Hanoi Security Forces Detain Many Environmentalists for Street Sit-in Demonstration Related to Mass Killing of Aquatic Species in Central Coastal Region

Environmentalist La Viet Dung in Hanoi's center in the morning of May 29, 2016 before being detained by local security agents
Environmentalist La Viet Dung in Hanoi’s center in the morning of May 29, 2016 before being detained by local security agents

[themify_box style=”BLUE, ANNOUNCEMENT, ROUNDED” ]Meanwhile, Vietnam’s government has yet to reveal the real causes of the en-mass death of aquatic species in the four central coastal provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue since early April. Experts and many activists believe that the toxic waste discharged by a giant steel plant of the Taiwanese Formosa Plastic Corp. in Ha Tinh is causing the death of hundreds of tons of marine species in the central offshore.[/themify_box]

By Vu Quoc Ngu, March 29, 2016

Security forces in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi on May 29 detained a number of environmental activists who conducted a street sit-in demonstration in the city’s center for government’s transparency in the mass killing of aquatic species in the country’s central offshore.

Among detainees are bloggers La Viet Dung, Tran Thuy Nga, Nguyen Thi Thuy Hanh, Dang Phuong Bich, Truong Van Dung, and Nguyen Van Phuong.

Local activists reported that shortly after Mr. La Viet Dung and Ms. Nga hang unfurled their banner “We want to know why fish die massively”, security agents violently took them to a car and drove away.

Police also detained four other activists when they were heading to the city’s center. Police also tried to arrest blogger Mai Phuong Thao when she was in a cafeteria in the city’s old square.

Activists said police took the detainees to unknown locations. They may face accusation of causing public disorders, which carries a maximum prison sentence of two years, under Article 245 of the country’s Penal Code.

In afternoon, Hanoi police released all detainees after confiscating a number of their possessions, including cell phones and cameras. Activist Phuong said he was severely beaten by police officers and militia during police’s custody.

Meanwhile, Vietnam’s government has yet to reveal the real causes of the en-mass death of aquatic species in the four central coastal provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue since early April. Experts and many activists believe that the toxic waste discharged by a giant steel plant of the Taiwanese Formosa Plastic Corp. in Ha Tinh is causing the death of hundreds of tons of marine species in the sea off the central coastline.

Instead of publicizing the causes of the environmental disaster in the central coastal region and taking urgent actions to deal with it, state media has propagandized that the fish caught in the region is safe for consumption. They have also launched campaign to call on Vietnamese people to purchase fish harvested by local fishermen and make visits to the beach in the region.

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development announced that salt produced in the affected areas contains permissible residues of heavy metals and is safe for cooking and food processing. The ministry’s conclusion is highly questionable as it was made based on fast testing of only a few samples taken in the same localities which have not reported the exact serious situation, said environmentalists.

Local social networks have reported the suspected poisoning of a number of people who consumed seafood taken from the shore of Nghe An province, the neighbor province of Ha Tinh where the steel plant of Formosa is located.

Many whales were reported to have beached and died in the central coast. However, state media was reportedly forced not to cover their deaths.

Thousands of Vietnamese activists have rallied in big cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang and Danang since early May to demand the government to carefully investigate the en-mass death of fish and adopt proper measures to prevent further pollution and clean the water. In response, Vietnam’s police have violently suppressed the peaceful demonstrations, severely beaten and arrested hundreds of people, including the elder, female and children.

On May 15, police in HCMC arrested hundreds of activists, holding them in a local rehabilitation facility, which is used for holding sex workers, criminals and drug addicts, for interrogation. Many detainees claimed that they were beaten by electrical batons during interrogation before being released several days later.

The Ministry of Public Security has also deployed huge number of police and plainclothes agents to the private residences of many political dissidents, social activists and human rights, putting them de facto under house arrest to prevent them from taking part in demonstrations.

Meanwhile, Vietnamese in foreign countries, including Japan, France, Australia and the U.S. have rallied in front of Vietnam’s diplomatic corporations to raise their concerns about the massive death of fish and the slow actions of the Vietnamese government on the case.

The UN Office of High Commissioner on Human Rights, dozens of U.S. Congress members and many international human rights organizations, including the New York-based Human Rights Watch and the London-based Amnesty International have condemned Vietnam’s suppression against peaceful environmentalists.

Vietnam’s government has strived to maintain high growth rate of gross domestic products (GDP), allowing foreign countries to develop many industrial zones without paying special attention to environmental consequences, said economists and environmentalists.

It has a zero tolerance on critics and used a number of controversial articles such as 79, 88 and 258 to silence local dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders. According to Human Rights Watch, Vietnam is holding over 100 prisoners of conscience./.