ba Sam and His Assistant on March 23

Mr. Martin Patzelt, a member of the German Parliament and member of its Human Rights Committee plans to go to Vietnam to attend the trial against prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam) and his assistant Mrs. Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy scheduled on March 23.

Mr. Patzelt said in his press release that he has been interested in the case since the arbitrary arrests of the duo. He has written a letter to Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister cum Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh to demand for fair trial and unconditional release of Mr. Vinh and Mrs. Thuy.

“I believe that Mr. Vinh has not done anything harmful for Vietnam but want the country to develop well,” the German legislator said.

Mr. Patzelt has adopted blogger Vinh as part of the Program named Legislators Protect Legislators of the German Parliament, the program applied for protecting human rights defenders worldwide.

He said after getting approval from the German Parliament to attend the trial, he sent his request to the People’s Court of Hanoi and other relevant agencies in Vietnam for permit to participate in the trial as observer, however, he has yet to receive response from the Vietnamese authorities.

He said he will be in Hanoi and go to the court on the day of trial.

Earlier, the EU Delegation and the U.S. Embassy and other international diplomatic corporations in Vietnam asked approval from Vietnam’s authorities to attend the trial, however, they have yet to receive response.

============= March 20==============

Ho Chi Minh Police Disturb Peaceful Meeting of Students in Local Cafeteria

In the morning of March 20, former political prisoner Pham Minh Hoang and a group of 15 students gathered in a cafeteria in Ward 10, District 3 to exchange computer skills. Shortly after the meeting began, police officers and plainclothes agents came to demand them to stop their peaceful activities.

Student Nguyen Viet was severely beaten by a plainclothes agent when he tried to use his cell phone to film the police harassment.

The police detained Mr. Hoang and took him away, and beat them severely in cafeteria. Later, police took the group to the police station in Ward 11 where police officers in uniform and plainclothes continued to beat them.

Police released all of them in mid night of Sunday after many other activists came to demand for unconditional and immediate release of young people.

Many detainees have complained that they suffered serious injuries from the police’s attack while Mr. Hoang said his laptop was confiscated.

SBTN: Giáo sư Phạm Minh Hoàng bị bắt giữ khi đang dạy học