Vietnam Human Rights Defenders Weekly April 11-17, 2016: Vietnam Continues Intensified Crackdown, Targeting Activists and Bloggers

Defenders’ Weekly  | Apr 17, 2016

tuần tin

One week after the country completed its leadership transition, security forces have continued its intensified crackdown against local activists and bloggers, detaining several and blocking others from free movement.

On April 17, police barred a number of members of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), including President Pham Chi Dung and Vice Presidents Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Bui Minh Quoc, from going out to attend a scheduled meeting in Hanoi to discuss the upcoming visit of President Barack Obama to the communist nation, the first and the only trip of the incumbent American president to the Southeast Asian country.

Three days earlier, the Investigation Agency of Hanoi detained pro-democracy activist Ngo Duy Quyen to question him about a petition by many independent civil social organizations sent to the minister of public security demanding an end to police torture. This is Quyen’s second detention following the first on February 4 when police detained him, searched his private residence and illegally confiscated many personal items, including laptops, cell phones, books and money.

On April 13, the U.S. Department of State released its annual report on Vietnam’s human rights in 2015, saying the Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, the Law on Custody and Temporary Detention, the Civil Code and the Civil Procedure Code adopted by the rubber stamp parliament in November affect the rights of its citizens. Especially, the Penal Code retained vague national security provisions and in some areas added new offenses criminalizing preparatory acts. The most significant human rights problems in the country were severe government restrictions of citizens’ political rights, particularly their right to change their government through free and fair elections; limits on citizens’ civil liberties, including freedom of assembly, association, and expression; and inadequate protection of citizens’ due process rights, including protection against arbitrary detention.

Other human rights abuses included arbitrary and unlawful deprivation of life; police attacks and corporal punishment; arbitrary arrest and detention of political activities; continued police mistreatment of suspects during arrest and detention, including the use of lethal force and austere prison conditions; and denial of the right to a fair and expeditious trial. The judicial system was opaque and lacked independence, and political and economic influences regularly affected judicial outcomes.

The government limited freedom of speech and suppressed dissent; exercised control over and censorship of the press; restricted internet freedom and freedom of religion; maintained often-heavy surveillance of activists; and continued to limit privacy rights and freedoms of assembly, association, and movement..

And many other important news

 

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Vietnam: Investigate the attack on Nguyen Cong Thu

Mr. Nguyen Thai Binh,

Minister of Interior,

37A Nguyen Binh Khiem St., Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi, Vietnam

Dear Minister,

I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human rights defender and Freelance journalist.

On 1 April 2016, human rights defender Mr Nguyen Cong Thu was severely beaten by a group of men while on his way to Long Dien A commune in Cho Moi district, An Giang province.

Nguyen Cong Thu is a news writer and web manager working for an online portal – Defend the Defenders. Defend the Defenders is a non-profit, independent organization reporting serious human rights violations and promoting human rights in Vietnam. Nguyen Cong Thu is a follower of Hoa Hao Buddhism, one of the major religions in Vietnam widely spread over the Mekong River Delta in the South of the country. When founded in 1939, the Hoa Hao Buddhist sect was primarily followed by peasants. Its members, therefore, traditionally encouraged the development of the agricultural sector of the economy, promoted social work and provided help for those in need.

On 1 April 2016, Nguyen Cong Thu was on his way to the house of his fiancée’s family, located in the Long Dien A commune when he was stopped by traffic police. A group of men, allegedly including plain-clothed police officers, attacked the human rights defender. Nguyen Cong Thu was severely beaten, causing serious injuries to his head, face and feet. The attackers insulted the human rights defender and threatened to kill him if he continues with his human rights activities, including those that promote the right to freedom of religion and belief. The chief police officer of the Long Dien A commune and one of the police officers from the Cho Moi district police department were allegedly among the attackers.

When Nguyen Cong Thu tried to escape the scene the attackers followed him to his own home in the My An commune. When informed of the attack, family members went to help and support the human rights defender. The attackers however did not allow them to take Nguyen Cong Thu to the local hospital, surrounding the house and blocking the road. The following day, the men retreated and the human rights defender was taken to hospital for the necessary medical treatment in Cho Moi district, An Giang province. Nguyen Cong Thu also had his motorcycle stolen by the attackers despite the protests of his family who were planning on using it as evidence in the attack.

The attack on Nguyen Cong Thu took place one day prior to the 79th anniversary of the death of the late leader Huynh Phu So of the Hoa Hao Buddhist sect who was assassinated by communists in 1947. Authorities in the Mekong Delta tightened security efforts during early April, barring many Hoa Hao followers from gathering to pray for their late leader.

I am gravely concerned about the physical assault on Nguyen Cong Thu, which I believe to be directly linked to his peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights defenders and the freedom of religion in Vietnam.

I urge the authorities in Vietnam to:

  1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the attack on Nguyen Cong Thu, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
  2. Provide the necessary medical treatment for injured human rights defender Nguyen Cong Thu;
  3. Take all necessary measures to guarantee in the future the physical and psychological integrity and security of Nguyen Cong Thu;
  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Vietnam are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

Sincerely,

William Nicholas Gomes

Human Rights Defender & Freelance Journalist

Twitter @wnicholasgomes

Email: [email protected]

www.facebook.com/williamnicholasgomes

Note: The letter has been modified and developed from the original drafted and published letter by the Irish human rights watchdog Frontline Defenders . It should be noted that although the letter has been modified for this purpose of expressing solidarity and human rights advocacy using alternative media and wider email campaign but the facts and figures remains unchanged. Frontline Defenders should be given credit for the information used on this letter. Please do contact Frontline Defenders for further updates.

http://www.newsghana.com.gh/vietnam-investigate-the-attack-on-nguyen-cong-thu/

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1,000 Workers at S. Korean Electronics Firm in Vietnam Haiphong Go on Strike

Defend the Defenders: About 1,000 workers at a 100% South Korean-invested company in Vietnam’s northern city of Haiphong went on strike on April 11 to protest against the frequent overtime work and poor treatment by the employer, local media has reported.

Workers at Bluecom Vina, an electronics company located in Trang Due industrial park which specializes in making television speakers and earphones, unanimously halted work and demanded the employer set up a worker union that would adjust their bonus as well as resolve problems concerning the excessive overtime work.

The workers complained that the company promised even before the Lunar New Year holiday, which was in early February, that a worker union would be formed in March to protect workers’ rights. However, the date has passed but nothing has happened yet.

Workers noted that they often have to work from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. for six days a week.

The state-run workers’ unionat Trang Due IP has met with Bluecom employer, resulting in an agreement late yesterday that the employees could establish a union within this month. However, the firm has yet to give a suitable response to the overtime work, and thus, the strike still continues.

Currently about 1,400 workers are employed by Bluecom Vina.

In the first quarter, there were 83 labor strikes nationwide, up 12 cases from the same quarter last year. Of the total, 62 strikes, or 74.7%, took place at foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs).

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Hanoi Policeman Apologizes for Spitting at Woman

Defend the Defenders: A police officer in Hanoi on April 11 apologized to a woman after being caught on video spitting at her last week when she refused to let him check her apartment at midnight, state media has reported.

“I had inappropriate actions and behaviors. I will seriously learn from this lesson,” Nguyen Van Bac, 29, told the woman as they met Monday night at a police office in Dong Da district.

There were witnesses from the district police and local media.

The woman, Tran Tu Anh, posted a video on the Internet on the morning of April 8, showing Bac spitting at her through her apartment door after a heated argument.

He demanded to check her apartment on suspicion that she was harboring a wanted criminal. She said she would only let him in when there was a warrant.

Anh accepted the apology, saying she hopes every police officer “learns to behave.”

Bac has been suspended pending further punitive measures.

After Ms. Anh posted the video clip on Internet and filed her denunciation, Dong Da police rejected the accusation, saying the video clip may be fabricated. However, they admitted Bac’s wrongdoing and organized the meeting between the police officer and the victim to settle the case.

Cô gái bị nhổ nước bọt chấp nhận lời xin lỗi và tha thứ cho trung úy cảnh sát

============== Apr 12================

Vietnam Inter-fair Council: Assessments on interview of U.S. Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein to RFA on April 5, 2016

To:

– U.S. Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein

CC:

– UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Heiner Bielefeldt

– Clerics and followers of all religions in Vietnam

– Democratic Governments worldwide and International human rights organizations

Dear Mr. Ambassador-at-large Saperstein

You just completed your tour in Thailand and Vietnam on March 24-31, 2016. During the trip, you met with and held talks with many Vietnamese refugees in Thailand, government officials and some senior clerics in Vietnam.

We, clerics from five big religions in Vietnam and formed the Vietnam Inter-fair Council to fight for religious freedom and beliefs as well as democracy and human rights in the country, had no honor to meet you this time.

In your interview to the Radio of Free Asia (RFA) on April 5, you addressed Vietnam’s religious situation on two aspects: (i) in theory- the draft Law on religion which Vietnam’s government will soon adopt and (ii) in practice- the treatments of the Vietnamese government on the registered and the unsanctioned religious groups.

We have opinions as follow:

  1. We want to reaffirm that Vietnam is ruled by the authoritarian regime with atheist officials. The regime has no sympathy with all religions but considers them as enemies. The communist government strives to control and monitor all religious groups, turning them into bodies to serve for the regime or organizations which remain silent regarding the government’s wrongdoings.

In reality, all religious groups in Vietnam have been under the government’s manipulation, interference and control. The government has not granted autonomy for religious groups, not recognizing their legal existence under Vietnam’s law so religious groups in the country face many obstacles in civil affairs. All religious groups are required to ask for permissions for their activities and obey numerous restrictions.

In addition, the government has established a number of clergies under its control, such as the Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam or the Cao Dai Management Council, The Committee for Solidarity of Vietnamese Catholics, and some Protestant sects. The move aims to divide followers and cheat international community about religious situations in Vietnam. Most of clerics you met in Vietnam belong to such government-controlled religious groups.

  1. You said that “There are some encouraging signs in the way the different drafts of the new law have been opening up religious freedom” while “Vietnam’s officials have admitted that the draft law has limitation on religious freedom but needed due to national security and social order.”

In 2015, when the government publicized the draft Law on Religion which will replace the 2004 Order on Religions and Belief to take opinions from the registered religious groups, many unregistered religious groups, including the Vietnam Inter-fair Council, strongly opposed the draft law and demanded for drastic change or dropping because it will empower the government to tighten its control over religious groups, making the religious group dependent to the authorities. So far, the Ministry of Home Affairs has made minor changes of the draft law but not major changes as proposed by religious groups.

Vietnam has used controversial terms of national security and social orders to restrict right of religious freedom and political and civil rights.

We will show you evidences of Vietnam’s suppression against religious groups

  1. You said that “In the big cities and many other areas of the country, there was widespread agreement that there has been consistent, incremental improvement in their condition. That more churches and houses of worship are getting registered and unregistered churches are able to function with a greater deal of freedom and security then they have been before.”

In fact, the registration of religious group is not just an administrative procedure but asking for permission from the government with many obligations, such as the commitment not to oppose the current government and criticize its policies, and allow the government to control the religious groups’ staff and activities. All registered religious groups have been forced to obey the government’s requirements mentioned above.

The government’s recognition does not grant authorities for registered religious groups. On the same time, many religious groups have been rejected from being registered and being harassed continuously.

Recent government’s suppressions against unregistered religious groups:

– Authorities in the central province of Phu Yen demolished Tuy An church of the independent Cao Dai Church. When followers had been threatened and harassed by police while marked the one-year demolition, and cleric Hua Phi was barred from going to Thailand to attend a conference on religious freedom, his passport was confiscated.

– Authorities in the northern province of Quang Ninh have supported the state-controlled Cao Dai Church to invade Cam Pha Church and Cao Sanh Church from the independent Cao Dai Church.

– Authorities in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue are trying to take over the land belonging to Thien An Catholic School.

– Authorities in the central province of Quang Binh deployed police to suppress Catholic followers in Huong Phuong parish, Vinh diocese.

– In early 2016, plainclothes agents brutally attacked Catholic priest Anton Dang Huu Nam from Phu Yen parish, Vinh diocese.

– Unrecognized Hoa Hao Church has been harassed in the past decades, with more than 20 clerics having been imprisoned. Two clerics self-immolated on the 69th anniversary of the assignation of late leader Huynh Phu So by communist to protest the ongoing harassments of the local government which tries to prevent followers from gathering to pray for their late leader.

– A number of pagodas of the unrecognized Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam have been under the government suppression, including Dat Quang and Phuoc Buu pagodas in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau. Venerable Thich Thien Phuc from An Cu Church in Danang is restricted from going out while Venerable Thich Khong Tanh from Thu Thiem pagoda is under constant surveillance of local police and the local authorities are seeking to take the land on which is resided the pagoda for urban property development.

– Vietnam-American Lutheran Protestant Church has been rejected for registration while its Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh is serving his 11-year imprisonment and his family has been regularly harassed by authorities in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai. Police also harassed Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and followers of Mennonite Protestant Church in 2015.

All religious groups do not have authorities in their organizational affairs as the government has strived to influence on recruitment and training of clerics as well as their promotions. Religious groups have been requested to conduct praying activities in facilities approved by the government. In order to conduct major events, religious groups must get approval from the local authorities.

  1. You said that “For the first time, religious groups practicing their activities at home are allowed to conduct social services. We saw some drug detoxification programs have been carried out by

Dear Sir. The mentioned programs are minor. Even big religious groups have not been allowed to conduct following activities:

  • Propagandizing religious theories outside of their facilities, on social networks and mass media.
  • Having print newspaper, printing, independent radio and television channels.
  • Participating in education, from primary school to higher education. Religious groups are allowed to open kindergartens but under strict control of the local authorities. The government controls programs and staff of religious colleges and universities.
  • Religious followers are not allowed to hold senior positions in the rubber stamp parliament system with exception of some legislators from registered religious groups, the government, police, army and the educational.
  • Since 1954, Vietnam’s authorities have seized churches, schools, land, social facilities and banking accounts of religious groups without returning. Religious groups have no right to land ownership and meet difficulties in expanding their facilities.

Conclusion: When you said that “In the main, there was a feeling that things are moving in the right direction” and you hope that “things going to right direction will also happen to minor community, do you mean the Vietnamese government will respect human and civil rights and Vietnam’s government openness in the two countries’ human rights dialogue has impressed you that it will keep their promises?

Our evidences showed that Vietnam has no freedom of religions and beliefs. You can refer to the report dated March 10, 2015 of UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Heiner Bielefeldt after he visited our country on July 21-31, 2014.

In addition, Vietnam recently adopted the Law on Press, continuing to ban private newspapers as well as deployed a number of tricks to eliminate self-nominees activists from rallying for seats in the parliament in the general election scheduled on May 22. The next parliament will also be dominated by communists.

Vietnam, April 12, 2016

Clerics in the Vietnam Inter-fair Council signed

Pure Cao Dai Church

  • Member of Board Management Hua Phi (phone: 0163.3273.240)
  • Member of Board Management Nguyen Kim Lan (phone: 0988.971.117)
  • Member of Board Management Nguyen Bach Phung (phone 0988.477.719)

Catholics:

  • Priest Phero Phan Van Loi (phone: 0984.236.371)
  • Priest Juse Dinh Huu Thoai (phone: 0935.569.205)
  • Priest Anton Le Ngoc Thanh (phone: 0993.598.820)
  • Priest Paul Le Xuan Loc (phone: 0122.596.9335)
  • Priest Juse Nguyen Cong Binh (phone: 01692498463)

Buddhist

  • Venerable Thich Khong Tanh (phone 0165.6789.881)
  • Venerable Thich Vien Hy (phone: 0937.777.312)
  • Venerable: Thich Dong Minh (phone: 0933.738.591)

Hoa Hao Buddhist

  • Nguyen Van Dien (phone: 0122.870.7160)
  • Le Quang Hien (phone: 0167.292.1234)
  • Le Van Soc (phone: 096.4199.039)
  • Phan Tan Hoa (phone: 0162.6301.082)
  • Tong Van Chinh (phone: 0163.574.5430)
  • Bui Van Luoc (phone: 0169.612.9094)
  • Ha Van Duy Ho (phone: 012.33.77.29.29).
  • Tran Van Quang (phone: 0169.303.22.77)

Protestant:

  • Pastor Nguyen Hoang Hoa (phone: 0121.9460.045)
  • Pastor Dinh Uy (phone: 0163.5847.464)
  • Pastor Dinh Thanh Truong (phone: 0120.2352.348)
  • Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton (phone: 0162.838.7716)
  • Pastor Nguyen Manh Hung (phone: 0906.342.908)
  • Pastor Le Quang Du (phone: 0121.2002.001)

 

=== April 13=====

U.S. Reports on Vietnam Human Rights Practices for 2015

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor- U.S. Department of State

Executive Summary: The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is an authoritarian state ruled by a single party, the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), and led by General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, and President Truong Tan Sang. The most recent National Assembly elections, held in 2011, were neither free nor fair, despite limited competition among CPV-vetted candidates. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces.

The government began implementing laws in accordance with constitutional amendments, including human rights-related articles, promulgated in January 2014. In November the National Assembly passed several laws affecting the rights of its citizens, including a new penal code, criminal procedure code, law on custody and temporary detention, civil code, and civil procedure code. The criminal procedure code and the custody law codified the presumption of innocence, placed the burden of proof in criminal proceedings on the state, recognized a limited right to remain silent in certain circumstances, and loosened regulations on the right to counsel. The penal code retained vague national security provisions and in some areas added new offenses criminalizing preparatory acts.

The most significant human rights problems in the country were severe government restrictions of citizens’ political rights, particularly their right to change their government through free and fair elections; limits on citizens’ civil liberties, including freedom of assembly, association, and expression; and inadequate protection of citizens’ due process rights, including protection against arbitrary detention.

Other human rights abuses included arbitrary and unlawful deprivation of life; police attacks and corporal punishment; arbitrary arrest and detention for political activities; continued police mistreatment of suspects during arrest and detention, including the use of lethal force and austere prison conditions; and denial of the right to a fair and expeditious trial. The judicial system was opaque and lacked independence, and political and economic influences regularly affected judicial outcomes. The government limited freedom of speech and suppressed dissent; exercised control over and censorship of the press; restricted internet freedom and freedom of religion; maintained often-heavy surveillance of activists; and continued to limit privacy rights and freedoms of assembly, association, and movement. The government continued to control registration of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) closely, including human rights organizations. Authorities restricted visits by human rights NGOs that did not agree to government oversight. Authorities and NGOs recorded higher numbers of human trafficking victims, possibly attributable to growing demand among neighboring countries as well as the country’s decision in 2012 to improve its efforts to track and investigate cases. The government maintained limits on workers’ rights to form and join independent unions and did not enforce safe and healthy working conditions adequately. Child labor persisted, especially in agricultural occupations.

The government sometimes took corrective action, including prosecutions, against officials who violated the law, and police officers sometimes acted with impunity. Police corruption persisted.

For details: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015

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Hanoi-based Human Rights Defender Detained, Threatened over Petition against Police Torture

Defend the Defenders: Ngo Duy Quyen, a Vietnamese human rights defender and pro-democracy activist, has been detained and threatened for the second time by Hanoi police several months in relation to a joint petition sent to authorities in the capital city demanding investigation into police power abuse.

Mr. Quyen said he was detained by a group of officers of the Hanoi Police Department in the early morning of April 13 when he was in his father’s house in the northern province of Bac Giang, about 60 kilometers from Hanoi.

The police said they need to take him to Hanoi because he had refused to come to police station as they summoned many time before.

Forcing the activist to go with them back to Hanoi, the police did not allow him to inform his family about the detention. They brought him to the investigation agency for questioning for his role in sending the joint petition via post five months ago. In the petition to then Minister of Public Security General Tran Dai Quang, who was promoted to the country’s presidency last week, a number of Vietnam’s independent civil society organizations raised their concerns on recent deaths of many detainees in police stations and detention facilities.

During the one-day interrogation, police officers asked Mr. Quyen who took initiatives for issuing the petition but the activist refused to answer, saying police illegally detained him so he has no duty to cooperate with them.

Then the police officers threatened that they may charge him with refusing to cooperate with investigative authorities under Article 308 of the Penal Code with maximum imprisonment of one year.

Later, police said they want to return some items they confiscated from the private apartment of Mr. Quyen’s mother-in-law on February 4 but he refused to take them back, saying police must return the items where they took.

After hours of fruitless interrogation, police released Quyen in late afternoon. Before releasing him, they gave him an appointment for the next meeting but he refused, saying the appointment letter is incorrectly written as it did not clarify why he is being summoned.

This was the second detention of Quyen by Hanoi police within three months. On April 4, they kidnapped him as he was on the way to deliver his farm produce to his clients in Hanoi. Later, police went to the apartment of his mother-in-law where his family lives to search the apartment, confiscating many personal items, including two laptops and four cell phones as well as many books and documents and a certain amount of money. 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 warrant for the detention and the apartment search nor allowed him and his relatives to read the original documents. Police released him at mid-night of the same day.

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-Sino demonstrations in the 2011-2014 period.

Due to his political activities, he has been suppressed by local authorities. Under police 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 cannot tolerate the systemic corruption among state officials.

Finally, Quyen returned to his home town in Bac Giang, and together with his brother Quynh, he set up an organic farm for 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 granted financial assistance for 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.

Meanwhile, his wife Nhan is among key members of the Lao Dong Viet (Viet Labor) which fights for a right to form independent labor unions and provide legal assistance for Vietnamese workers.

Vietnam’s government has continued its intensified crackdown against local political dissidents, human rights defenders and social activists as the country completed power transition after the ruling communist party’s 12th National Congress in late January. Last week, the parliament formally approved key state positions, including President Tran Dai Quang, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and top legislator Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan.

Many police officers have been promoted to key positions, including the state president, the chief of Supreme People’s Court and the chief of the Supreme People’s Procuracy.

In the last eight days of March, Vietnam imprisoned seven activists, including prominent bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam) and Nguyen Ngoc Gia (Nguyen Dinh Ngoc). A number of human rights activists, including pro-democracy lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, have been arrested in recent months.

On April 10, Hanoi security forces brutally assaulted and detained eight activists when they participated in a peaceful meeting to mark the 10th anniversary of the pro-democracy group Bloc 8406.

With more police generals assuming key positions in the party and state agencies, Vietnam is expected to continue its socialism path with priority to deepen comprehensive strategic partnership with China, who 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 130 political prisoners at least while Hanoi always denies of keeping any prisoner of conscience but only law violators.

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Police Officers, Princelings Dominate Vietnam New Leadership

Defend the Defenders: Many police generals and officers and princelings were elected to the new leadership of Vietnam in the 2016-2021 period, state media has reported.

Four members of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV)’s Politburo are police generals, namely President Tran Dai Quang, former Minister of Public Security, Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh, who was former lieutenant general, and Head of the party’s Commission for Organization Pham Minh Chinh, former lieutenant general.

Nguyen Hoa Binh, who was promoted to chief of the Supreme Court last week, was a major general before becoming head of the Supreme People’s Procuracy. Mr. Binh is also member of the party’s 200-member Central Committee.

Last year, Lieutenant General Nguyen Duc Chung, head of the Police department in Hanoi, was promoted to the chairman of People’s Committee, the city’s executive body. In the party’s 12th National Congress in late January, Chung was elected to the party’s Central Committee.

Tran Quoc To, a younger brother of President Quang, is also member of the Central Committee. To, who is the secretary of the party’s Committee in the northern province of Thai Nguyen, is a former police major general.

Two police officers have also been promoted to senior positions, namely former Senior Colonel Nguyen Van Nen, former head of the Government Office and currently head of the party’s Office. Last week, the parliament also approved Le Minh Tri, former lieutenant colonel, as chief of the Supreme People’s Procuracy to replace Nguyen Hoa Binh, a former major general.

The new government of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has three princelings, namely Deputy PM cum Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh, son of late Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach, Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh, son of former President Tran Duc Luong, and Governor of the State Bank of Vietnam Le Minh Hung, son of late Minister of Public Security Sen. Lieut. Gen. Le Minh Huong.

=============== April 14===============

Police in Vietnam’s Central Highlands Brutally Beat Wife of Imprisoned Pastor, Questioning Her about Meeting with U.S. Diplomats

Defend the Defenders: Police in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Gia Lai on April 14 brutally beat Tran Thi Hong, the wife of prisoner of conscience Protestant Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, while questioning her about a recent meeting with U.S. diplomats.

In the morning of Thursday, the police in Hoa Lu ward, Pleiku city summoned Mrs. Hong to the local police station to interrogate her about the talks between her and U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein, political officer David V. Muehlke of the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam, political officer Garrett Harkins of the U.S. General Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City and Mrs. Victoria L. Thoman at her private resident in Hoa Lu ward on March 30.

When she refused to answer, police officers started to attack her until her collapsed on the ground. Later, police took her back to her house when she was severely injured.

Her neighbors saw her fell on the floor so they came to provide care for her.

The attack was carried out after the four U.S. diplomats visited her in her private house after the local police blocked her from going to meet them in another place in the city.

On March 7, while Mrs. Tran Thi Hong went to meet with Mr. Harkins in the U.S. General Consulate in HCMC to report the ongoing harassment against her husband in jail, a dozen police officers went to her private residence in Gia Lai to conduct administrative check. Their acts threatened her children of between five and 13 years old, who stayed in their house without their parents at that time.

Mrs. Hong said security forces in Gia Lai have maintained close surveillance over her house and intimidated the family in the past ten years. They had severely beaten Pastor Chinh and her wife many times before sentencing him to 11-year imprisonment in 2012 on the charge of undermining national security under Article 87 of the country’s Penal Code.

Since putting him in jail, police have kept watch over the family, blocking foreign diplomats from visiting the pastor’s wife and children after Ms. Katherine Lawson of the U.S. Department of State visited them in Pleiku in 2014. In order to meet them, Mrs. Hong has to go to foreign diplomatic missions in Saigon, about 500 kilometers from her town.

Pastor Chinh is among the religious activists suffering most from Vietnam’s authorities in Gia Lai and Kon Tum who demolished their church in Con R’Bàng village, Vinh Quang commune in Kon Tum.

Mrs. Hong, an active member of the unsanctioned Vietnam Women for Human Rights, has called for special attention of international human rights organizations and the public.

Meanwhile, Vietnam is preparing for the upcoming visit of President Barack Obama scheduled in late May. Next week, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Vietnam in a bid to strengthen the two countries’ comprehensive partnership and finalize the working schedule of President Obama in the communist nation.

Vietnam has sought to deepen economic and defense ties with the U.S. along with bilateral cooperation in education and other fields. The two countries are members of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement which needs approval of the U.S. Congress. It is unlikely the pact will be easily passed by the Congress which sees human rights situation in Vietnam worsened in recent years.

The attack against Mrs. Hong today, the violent suppression against Vietnamese activists on April 8 when they gathered in Hanoi to mark the 10th anniversary of the pro-democracy group Bloc 8406, and the jail sentences given to seven bloggers and social activists in late March have showed Vietnam’s intensified persecution against local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders after the country completed power transition.

Last week, the rubber stamp parliament formally approved Minister of Public Security General Tran Dai Quang as the president, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc as the government leader and Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan as the top legislator one month ahead of the country’s general election for the lawmaking body in the next five years. Many police officers have been promoted to key positions in the country’s new leadership in the 2016-2021 period.

============ April 16===========

Vietnamese activists Launch Petition Demanding Police to Stop Torture, Harassment

Vietnamese activists have launched a petition to demand the police force to stop torture and harassments against detainees and civilians.

The move came after a series of cases of tortures in police stations and detention facilities as well as the attacks and harassments of police officers against civilians in public places.

In the petition which will be sent to the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security, the New York-based Human Rights Watch, the U.S.-based Freedom House and the UK-based ActionAid International, the initiators listed a number of cases on which police officers brutally beat to death detainees including nine-class student Tu Ngoc Thach in the central province of Khanh Hoa and Nguyen Huu Thau from the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak.

In many other cases, police officers brutally attacked civilians who committed minor traffic violations, causing severe injuries to the assaulted people. Last week, police officer Luong Viet Ha in Ho Chi Minh City knocked down street trader Pham Thien Minh Phong with a deadly attack. Currently, Phong, 28, is under special treatment for severe brain injury after falling on the ground.

Earlier this year, police officer Nguyen Van Bac in Dong Da district in Hanoi on April 8 spitted at local resident Tran Tu Phuong after she refused to let him check her apartment at midnight.

The petitioners have demanded Vietnam’s authorities to stop police power abuse and launch thorough investigation in cases of police’s torture and harassments to bring perpetrators to justice

You can sign the petition here: https://www.change.org

==============April 17=============

Hanoi Security Forces Suppress Bloggers, Blocking Meeting to Discuss Obama’s Upcoming Visit

Defend the Defenders: On April 17, security forces in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi suppressed local bloggers from attending a meeting to discuss the upcoming visit of President Barack Obama to the Southeast Asian nation scheduled in late May.

A number of members of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), including IJAVA’s Vice President Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Vu Quoc Ngu, were blocked from going out of their private residences by plainclothes agents from Thanh Tri district’s police.

IJAVN’s President Pham Chi Dung from Saigon and Vice President Bui Minh Quoc from the Central Highlands, were detained by Hanoi police when they were on their way to the meeting in a cafeteria in Huynh Thuc Khang street.

Hanoi-based blogger Doan Trang was arrested by local police when she tried to go to the meeting. Many other activists who are not members of the IJAVN reported that they have also been barred from going out since early of Sunday.

Around eight bloggers managed to come to the cafeteria in Huynh Thuc Khang street, however, the police ordered the owner not to serve for them so they have to move to another place, Mr. Thuy said by telephone.

The meeting was organized by the IJAVN to discuss the visit of President Obama to Vietnam in late May. Vietnam and the U.S. are working on his working schedule during the first and the only trip of Obama in his capacity as the American president to the communist nation, given the fact that he has served for the two consecutive terms.

The suppression against bloggers at the meeting of the IJAVN, an organization of Vietnam’s bloggers who fight for freedom of press, has shown that Vietnam continues its intensified crackdown against political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders.

On April 8, Hanoi police also violently dispersed a peaceful meeting of local activists when they gathered in a local cafeteria to mark the 10th anniversary of the pro-democracy group Bloc 8406, severely beating and detaining eight activists before releasing them at mid-night of the same day.

In the last eight days of March, Vietnam sentenced seven bloggers and dissidents to between two and five years on charges of conducting anti-state activities under controversial Articles 88 and 258 of the Penal Code. Among those jailed are prominent bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam) and Nguyen Ngoc Gia (Nguyen Dinh Ngoc).

Four months ago, Vietnam arrested prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Le Thu Ha and charged them under Article 88 which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail.

In late March and early April, Vietnamese communists completed the power transition after the communist party’s 12th National Congress in late January, with the election of Police General Tran Dai Quang as the country’s president, Nguyen Xuan Phuc as the prime minister and Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan as the parliament’s speaker.

Many police generals have been promoted to key positions in state and government agencies, including President Quang, Prosecutor General Nguyen Hoa Binh, Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh and Head of the communist party’s Commission for Organization Pham Minh Chinh.

Quang, Truong Hoa Binh, Chinh, and Minister of Public Security Senior Lieutenant General To Lam are members of the 19-person Politburo of the party, the highest decision-taking body in Vietnam.