Vietnam Human Rights Defenders Weekly- April 25- May 01: Thousands of Vietnamese Rally across Country to Condemn Formosa’s Pollution, Many Beaten and Arrested

Defenders’ Weekly | May 01, 2016

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Thousands of Vietnamese activists, fishing farmers and traders have rallied in many localities across the nation to protest the Taiwanese Formosa’s alleged discharge of toxic chemicals which they blame for the massive death of aquatic species in the coastal areas in four central provinces.

Security forces have tightened control in many places, especially in the areas near the Formosa steel plant in Ky Anh district in Ha Tinh province, deploying armored warfare and special units to protect key positions.

On Sunday, around 5,000 gathered in Hanoi’s center and 2,000 people participated in peaceful demonstration in Ho Chi Minh City. In many localities such as Danang, Quang Tri and Quang Binh, hundreds of people also took to streets to raise their concerns on the mass fish death and Formosa’s suspected role in discharging improperly-treated waste into the sea.

Police in HCMC and Danang violently suppressed peaceful protests, severely beating many people, and detained around 30 activists.

Security forces also arrested former prisoners of conscience Truong Minh Tam and Chu Manh Son when they tried to cover news of the environmental disaster in the central region. The two activists are facing criminal charges, observers said.

Twenty independent CSOs and five intellectuals issued a joint statement to demand Formosa to stop discharge of untreated waste into the environment and take measures to clean up the areas affected by their toxic chemicals. They also request Vietnam to tighten control over the waste release of Formosa and launch thorough investigation into the environmental disaster in the affected areas.

And many other important news

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========= April 25============

U.S. Urges Vietnam to Release Political Prisoners ahead of Obama Visit

Voanews.com: The U.S. has urged the Vietnamese government to release all political prisoners and cease its harassment of civil society activists. Officials made the appeal ahead of President Barack Obama’s first visit to Vietnam in May.

“The promotion of human rights remains a crucial part of U.S. foreign policy and is a key aspect of our ongoing dialogue within the U.S.-Vietnam comprehensive partnership,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby Monday, as the U.S. and Vietnam held the 20th session of their Human Rights Dialogue in Washington.

The Dialogue has covered a wide range of human rights issues, including the importance of continued progress on legal reform efforts, rule of law, freedom of expression and assembly, religious freedom, labor rights, disability rights, LGBT rights, multilateral cooperation, as well as individual cases of concern, according to the State Department.

The U.S. had expressed deep concerns over the case of Nguyen Van Dai, a human rights lawyer who was arrested by authorities in mid-December of 2015.

The arrest came as he was preparing to meet European Union delegates who were in Hanoi for EU-Vietnam human rights dialogue.

Speaking on Nguyen’s case last December, the State Department urged Vietnamese authorities to ensure its actions were consistent with its international obligations and called on Hanoi to “release unconditionally all prisoners of conscience.”

Another high-profile case is the trial of blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (also known as Anh Ba Sam), who was sentenced to five years in prison last month for what authorities called “abusing rights to freedom and democracy to infringe upon the interests of the state.”

The State Department raised several concerns about Vietnam in its 2015 Country Report for Human Rights Practices. These problems included “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.”

While newspapers and TV stations still face censorship and legal restrictions in Vietnam, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted progress in Hanoi’s human rights practices, including commitments to bring domestic laws into synch with international human rights obligations.

Blinken applauded Vietnam’s ratification of the Convention against Torture and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as allowing “independent trade unions for the first time in modern history,” in a speech at a Hanoi university last Thursday.

He also commended the Vietnamese government’s efforts to consult with a range of local religious and civil society stakeholders during the drafting of a new religion law, which the U.S. hopes will protect the rights of people of different faiths.

============ April 26=================

Joint Statement Alleged Torture of Mrs. Tran Thi Hong Must Be Investigated

To:     President Tran Dai Quang,

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and

National Assembly Chair Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals call on the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to carry out a prompt, impartial, independent and effective investigation into allegations that Mrs. Tran Thi Hong was tortured by the local authorities of Hoa Lu Ward, Pleiku City, Gia Lai Province, while in custody, bring any identified perpetrators to justice, and provide reparations to Mrs. Tran Thi Hong. We remind the Viet Nam authorities that under international treaties binding the state, torture is prohibited in all circumstances and is a crime under international law.

As a result of the alleged torture, Mrs. Hong suffered multiple injuries. She is a member of the Vietnamese Women for Human Rights (VNWHR), which in turn is a member of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and Asia Democracy Network, and the wife of imprisoned Lutheran Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh.

In the early morning of April 14, 2016, Mrs. Hong alleges she was abducted from her home and brought to the office of the People’s Committee of Hoa Lu Ward, where for three hours she was interrogated and severely beaten by several plainclothes agents. At this office, two women pulled Mrs. Hong’s hair and held her arms and legs while the men repeatedly kicked and pounded on her with their hands and feet. They attempted to extract information about her meeting two weeks earlier with a United States delegation led by Ambassador At Large on International Religious Freedom David Saperstein.

Allegedly as a result of the beating, Mrs. Hong suffered injuries to her head, knees, legs, hands, and feet, which have been documented in photographs. She experiences pain and difficulty when moving her arms and legs. She is also concerned about her head injuries, which cause pain even at a light touch.

On March 30, 2016, the same local authorities had also allegedly used violence to prevent Mrs. Hong from attending her scheduled meeting with the United States delegation. As she was approaching the building where the meeting was to take place, several plainclothes persons blocked her from entering the building and later beat her and forced her to return to her home. Ambassador At Large Saperstein and his delegation therefore had to visit her at her home, while being observed by the local authorities. Mrs. Hong later recognized one of the persons who beat her on March 30 as among those who beat her again on April 14 at the People’s Committee headquarters.

We condemn what appears to have been reliably established as the torture of Mrs. Hong and call on the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to initiate a prompt, independent, impartial and effective investigation into the allegations of torture, prosecute any identified perpetrators, and provide Mrs. Hong with proper medical care and full remedies and reparations in accordance with Vietnam’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). Vietnam is a state party to both treaties.

As government leaders of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, you are in the position to take steps to ensure that national laws comply with international obligations and that such laws are properly enforced.

We also note that Mrs. Hong and her family have allegedly been targeted by the local authorities because of her husband’s religious belief and practices. Lutheran Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh was unjustly sentenced to 11 years of imprisonment in 2012 having been convicted of “undermining national unity” under Article 87 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. In reality he was arbitrarily detained and jailed for simply and peacefully practicing his faith and exercising his right to freedom of religion and belief. His peaceful activities in criticizing government policies cannot justify his continuous imprisonment and the constant harassment of his family.

We respectfully ask that your government immediately and unconditionally free Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh and show respect for international human rights law and standards. The community of civil society organizations and human rights advocates in Southeast Asia and around the world continues to follow the situation of Mrs. Tran Thi Hong and Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh with deep concern.

Signed:

Amnesty International – UK

Promoted Freedom of Religions and Belief Association – Vietnam

Association of Con Dau Parish – Vietnam & USA

Association of Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience – Vietnam

Bach Dang Giang Foundation – Vietnam

Bloc 8406 – Vietnam

Boat People SOS – USA

Brotherhood for Democracy – Vietnam

Christian Solidarity Worldwide – UK

Civil Rights Defenders – Sweden

Coalition for a Freedom and Democratic Vietnam – USA

Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam – USA

Defend the Defenders – Vietnam

Dieu Hau Magazine – USA

Evangelical Lutheran Community ChurchVietnam-America – USA

Human Rights Support in Vietnam – USA

International Commission of Jurists – Switzerland

Jubilee Campaign USA – USA

Movement of the Vietnamese Laity in the Diaspora – USA

Popular Bloc of the Cao Dai Religion – Vietnam

Quê Mẹ: Action for Democracy in Vietnam and Vietnam Committee on Human Rights – France

Religious and Ethnic Minorities Defenders – Vietnam

Thai Committee for Refugees Foundation – Thailand

The Cambodia Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) – Cambodia

The Nguyen Kim Dien Priests Group – Vietnam

VETO! Human Rights Defenders’ Network – Germany

Vietnam Human Rights Network– USA

Vietnamese Political & Religious Prisoners Friendship Association – Vietnam

Vietnamese Women for Human Rights – Vietnam

Honorable former United States Congressman, Joseph Cao Quang Anh, USA

Hoang Hung, Poet, Vietnam

Nancy Nguyen, Human Rights Defender, USA

——————————–

Obama Urged to Seek Freedom for Activists on Vietnam Visit

AP: An international coalition of human rights groups on Tuesday urged President Barack Obama to seek freedom for imprisoned activists when he visits Vietnam next month.

The coalition of 19 groups also wants Obama to tell Vietnam’s authoritarian government that its repression of human rights endangers its participation in the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, or TPP.

The groups made the appeal in a letter to Obama, who will visit Vietnam in May, becoming the third consecutive U.S. president to do so. Signatories of the letter include Freedom House, Human Rights Watch and Viet Tan.

On Monday, the U.S. and Vietnam concluded their annual human rights dialogue, where Washington pressed Hanoi over a recent spate of detentions of government critics and pushed for progress on legal reforms in the one-party state.

The rights groups said that as the U.S. Congress considers in coming months whether to ratify TPP, Vietnam must be made aware of the importance of acting now to confirm its commitment to the pact’s human rights standards.

“Unfortunately, even in light of the agreements it has made as part of the TPP, Vietnam’s crackdown on independent voices shows no signs of ceasing,” the letter said.

It singled out the cases of imprisoned labor activists Doan Huy Chuong and Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung; a Roman Catholic priest jailed for advocating for democratic reform, Father Nguyen Van Ly; and human rights lawyer, Nguyen Van Dai, who was arrested in December.

The letter concluded that Obama should make clear the U.S.-Vietnam relationship will not fundamentally advance without release of imprisoned activists, an end to the harassment of civil society groups, and respect for international law.

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Danang Develops Clubs Combating Violence against Women

Thanh Nien News: A number of anti-domestic violence clubs have been established in Vietnam’s central city of Danang as part of a UN Women project.

Aiming to mobilize the community’s participation in protecting women and girls from violence, the project ran in Hai Chau district’s Hoa Cuong Bac ward and Hoa Vang district’s Hoa Khuong, Hoa Phong communes between 2013 and 2015.

It set up clubs grouping people dedicated to deterring domestic violence against women.

All participating localities have maintained their clubs up to now and plan to establish more.

In 2014, Hoa Phong commune launched its 30-member parent group against domestic violence to equip locals with skills to handle the issue.

Recent local statistics showed that the number of reported domestic violence cases stood at two per year, a decrease from six cases in the past.

Danang has thus far recorded no cases of women trafficking or abuse.

Shoko Ishikawa, UN Women chief representative in Vietnam, expressed her hope that encouraging outcomes of the project will be maintained and these clubs will work to help eliminate domestic violence, especially against girls and women.

================= April 28===============

Vietnamese Teacher Interrogated for Writing Poem about Country’s Issues

Defend the Defenders: Female teacher Tran Thi Thanh Lam from Vietnam’s central province of Ha Tinh has been interrogated by local security officers after her poem about the country’s social issues was broadcast on social networks.

Ms. Lam, a teacher of literature of Ha Tinh High School, on April 25 posted a poem which raised a number of social and economic problems, including environmental pollution, police power abuse, huge public debts, and government’s squandering on construction of giant monuments which have modest social impacts.

The poem has been gone viral on social networks, with over 2,000 shares within a few hours after it was first posted. Lam wrote the poem amid public concerns about the massive death of hundreds of tons of fish in coastal areas in the four central provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue. The mass fish death is likely caused by toxic waste of the Taiwan-invested Formosa Steel Plant in Ky Anh district, Ha Tinh province.

Two days later, Mr. Lam was summoned to a local police station where she was questioned by security officers who later demanded her to remove the poem from her Facebook account.

Ha Tinh province’s Department of Education and Training has also asked her to do the same.

Under the pressure of police and the department, Lam removed the poem from her Facebook page, however, the poem became popular among activists nationwide and abroad.

Vietnam’s government has applied a number of controversial articles, such as Articles 88 and 258, to persecute those who exercise their rights of freedom of expression. In 2011, Vietnam arrested two composors, Viet Khang and Tran Vu Anh Binh, after they produced a number of well-known patriotic songs and sentenced them to four and six years in jail, respectively.

=============== April 29=============

Vietnamese Independent CSOs Jointly Condemn Formosa’s Discharge of Toxic Chemicals Causing Serious Environment Pollution in Central Coastal Region

Defend the Defenders: Twenty Vietnamese independent civil society organizations and five individuals on April 29 issued a joint statement to express their concerns on the ongoing severe environmental pollution linked to the Taiwan-invested Formosa steel plant which has caused the massive death of aquatic species in Vietnam’s central coastal areas.

The joint statement was made after hundreds of tons of aquatic species died along the coast of Vietnam’s central provinces of Thua Thien-Hue, Quang Tri, Quang Binh and Ha Tinh from April 6. The en-mass death of aquatic species is caused as local water is polluted with very toxic chemicals, according to experts, when Formosa, located in Ha Tinh province, discharged roughly 931,830 cubic meters of wastewater into Vietnam’s sea in the first quarter this year.

One diver died and 15 others were hospitalized for urgent emergency after they worked in sea waters in the central region last week, according to Vietnam’s state media.

The leadership of Formosa admitted that they imported 300 tons of very toxic chemicals, including CYC-VPrefilm900, CYC-Vprefilm400, CYC-Vclosetrol360, and CYC-VMA 796 for cleaning their machineries and pipes in its steel production project in Ha Tinh.

In their statement, the independent CSOs and five intellectuals request Formosa to stop discharging improperly-treated waste into the environment and apply all measures to clean up the polluted areas as well as compensate for the damages to the environment and livelihood of people in the affected areas.

They also demand Vietnam’s government to tighten control over discharge of toxic waste by Formosa and not allow the Taiwanese firm to continue to release improperly-treated waste into the environment. The government should close the Formosa steel project if it cannot guarantee not to pollute the surrounding environment with toxic waste.

Vietnam’s authorities have to launch a thorough investigation to find those officials responsible for approving Formosa project without considering its environment impacts or those who failed to control the waste discharge of the project, the signatories urged.

The petitioners have urged Vietnam’s public to strongly raise their voices to condemn environmental pollution linked to the country’s key industrial or extractive projects, including the bauxite mining projects in the Central Highlands and the nuclear power plants in the central coastal province of Ninh Thuan.

They said Vietnam should not sacrifice the environment, the country’s sovereignty, and interests of poor people for fast growth. Vietnamese people should not tolerate those state officials who have worked for their own personal interests but ignored public benefits.

Signatories of the joint statement included 11 member of the 15-member Vietnam Independent CSOs Network (VICSON), namely the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience, Association of Con Dau Parish, Bach Dang Giang Foundation, Nhon Sanh Caodaist Bloc, Brotherhood for Democracy, Religious and Ethnic Minorities Defenders, Association of Bau Bi Tuong Than, Association of Dan oan Doi Quyen song, Vietnamese Women for Human Rights, Defend the Defenders and Freedom of Religions and Belief Promotion Association.

Other signatories included Bauxite Vietnam Forum, Civil Society Forum, Association for Religious Freedom Protection, Vietnam Independent Teacher Association, Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, Bloc 8406, and Vietnam Blogger Network.

Formosa Vietnam belongs to Taiwanese Formosa Plastic Group which has a bad record of environmental protection worldwide. The Germany-based environment organization Ethecon “honored” the Taiwanese firm with “Black Planet Award 2009” for its activities harmful for environment on the global stage.

TUYÊN BỐ CỦA CÁC TỔ CHỨC XÃ HỘI DÂN SỰ ĐỘC LẬP VỀ THẢM HỌA QUỐC GIA TẠI CÁC TỈNH MIỀN TRUNG

———————-

Vietnam Announces Seven New Laws, Including Press Law

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s President Office on April 29 announced seven new laws which were adopted by the communist-controlled parliament of the 13th tenure in its final session in March-April, state media has reported.

The laws included the amended Press Law, the Law on Children, the Law on Information Access, and the Law on Signing, Joining and Implementing International Treaties.

In early April, the Paris-based Vietnam Committee for Human Rights (VCHR) issued a statement saying the amended Press Law and the new Law on Access to Information are the new tools of Vietnam’s arsenal of repressive legislation, just as the authorities are launching a fierce crackdown on freedom of expression in Vietnam.

The amended Press Law, which will be effective on Jan 1, 2017, consists provisions that prohibit the publishing of state secrets or information essential to national security, but there are also vague offenses such as “Publishing false, or distorted information about Vietnam”, or “Provoking violence or propagating depraved lifestyles; describing obscene or criminal acts; publishing information that violates the country’s traditions and values,” said Brett David in his article posted on Forbes on April 27.

The law passed also specifies that journalists need to hand over the identity of their sources if ordered to do so by a “high-level judicial authority”. This situation can, and has, occurred in many countries, and journalists have gone to jail rather than reveal their sources, David said.

The law also maintains state control on journalists by continuing to require that they re-apply for their press cards every five years.

The new Law on Access to Information, which takes effect on July 1, 2018, raises serious concerns regarding freedom of expression and the right to know, and the right of individuals to access information held by public authorities, said VCHR.

———————

Private House of Vietnamese Anti-corruption Journalist Attacked with Paint

Thugs attacked the private residence of anti-corruption journalist Minh Son in My Tho city, Tien Giang province with red paint in the afternoon of April 29, according to the state-run Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper.

Neighbor said they saw thugs coming with motorbike threw red paint at Son’s house front and car and then disappeared. The journalist, who works for Ho Chi Minh City-based Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper, was away on business trip and was informed several hours later.

In the evening following the attack, local police came and took evidence.

This was not the first attack against Son who are active in investigative reporting of criminal cases, including illegal trade of drugs of local princeling and corruption in local state-owned enterprises.

In Vietnam, a number of outspoken journalists have been attacked by thugs while others have been imprisoned after they posted articles condemning state officials, including police officers from taking bribes and committing corruption.

Nhà của phóng viên báo Người Lao Động bị khủng bố

=========== May 01===============

Thousands of Activists Rally across Vietnam to Protest Taiwan-invested Formosa for Causing Severe Pollution, Many Beaten and Arrested by Security Forces

Defend the Defenders: Thousands of Vietnamese have rallied across country to raise their concerns about the ongoing heavy environmental pollution which has killed hundreds of tons of aquatic species along the central coastal areas, local networks have reported.

The peaceful demonstrations occurred in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang city, and central coastal provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue. The protests were triggered by the massive death of fish in the four central coastal provinces which has occurred since April 6. The en-mass death of hundreds of tons of fish along the country’s central coast is likely caused by the toxic waste of the Taiwan-invested Formosa steel plant in Ha Tinh province’s Ky Anh district.

The demonstrations started on April 28 in Hue city and Dong Hoi city and took their peak on Sunday as people in Hanoi and HCMC joined to raise their voices to demand the government to thoroughly investigate the toxic waste of the Taiwanese steel production project. Formosa admitted that they imported 300 tons of very toxic chemicals for cleaning their machineries in the project and discharge waste into the sea through a meter-wide and kilometer-long tunnel about 15 meters below the sea surface.

According to observers, around 5,000 gathered in Hanoi’s center to attend the environmental demonstration in the morning of May 1. Around 2,000 activists participated in the demonstration on the same day in HCMC, the biggest economic hub in Vietnam and the capital city of the former Vietnam Republic. The protestors requested the government to be more transparent in the handling of Formosa’s toxic waste discharge and investigate to find out the real causes of the mass fish death.

Many people demanded Formosa to get out of Vietnam after making compensation for its pollution in the central coastal region.

The number of protestors against Formosa is much higher than the numbers of people who protested China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and the environmentalists who opposed the plan of Hanoi’s authorities to chop down 6,700 valuable aged trees in the city’s main streets last year.

The demonstrations were under close surveillance of the local security forces. Many activists in Hanoi and HCMC have complained that the local security forces barred them from going out on Sunday.

Police in HCMC violently suppressed the peaceful demonstrations, severely beating a number of protestors. Around 20 activists were arrested, local bloggers said.

Activists in the central province of Nghe An and city of Danang reported that local security forces have tightened surveillance and are stationed on main roads.

Police in Nghe An arrested nearly 20 activists including blogger Hoang Binh, Mary Phuong, Hoang Duc and Nguyen Nghiem. Activists in Quynh Luu district reported that local plainclothes agents threatened to kill them if they go out of the district.

Blogger Hong Thai Hoang from Danang said police briefly detained her group, but brought activists Nguyen Duy Vu and Nguyen Van Thanh to unknown location. Police officers severely beat blogger Anthony Minh Bui, blogger Hong Thai Hoang claimed.

Security forces in the adjacent province of Thanh Hoa also arrested blogger Ho Huy Khang and reporter Chu Manh Son of local newswire GNsP.

Blogger reported that all roads leading to Formosa complex are blocked by security forces to prevent angry people to enter the areas near the steel plant.

Formosa Steel Plant belongs to the Vietnam-based Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Co., an affiliate of Taiwanese Formosa Plastic Corp which has a bad environmental record in many countries, including Cambodia and the U.S.

The state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper reported that Formosa discharged roughly 931,830 cubic meters of wastewater into Vietnam’s sea in the first quarter this year.

——————–

Two Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience Arrested, Facing Criminal Charges

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s security forces have arrested two former prisoners of conscience Truong Minh Tam and Chu Manh Son when they were covering news on the environmental disaster in the central coastal region with the massive death of aquatic species in April, state media has reported.

According to the Vietnam National Television (VTV)’s news on the evening of May 1, Mr. Tam was arrested while gathering information in areas near the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant.

Mr. Son, who works for local newswire GNsP, was detained while filming protestors against Formosa which is blamed for throwing untreated toxic waste into Vietnam’s sea, causing the en-mass death of fisheries in the four central provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue.

The two guys may face criminal charges as Vietnam’s communist government has sought someone to blame for recent instability in the Southeast Asian nation.

The police investigation agency will hold the two activists for maximum nine days and after that, they will officially make criminal charges or release them, according to the current law of detention.

Mr. Tam is a member of Vietnam Pathway Movement which works for enhancing multi-democracy and human rights in the country. In October 2014, he completed his one-year imprisonment for fabricated allegation of conducting financial fraud.

He was arrested on Oct 7, 2013 and was charged of conducting financial fraud but in fact, the trial was the revenge for his political activities as he actively participated in demonstration in 2011-2013 to protest China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea). Like other political cases, his trial and the appeal was with maximum security while his family and friends were not allowed to be in the courtroom

Tam said during interrogations, investigating officers always ignored about the allegation but asked him about his social activities. They offered some bargains but he strongly rejected. Later, they tried him at an “open hearing” on which security agents were filled the courtroom.

After the trial and the appeal, he was placed in Prison No. 5 of the Ministry of Public Security in Yen Dinh district in Thanh Hoa province. He spent 167 days in a special room where prisoners are treated like animals without basic human rights.

Tam was attacked and robbed by plainclothes agents two times after being released.

Meanwhile, Mr. Son was arrested on August 2, 2011 and charged of conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the Penal Code. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison and three years under house arrest. During the imprisonment, Son said he was treated inhumanely by prison’s authorities.

After being released in early 2014, Son has been harassed by authorities in his home province of Nghe An. He was severely attacked by plainclothes several times.

The Vietnamese government accuses Son of being member of the U.S.-based Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform Party), a pro-democracy organization but listed as terrorist group by the Vietnamese communists.

Vietnam’s government has intensified political crackdown against local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders prior to the general election for the parliament scheduled on May 22.

In the last eight days of March, Vietnam imprisoned eight political dissidents, including prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Ba Sam) and writer Nguyen Ngoc Gia. The government has also detained prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha since December 16 last year without bringing them to court.

On May 1, security forces in Ho Chi Minh City and Danang barbarically assaulted many protestors and detained dozens of others during peaceful demonstrations against Formosa’s discharge of toxic chemicals which have polluted waters and killed hundreds of tons of aquatic species in Vietnam’s central coastal region. Thousands of activists, fishing farmers and traders have participated in protests in many localities in recent days, including in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Ha Tinh, Hue, Quang Binh and Quang Tri.

In the first half of April, the rubber stamp parliament in the 13th tenure elected the new leadership for the country in the next five years. A number of police generals were elected to the country’s leadership, including President Tran Dai Quang, Vice Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh and Chief of the Supreme People’s Court Nguyen Hoa Binh. Many police officers hold key positions in the ruling communist party, too.

Vietnamese communists vow to keep the country under a one-party regime.