Vietnam Human Rights Defenders Weekly July 4-10: Vietnam Police Fire Tear Gas to Suppress Anti-Formosa Protest in Quang Binh Province

Vietnam Human Rights Defenders Weekly | July 10, 2016

tuần tin

On July 7, police in the central province of Quang Binh used tear gas and batons to suppress an anti-Formosa protest of around 2,000 local residents, beating and injuring many participants. Some protestors used stones to fight back.

The demonstrators came from Con Se parish in Quang Loc commune, Quang Trach district who are fishermen who have had no revenues for months due to sea water contamination caused by the discharge of toxic chemicals from Formosa Hung Nghiep steel plant in the central province of Ha Tinh.

Vietnam’s security forces have continued their persecution against political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders. On July 9, plainclothes agents in the central city of Nghe An robbed and tortured pro-democracy activists Nguyen Trung Truc and Mai Van Tam and six others including three female after they attended the wedding party of a local activist. After beating the eight activists and taking all their money, cell phones and personal documents, the attackers took off the victims’ clothes and threw them at a remote area.

On Sunday, plainclothes agents in Hanoi attacked La Viet Dung, one of the most active nationalists and pro-democracy fighters, after he attended a dinner with other activists in the capital city. Earlier, the football match of No-U Hanoi, of which Dung is a member, was under close surveillance of many police officers and plainclothes agents. The No-U Hanoi is a football team which publicly opposes China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).

On July 6, security forces in Hanoi detained Mrs. Vu Thi Minh Khanh for ten hours, wife of arrested prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, when she came home after a long foreign trip during which she lobbied for her husband’s release. Security officers interrogated her about her purposes and activities in foreign countries, however, she refused to cooperate with them.

On July 8, Vice President Bui Minh Quoc of the unsanctioned Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) submitted his petition to senior state officials to denunciate the violations of his right of freedom of movement by the police forces in the Central Highlands of Lam Dong. Four days earlier, he was barred from traveling to Saigon to attend an event marking the 2nd anniversary of the association.

And many other important news

================== July 4=====================

Vietnam, South Korea, Mongolia back LGBT rights

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has decided to appoint an “independent expert” to identify the causes of violence and discrimination against gay and transgender people.

Vietnam, South Korea and Mongolia are the only three Asian member states of the UNHRC to back the UN mandate to protect LGBT rights. The other 23 countries that supported the mandate are from Europe, Latin America and the Western Balkan.

In response to the decision, a spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said in a statement to journalists in New York: “I can tell you that the Secretary-General believes that the Human Rights Council marked another important step forward when it decided to appoint a UN Independent Expert to monitor and report on levels of violence and discrimination against LGBT people globally.

“It is clear that there’s still so much that needs to be done to protect people from violence, tackle discrimination at work, end bullying in schools and ensure access to healthcare, housing and essential services.”

The expert will be appointed in September, and carry out a three-year term to conduct country visits and take up individual allegations with governments.

Vietnam, South Korea, Mongolia back LGBT rights

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Police attack again Thien An Monastery in Hue

Asia News: Vietnamese authorities have attacked again the Catholic Monastery of Thien An in the central city of Hue, which has been targeted for land grabs in the past few years.

On June 26, police raided the religious community as the monks were building a path from the main building to the garden.

The following day the abbot Nguyen Van Duc sent a petition of protest to the local People’s Committee, which is located in the Archdiocese of Hue, to the European Commission in Vietnam, and to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, denouncing the illegal land grab and the disrespectful attitude taken by Communist agents.

The monastery has been the victim of government harassment since 1998, when Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Cong Tan signed the expropriation order to seize land next to the monastery.

A priest, who requested anonymity, noted that the government acted illegally by issuing two orders at the same time – one to appropriate the land and the other to evict those who live on it.

“We will be the winner if this is done according to the law, but we will lose if they ignore the law,” he said.

Founded on 10 June 10 1940 by French missionaries, Thien An monastery is visited regularly by the faithful. It is home to priests, men and women religious as well as seminarians, who engage in pastoral activity for Catholics and others in three different churches in the city.

The local government officials had planned to seize 100 acres of the monastery’s land and an adjacent structure for the construction of a leisure center and amusement park.

Officials hired thugs to try to frighten the Catholics to them to leave the area.

In Vietnam, religious freedom is constantly shrinking. Religious groups are victims of acts of violence, threats and land grabs.

For weeks, the Sisters of Saint Paul of Hanoi have been guarding their land to prevent any confiscation.

Police attack again Thien An monastery in Hue

============ July 5============

Vietnamese Fun Clip Makers Apologize Publicly after Police Interrogation

Defend the Defenders: A group of Vietnamese film-making amateurs, most of whom are students, has made a public apology for their recent short video clip about the recent final state examination of high schools, state media has reported.

The seven-person group in the central city of Hue said on July 5 that it regretted their acts and asked for public forgiveness after some of its members were interrogated by local police officers, newspapers said.

On July 3, the group released a video clip lasting 3 minutes and 30 second in which interviews are conducted of students who just came out of the examination room. The actors criticized the examination and the Vietnamese education system with fun stories.

Their product, posted on youtube.com and other social networks, has attracted strong attention of online viewers who then shared the video. However, Vietnam’s authorities said the clip has undermined the examination and defamed the country’s educational system.

The clip is just for fun and there is no need to be too strict with the young producers, said many viewers. Others see shortcomings of the country such as corruption and outdated education in their clip.

Head of the Thua Thien-Hue provincial Department of Education and Training Pham Van Hung had requested the local police to investigate the case. He has also ordered representatives of the local schools to watch the clip to identify the video makers for administrative punishment.

Vietnam has limited freedom of expression. Recently, a teacher and a television star had been publicly criticized for their personal views on some social issues. Authorities even revoked the press card of reporter Mai Phan Loi of the state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper for his recent Facebook post related to the crash of the military’s CASA-212 helicopter.

The communist nation was placed 175th among 180 countries for the freedom of press in 2016, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), unchanged from its position from last year.

In RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index, Vietnam was accused of violating freedom of press, freedom of speech, democracy and human rights.

Vietnamese officials are stepping up repression of old and new media even as they promote an image of an open, globalized economy, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

More than 30 Vietnamese bloggers and two journalists are imprisoned for allegedly abusing democracy and freedom while the government has used controversial articles such as Article 79, 88 and 258 in the Penal Code to silence local dissents.

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Vietnam News Agencies Requested to Tighten Control over Facebook Fanpages

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communications has asked local news agencies to check the contents on their Facebook fanpages to ensure correct implementation of the government’s regulations on operations of social networks, state media reported.

According to a document signed by the head of the ministry’s Bureau of Press earlier this month, Vietnamese news agencies must keep a close watch on the fan pages to remove comments that defame the party, the state, and senior state officials, according to the VietNamNet newswire.

The document noted that heads of news agencies would be strictly punished if bad comments appear on their fan pages, according to the newswire.

The request was made in the context that almost all news agencies run fan pages to boost integration with their readers amid the booming of social networks.

The Thoi Bao Kinh Te Viet Nam newspaper has reported that social networks and information portals have mushroomed in Vietnam to a record high number of more than 1,700 units, ten times as high as that of state-controlled online news outlets.

Facebook is well-known in Vietnam, becoming one of the most preferred communication tools among local residents. The country has more than 30 million Internet users, 74.1% of whom are using Facebook.

Following the boom of social networks and news portals, the government has issued a revised draft law clarifying both rights and obligations of journalists and heads of press agencies in keeping the news sources and disclosure as well.

 ============ July 6==========

Wife of Vietnamese Arrested Prominent Dissident Detained after Foreign Trip

Defend the Defenders: On July 6, Vietnam’s security forces reportedly detained Vu Minh Khanh, the wife of arrested human rights lawyer and political dissident Nguyen Van Dai, when she returned from abroad where she sought international support for his release, local activists have said.

Mrs. Khanh, who went to the EU, the U.S. and other countries in April-July to lobby for her husband’s case, was believed to be taken into police custody upon her arrival at Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport.

She was said to be on a Bangkok-Noi Bai international flight which was scheduled to land in the capital city of Hanoi at 1.45 PM. After passengers from the flight were checked out, she still has not appeared, said activists who came to pick her up in the arrival terminal.

Dozens of activists have still been waiting for her for hours in the airport.

Vietnam’s security forces have detained many local activists for interrogation after they return from foreign countries. In some cases, they confiscated activists’ passports after hours of questioning in police station.

During her trip to the U.S., the EU, Australia and other countries, Mrs. Khanh met with many legislators, government officials and human rights organizations to call for their support for her husband’s freedom.

She also attended a number of hearings conducted by parliaments of the visited countries to report about the arbitrary detention of Mr. Dai and other Vietnamese activists who had bravely criticized the Vietnamese government policies in socio-economic issues.

Mr. Dai, former political prisoner, was arrested on December 16 last year and charged under Article 88 of the country’s Penal Code for “conducting anti-state propaganda against the state.” His assistant, Ms. Le Thu Ha was also detained on the same day and faces the same allegation.

His re-arrest came just few months after his four-year house arrest ended. His detention was condemned by international human rights groups, including the New York-based Human Rights Watch, the London-based Amnesty International and the Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders and many Western governments.

In January, 26 international organizations issued a joint statement calling for unconditional release of Mr. Dai and Ms. Ha.

Mr. Dai, a lawyer by profession, was arrested in 2007, together with Le Thi Cong Nhan, another prominent dissident, on the charge of conducting anti-state propaganda. He was sentenced to four years in jail and additional four-year house arrest. He was released in 2011 but kept under house arrest until June last year.

After being freed four years ago, Mr. Dai has continued his activities to promote multi-party democracy and human rights in the communist nation. He formed the Brotherhood for Democracy and the Vietnam Center for Human Rights, which have attracted participation of hundreds of young activists nationwide.

Before being re-arrested, Dai had been harassed by police forces who keep constant surveillance on him. He was attacked several times by thugs, most recently in the central province of Nghe An several days before his arrest. About 20 thugs with wooden bars brutally beat Dai and three fellow activists after they attended a meeting with local activists to mark International Human Rights Day [Dec. 10].

The arrest of lawyer Dai is part of an intensified crackdown by Vietnam’s communist government against local dissidents and social activists. According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Vietnam is holding 130 political prisoners.

http://www.vietnamhumanrightsdefenders.net

=========== July 7============

Vietnam Violently Disperses Anti-Formosa Protest, Injuring Four People in Central Province

Defend the Defenders: On July 7, security forces in Vietnam’s central coastal province of Quang Binh violently suppressed an anti-Formosa protest of around 2,000 local residents, beating and injuring a number of demonstrators, local activists said.

Due to police attacks, Mr. Pham Duc, 48, suffered numerous serious injuries on his head and body. He is currently under urgent medical treatment at the Ba Don Hospital. Mr. Hoang Van Thanh, 20,  and Hoang Tan Thanh, 10, also received serious injuries on their faces.

Mr. Nguyen Van Xuan, 33, said policemen beat him on his back with batons.

All of them are Catholic followers from the Con Se parish in Quang Loc commune, Quang Trach district.

The police’s suppression started at 10.30 AM of Thursday after people from the parish rallied on local roads to demand halting Hung Nghiep Formosa steel plant owned by the Taiwanese Formosa Plastic Group. The plant discharged a huge volume of toxic waste in Vietnam’s sea water and caused environmental disaster which has killed hundreds of tons of fish in the central coastal region since early April.

The demonstrators hang their banners requesting Formosa to take actions to clean the local sea water before moving out of the central province of Ha Tinh where the steel plant is located.

Catholic priest Phero Hoang Anh Ngoi from the Con Se parish confirmed that some demonstrators were severely injured. Policemen attacked the protestors who fought back, he said. The priest said the demonstration broke out as local residents are upset because they haven’t been able to go to sea since the mass fish deaths in April. On top of this, a lot of fish in some of the river farms have died during the last four days, and they can’t sell their fish in the markets.

Formosa is said to be paying a compensation of $500 million, but the people think this is not enough to save their lives, let alone the lives of people in all four coastal provinces. The government won’t be able to pay for their hospital fees, schooling, or daily expenses year after year, the affected fishermen said.

According to a video clip posted on Internet, police tear gas at protestors while some demonstrators threw stones at them.

There is no information about the police casualties from the clash.

Con Se parish is a fishing village in Quang Binh. Local residents’ livelihood depends entirely on fishing activities and has been seriously affected when the sea was contaminated with toxic chemicals discharged by the Hung Nghiep Formosa steel plant located in the China-invested Vung Ang Economic Zone in Ha Tinh province’s Ky Anh district.

The massive fish deaths started on April 6 along 200 kilometers of the coastline in the four provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue. The environmental disaster is so serious that local fishermen cannot sell their catches due to contamination with heavy metals. Many people reportedly have suffered from food poisoning after eating contaminated fish.

The government has provided some rice and financial assistance to people in the affected areas, however, the support is not enough for their basic need, said the affected people.

On June 30, nearly three months after the disaster started, Formosa investors admitted their wrongdoing and committed to pay $500 million in compensation. The government plans to use the money to support affected fishermen under the form of soft loans to help them build large-scale boats for offshore fishing and switch to other jobs.

Many experts and environmentalists said Formosa’s compensation sum is very small, not enough for cleaning the environment in the affected areas and supporting local residents. They have also urged the permanent suspension of the Formosa steel plant to prevent further contamination.

In May-June, Vietnam’s security forces violently suppressed many peaceful anti-Formosa demonstrations of activists and environmentalists in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, beating and arresting hundreds of participants. Many detainees said they were tortured and badly treated in police custody.

Recently, Minister of Public Security To Lam, who took office in mid-April, requested the security forces to take tougher measures to deal with spontaneous demonstrations to ensure social order.

However, people in many localities continue to gather in public places to express their dissatisfaction to government socio-economic policies, especially the settlement of the environmental disaster caused by the Taiwanese company.

——————————

Wife of Arrested Human Rights Lawyer Released after Ten-hour Interrogation

Defend the Defenders: Security forces in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi released Mrs. Vu Minh Khanh, the wife of arrested prominent political dissident and human rights advocate Nguyen Van Dai, mid-night of July 6 after ten hours of interrogation about her foreign trip in April-July.

Mrs. Khanh, who was in the U.S., the EU, Australia and Canada to lobby for her husband’s release, was taken into police’s custody immediately after she came from Bangkok afternoon of Wednesday.

During the detention, she was interrogated by security forces about the purposes of her travel abroad in April-July. However, she refused to answer, saying she has no duty to report her activities in foreign countries to police.

Dozens of activists came to the Noi Bai International Airport to support her and stayed there until 10 PM without seeing her going out of the local police station.

During her staying abroad, Mrs. Khanh met with many legislators, government officials and human rights organizations to call for their support for her husband’s freedom.

She also attended a number of hearings conducted by parliaments of visited countries to report about the arbitrary detention of Mr. Dai and other Vietnamese activists who had bravely criticized the Vietnamese government policies in socio-economic issues.

Mr. Dai, former political prisoner, was arrested on December 16 last year and charged under Article 88 of the country’s Penal Code for “conducting anti-state propaganda against the state.” His assistant, Ms. Le Thu Ha was also detained on the same day and faces the same allegation.

————————-

Vietnam Bill on Association Limits Freedom of Association: Legal Expert

Defend the Defenders: The Vietnamese draft Law on Association would limit citizens’ right of freedom of association as it empowers the government to intervene in the organization and activities of associations, said legal expert Dr. Hoang Ngoc Giao at a seminar organized by the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations on the bill in Hanoi on July 7.

The draft law stipulates that all associations work under supervision of the Ministry of Home Affairs and other state agencies. The regulation really limits the operations of associations, said Dr. Giao, who is head of the Institute for Policy Research, Development Law and PLD.

The criteria for association’s regulations and their leaders are unclear, creating difficulties for any group in seeking approval of government agencies for associations’ establishment, Mr. Giao noted.

Other experts said Vietnam’s government has tried to control all associations but ignore their roles in contributing opinions to the government and other state agencies on socio-economic issues.

They urged lawmakers and ministries responsible for formulating the draft law to collect opinions from experts and civil organizations to align the bill with real-life needs.

Vietnam has delayed passing the draft Law on Association for 25 years. The bill is expected to be submitted to the parliament in October for discussion and approval.

Vietnam has 500 civil associations and non-government organizations at the national level, 4,000 associations at the provincial level and 10,000 at district and communal levels.

The government has subsidized 8,792 civil associations, providing human and financial resources, and facilities for them.

According to the estimation of the Institute for Policy Research, Development Law and PLD, the operation costs of all association reach between VND45.6 trillion ($2.04 billion) and VND68.1 trillion annually, accounting for 1%-1.7% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Due to difficulties in registry, many associations remain unsanctioned. Many others have been under constant persecution of the local authorities.

Last year, then Minister of Public Security Tran Dai Quang, who is the incumbent president, labeled around 60 independent civil society organizations as “reactionary groups.”

======== July 8=========

IJAVN Vice President Appeals against Being Barred from Attending 2nd Association Anniversary

On July 8, Vice President Bui Minh Quoc of the unsanctioned Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) submitted his petition to senior state officials to denunciate the violations of his right of freedom of movement by the police forces in the Central Highlands of Lam Dong.

According to his letter sent to many senior officials, including the prime minister and the minister of public security, Mr. Quoc said the local police forces blocked him, not allowing him to go to Saigon to attend an event marking the 2nd anniversary of IJAVN which was held in Vietnam’s biggest economic hub on July 4.

The door of his private residence in Lam Dong was locked by thugs on early morning of July 4 when he planned to take a bus to Saigon.

One day before, Lam Dong security officers came to his private house to ask him not to go to the meeting, Quoc said.

Meanwhile, IJAVN held a party in Saigon on July 4 to mark the 2nd anniversary of the organization which fights for freedom of press in Vietnam. Many independent journalists and bloggers participated in the event, which also attracted the participation of Charles Sellers, political officer of the U.S. Consulate General in the city.

IJAVN has nearly 100 members across Vietnam and abroad.

Thư khiếu nại chính quyền trung ương của nhà báo Bùi Minh Quốc

=========== July 9==========

Eight Vietnamese Activists Brutally Beaten by Nghe An Police

Defend the Defenders: On July 9, police forces in Vietnam’s central province of Nghe An allegedly assaulted a group of eight activists from Quang Binh when they came to the province to attend a wedding party of a local pro-democracy activist.

Arriving in Nghe An for the wedding party of Nguyen Hai,  the group consisting of five male and three female activists led by Nguyen Trung Truc and Mai Van Tam were kidnapped, beaten and robbed by plainclothes agents. Hai and the attacked activists are member of the pro-democracy group Brotherhood of Democracy which was established by human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai who was arrested on December 16 last year.

The attackers detained the visiting activists, taking all their wallets, cell phones and documents and beating them. They took off their clothes and left them in a remote area between Nghe An and the neighbor province Ha Tinh.

Eight activists suffered from severe injuries and were taken by local Catholic parishioners to a hospital for urgent treatment.

Meanwhile, former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Viet Dung, founder and president of the unsanctioned Republican Party of Vietnam, was deported by police in Ho Chi Minh City to his home town of Nghe An. The city police detained him, beating him and later taking him to the Tan Son Nhat International Airport where they forced him to take a domestic flight to Vinh, where local police officers awaited and detain him to a car where they beat and interrogated Dung. They threatened to be tougher against him next time.

Last month, police in HCMC also detained Dung, beating and interrogating him before deporting him to Nghe An. In Nghe An, Dung was also held by local police officers who interrogated and tortured him, and released him several days later.

Vietnam’s security forces have intensified their persecution against local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders amid increasing social dissatisfaction with the government’s response to the environmental disaster in the central coastal region, worsening human rights situation and the government’s weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).

On July 7, police in the central coastal province of Quang Binh used tear gas to suppress a demonstration of around 2,000 Catholic followers in Con Se parish, injuring many people. Some protestors also fought back by throwing stones and bricks at the police. The demonstrators demanded the Taiwanese Formosa Plastic Group to remove its Hung Nghiep Formosa steel plant in the central province of Ha Tinh after it admitted discharging huge volume of toxic waste into Vietnam’s sea water and caused the massive death of marine species in the 250-km coastline from Ha Tinh to Thua Thien-Hue.

Vietnamese activists and environmentalists have disagreed with the government’s settlement of the environmental disaster caused by Formosa in the central coastal region, saying the $500 million compensation from Formosa is not enough for environment cleaning and supporting the affected people, including fishermen, salt farmers and tourism-related businesses in the region.

Recently, Vietnam’s Minister of Public Security Senior Lieutenant General To Lam, who is also Politburo member of the ruling communist party, threatens to use tougher measures to prevent spontaneous demonstrations. However, Vietnamese activists in many localities have conducted peaceful demonstrations to demand permanent suspension of the Ha Tinh province-based Formosa steel plant and request the Taiwanese company to clean the marine environment in the central region and fully compensate the affected people.

http://www.vietnamhumanrightsdefenders.net

============= July 10=============

Hanoi Anti-China Activist Brutally Beaten by Plainclothes Agents after No-U Football Match

Defend the Defenders: On July 10, security forces in Hanoi allegedly attacked La Viet Dung, a member of No-U football team, which opposes China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea), after the team’s Sunday match.

The No-U striker received serious injuries on his body and head, and was taken to a hospital for urgent treatment.

During the match of No-U (which means Say No to U-shaped line claim of China in the East Sea) in the capital city, local authorities sent many police officers and plainclothes agents to closely monitor the local activists who came to play football and see each other.

Police also demanded the football field owners not to allow the No-U team to play, however, the team refused to leave the field, saying the two sides need to respect the signed contract.

After the match, the players and supporters came to have a dinner at a restaurant near the My Dinh national stadium. Police also sent plainclothes agents to watch the restaurant.

After finishing the dinner, the activists dispersed to go home. On his way, Dung was assaulted by a group of five or six plainclothes agents who attacked him with bricks, causing a number of injuries on his head and body after leaving the scene.

Dung is the tenth victim of police persecution during this weekend. Yesterday, pro-democracy activists Nguyen Trung Truc and Mai Van Tam and six others, including three female from the central coastal province of Quang Binh were robbed and beaten by plainclothes agents in the central province of Nghe An when they came to the central province of Nghe An to attend a wedding party of a local activist.

Also on Saturday, Nghe An province-based activist Nguyen Viet Dung was detained by security forces from Ho Chi Minh City who later deported him to his home province. In Vinh city, Dung was held by local police for hours. He said police officers in HCMC and Vinh tortured him during the detentions.

Vietnamese communists have controlled the country for decades and they have no willingness to give up and share power with any party. The ruling communist party has asked the police forces to take all measures to prevent the establishment of opposition.

Recently, Minister of Public Security Senior Lieutenant General To Lam requested the security forces to prevent spontaneous demonstration to ensure the political stability in the Southeast Asian nation.

No-U was established in 2011 and its members are anti-China activists. It has called on local people to participate in peaceful demonstrations to protest China’s expansionism in the East Sea.

The team has been under constant suppression of authorities in Hanoi who have asked field owners not to allow the team to play in their fields, forcing the team to move from one field to another.