Vietnam’s suppression against political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders in the period between January 1 and July 18

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[themify_box style=”BLUE, ANNOUNCEMENT, ROUNDED” ]In order to keep the country under a one-party regime, Vietnam’s communist government has applied numerous measures to silence government critics, social activists and human rights advocates. Before and after the 12th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam in late January, local security forces continuously harassed, intimidated and persecuted activists. Hundreds of activists had been detained, beaten and suffered other kinds of suppression in the first half of this year.[/themify_box]

Defend the Defenders, July 29, 2016

In order to keep the country under a one-party regime, Vietnam’s communist government has applied numerous measures to silence government critics, social activists and human rights advocates. Before and after the 12th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam in late January, local security forces continuously harassed, intimidated and persecuted activists. Hundreds of activists had been detained, beaten and suffered other kinds of suppression in the first half of this year.

There were 17 cases in which dozens of Vietnamese activists were brutally beaten by police officers and plainclothes in police stations or on street between January 1 and July 18. Due to their attacks, many activists suffered from serious injuries and needed medical treatment and recovery.

Vietnam’s security forces also detained hundreds of activists during peaceful demonstrations, kidnaping dozens of them for interrogation or preventing them from attending peaceful gatherings or meeting with foreign diplomats. Many activists reported that they were placed under de factor house arrest during weekends and weekdays.

On April 10, Hanoi’s police arrested land rights activist Can Thi Theu, accusing her of causing public disorders under Article 245 of the Penal Code. In fact, she and other land petitioners attended peaceful demonstration to demand the government to respect human rights and return their land which was illegally seized by authorities nationwide.

Vietnam has still kept human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha and in detention since December 16 last year for investigation on charges of conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the Penal Code. The two pro-democracy activists have not been allowed to meet with their family members since the arrest.

Police in Thanh Hoa have also kept pro-democracy activist Hoang Van Giang in detention for months in a trumped-up case, accusing him of possession of drug without solid evidence.

In March, Vietnam imprisoned eight activists, including prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam) for their online activities which aimed to promote human rights in the Southeast Asian nation.

Family members of activists, including children of activists were also persecuted by Vietnam’s police forces.

Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Gia Lai and Lam Dong were the localities where local police showed highest level of brutality and disrespect  of law by conducting numerous arbitrated detention.

===============Attacks by police officers and plainclothes on streets

July 17: Blogger Truong Van Dung was beaten by police officer Nguyen Duc Khuong in a police car when the latter deported the activist from Hanoi’s center to Dong Da district. Earlier, police illegally detained Dung when he tried to participate in a peaceful anti-China protest in the city’s center.

July 13: Bac Giang plainclothes agents attacked Mr. To Oanh, blogger and pro-democracy and anti-China activist in Hanoi.

July 10: Hanoi plainclothes agents attacked La Viet Dung, member of No-U movement and pro-democracy activist in Hanoi

July 09: Plainclothes agents in Nghe An kidnaped, robbed and beat eight members of Brotherhood for Democracy, severely injuring Mai Van Tam and Nguyen Trung Truc.

July 7: Police violently suppressed Catholic followers in Con Se parish, Quang Loc commune, Quang Trach district, Quang Binh province as about 2,000 parishioners held anti-Formosa protest. Due to the 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.

July 3: Plainclothes agents in the central city of Danang brutally beat local dissident Nguyen Van Thanh. This is the third attack against Thanh within three weeks.

June 22: while blocking An Giang province-based Hoa Hao follower Mai Thi Dung from going to take part in services observing the anniversary of the sect’s founding, thugs beat Mrs. Dung, using helmets to hit her from behind and leaving her with swollen lips.

June 20: Authorities in the central city of Hue sent 200 police officers and militia to attack Thien An Church, breaking a number of facilities of the church and beating followers as well as threatening the church’s leadership. The move aims to take the land belonging to the church for urban development project.

June 19-20: Authorities in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang deployed a large number of police officers and militia to attack facilities of Cao Dai Buddhist sect in Cho Moi district, beating local followers. Due to the attack, Ms. Le Thi Hong Hanh and Ms. Nguyen Thi Bich Ngoc suffered severe injuries.

June 19: Police forces in the northernmost province of Lao Cai stormed a Protestant church in Muong Khuong district, destroying the church and beating many followers, including the elderly and women.

June 13: Nguyen Van Thanh, who has posted online articles calling for multi-party democracy and better human rights protection, was attacked with dirty mess made of shrimp sauce (mam tom) by thugs in Danang, just eight days after he was severely beaten by plainclothes agents.

May 16-22: Police detained and beaten a number of activists: Tran Hoang Han, Nguyen Huu Tinh, Nguyen Phuong and Tran Ngoc Anh from Vung Tau city, Nguyen Van Trang from Thanh Hoa province and Nguyen Viet Dung from Nghe An.

April 6: Police in the central province of Quang Binh on April 6 used tear gas and electric batons to suppress Catholic followers in Huong Phuong parish, Vinh diocese when the followers protested the local authorities’ destruction of their Easter decoration. Priest Phero Le Nam Cao reported that four followers were bleeding from their faces while one received eye injuries.

April 1: Nguyen Cong Thu, a staff of Defend the Defenders, was severely beaten by numerous police officers and plainclothes in his home province of An Giang. The attackers have threatened to kill him if he continues his human rights activities, including those that promote the right of religious freedom and beliefs. In response to the assault, Defend the Defenders strongly condemned the brutal acts of security forces in the province, particularly in Cho Moi district, and says they are responsible for the safety of Mr. Thu and his family.

=============== Detention & Torture in police custody

July 18: Ten policemen in Phu Xuan commune, Nha Be district, HCMC sealed the mouth and tied hands of environmentalist Nguyen Phuong with tape and beat him in a close room at 11 PM until he collapsed on the floor. Phuong was detained from 2 PM until mid-night just because of filming the police facility.

June 5: Vietnam’s security forces in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh  City and Danang and other localities arrested nearly one hundred environmental activists during peaceful demonstrations demanding government transparency in a serious environmental disaster in the central coastal region which has killed hundreds of tons of marine species since April 6.

A number of activists were severely beaten by police officers during the detentions and in police’s custody. Among the victims of the police abuse are Pham Nam Hai in Hanoi, Nguyen Van Thanh in the central province of Danang, and Nguyen Van Do and Facebooker Huy Truong Le in Saigon. The tortured activists said they suffered serious injuries on their bodies.

Hanoi’s authorities arrested around 70 activists and released all detainees in the afternoon while the police in HCMC still held many activists, including Mr. Luu Van Vinh, Ms. Tran Thi Nguyet, Mr. Truong Huy Le, and Mr. Khanh Le Hoang in the social rehabilitation facility No. 463 in No Trang Long street which is used for holding sex workers, criminals and drug addicts, for interrogation. In this facility in mid-May, the police held hundreds of activists for several days and many detainees said they were beaten by electrical batons during questioning.

May 27-28: Security forces in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Gia Lai continued to harass Mrs. Tran Thi Hong, the wife of imprisoned Protestant pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, said the Vietnam-U.S. Lutheran Alliance Church. In the mornings of May 27 and 28, police officers in Hoa Lu ward of Pleiku city broke the door of Mrs. Hong’s private residence and violently took her to the police station for interrogation. She was beaten during police custody.

May 20-22: Security forces in Vietnam detained Nguyen Viet Dung twice, beating him severely during the three-day visit of U.S. President Barack Obama in a bid to prevent him from meeting with the American leader. He was first arrested in Saigon on May 20, and deported to Vinh after being tortured and interrogated. In Vinh, he was detained by the local police who held him several days during which they beat him severely.

May 8: Police in HCMC were more violent, attacking protestors with tear gas and severely beating many activists. Some of the victims were bleeding as a result. Bloggers said police detained over 300 activists and held them at a local stadium under the hot sun.

April 28-May 4: Former prisoners of conscience Truong Minh Tam and Chu Manh Son were detained by security on April 28 when they went to the central province of Ha Tinh to cover news on the massive death of aquatic species there. Tam was released on May 4 and Son was released earlier. Tam said during the seven-day detention, police officers forced him to take off all his clothes and beat him, and cursed him with dirty words. Tam said police had not shown him any warrant or decision of authorized agencies for his detention.

May 1: Police in HCMC and Danang violently suppressed peaceful anti-Formosa protests, severely beating many people, and detained around 30 activists.

April 14: Police in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Gia Lai 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.

April 8: dozens of Vietnamese activists gathered in a cafeteria in Hanoi to mark the 10th anniversary of the pro-democracy group Bloc 8406 and discuss situation of arrested human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Le Thu Ha. Local security forces blocked the cafeteria in Lang Ha Street near the U.S. Embassy, detaining eight activists including former prisoners of conscience Nguyen Trung Nghia and Thai Van Dung, activists Truong Dung, Tu Anh Tu and Can Thi Theu and four land petitioners. Plainclothes agents brutally assaulted Nghia, Truong Dung, Tu under the witness of hundreds of people on the street.

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

================ Restriction on freedom of assembly and of movement

July 6: Security forces in Hanoi detained Mrs. Vu Minh Khanh, wife of arrested human rights lawyer and political dissident Nguyen Van Dai for questioning for ten hours upon her arrival from Bangkok after a long journey abroad to lobby for her husband’s release.

July 1: Security forces in Hanoi barred a number of local activists, including human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan and blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh from attending an event organized by the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam to mark the American Independent Day [July 4]. The activists were blocked by a large number of police officers and plainclothes agents when they left their private residences for the embassy.

June 30: Police in Ho Chi Minh City detained two local activists Mr. Tran Tu Long and his girlfriend Truong Tue Minh and released them on the next day.

June 29: police forces in the central province of Quang Tri detained former prisoner of conscience Pham Minh Vu but released him on the next day after they failed to accuse him of conducting anti-state activities.

July 3: HCMC-based activist Hoang Dung was detained but freed in the late afternoon of the same day.

June 24: security forces in Hanoi violently dispersed a peaceful demonstration of land petitioners in the city’s center, detaining around 20 of them for interrogation. Among the detainees was Trinh Ba Phuong, the older son of land rights activist and former prisoner of conscience Can Thi Theu, who was re-arrested on June 10 and charged with causing public disorders under Article 245 of the Penal Code.

June 13: Hanoi security forces detained two sons of Mrs. Can Thi Theu, Trinh Ba Phuong and Trinh Ba Tu, and many other land petitioners for ten hours when they held a peaceful demonstration in the front of the government building in Ha Dong district to demand for her release. Police confiscated cameras and cell phones of the detainees, erasing all data including pictures and videos before returning them.

June 13: 30 government authorities including high-level officials stormed a local church in the northernmost province of Cao Bang. During the onslaught, multiple churchgoers were beaten and two were arrested, including a 14-year-old. The priest was taken in for interrogation, where authorities attempted to force him to sign a statement admitting that the church’s activities disrupted the community and endangered security.

June 2: Prominent government critic Dr. Nguyen Quang A was kidnapped and briefly held by Hanoi police few hours ahead of his scheduled meeting with two senior diplomats from the EU.

June 3: Security forces in Hanoi arrested Ta Tri Hai, a street musician who often sings patriotic songs in anti-China peaceful demonstrations in Hanoi and Saigon, and held him for several days in a social rehabilitation center which is used for holding sex workers, criminals and drug addicts despite his strong protest, the victim told his friends.

May 29: Security forces in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi detained a number of environmental activists who conducted a street sit-in demonstration in the city’s center demanding for government transparency in the mass killing of aquatic species in the country’s central offshore. Among the detainees were bloggers La Viet Dung, Tran Thuy Nga, Nguyen Thi Thuy Hanh, Dang Phuong Bich, Truong Van Dung, and Nguyen Van Phuong.

May 20-25: Vietnam’s security forces detained a number of activists while keeping many others under house arrest few days ahead of the planned meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and local civil society organizations (CSOs). Police have detained Hanoi-based blogger Doan Trang and Vu Huy Hoang while security forces in the central city of Nha Trang violently arrested bloggers Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (aka Me Nam or Mushroom Mother) and Mr. Nguyen Ba Vinh.

On May 20, police in Ho Chi Minh City detained former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Viet Dung, the founder and leader of the unsanctioned Republican Party of Vietnam, and questioned him until late afternoon of May 22. The young activist was forced to take a flight to his home province of Nghe An. However, Dung went missing after landing in Vinh Airport, and bloggers suggested that he was held by the local police.

Dozens of political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders across the nation have reported that they were under house arrest as local authorities deployed a large number of police officers to station near their private residences and prevent them from going out.

June 15: Dozens of environmentalists were detained in HCMC, Hanoi and other places after holding short protests against Formosa: Huynh Ngoc Chenh, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, Vo Chi Dai Duong, Long Tran, Ha Nam, Lau Nhat Phong, Cao Tran Tuan, Vinh Le, Hoang Vuong, Vu Ngoc Lan, and Manh Kim, Catholic priests Le Ngoc Thanh and Le Van Loc and others.

May 12: Police in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai summoned Tran Thi Hong, the wife of imprisoned Protestant Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, to police station where they interrogated and beat her.

May 10: Many Hanoi-based members of Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), including its Vice President Nguyen Tuong Thuy and members Vu Quoc Ngu and Le Anh Hung were barred from attending a meeting with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski, who is visiting the communist nation to prepare for the upcoming visit of President Barack Obama to the Southeast Asian nation.

May 8: In Hanoi, police violently detained around 100 activists when they were on their ways to the city’s center. Police also arrested dozens of others while they were sitting on the pavement near Hoan Kiem lake. Detainees were taken to police stations where police officers questioned them. Some reported that police beat several detainees before releasing them in late afternoon.

May 1: On Sunday, around 5,000 gathered in central Hanoi 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.

April 24: Security forces in Hanoi detained five activists at a meeting at a local restaurant to mark the 3rd anniversary of the pro-democracy group named Brotherhood of Democracy. The detainees were freed in late evening of the same day without being tortured or questioned.

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.

April 14: 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.

April 4: Mai Van Tam who represented the newly-formed Vietnam Independent Civil Society Organizations Network (VICSON) in meetings of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC)/ASEAN People’s Forum (APF) in Bangkok on March 31-April 3, was detained and questioned by security forces upon landing in the Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport. After eight hours of interrogation, police released him in very early morning of Tuesday without returning his passport. Tam said he was beaten by police officers in Police Investigation Agency in Hanoi when he came to request for passport’s return.

January 7-9: Police in Hanoi and Nghe An kidnapped two activists Nguyen Huy Tuan and Truong Minh Tam and robbed them before leaving them in remote areas. Tuan was beaten severely.

================  Arrest and imprisonment

May 10: Mrs. Can Thi Theu was arrested on allegation of causing public disorder under Article 245 of the Penal Code. The police said they arrested her due to her public order-disturbing activities in Hanoi’s Dong Da district on April 8. If proven guilty, she may face imprisonment of up to seven years in jail, according to the Vietnamese law.

This is a trumped-up allegation against her mother, Mr. Phuong said. On April 8, Mrs. Theu and many other activists planned to hold a peaceful meeting to mark the 10th anniversary of the pro-democracy group Bloc 8406 and demand for the unconditional release of human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, who was detained on December 16 last year on allegation of conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the Penal Code.

March 23: Hanoi People’s Court imprisoned blogger Anh Ba Sam Nguyen Huu Vinh and his assistant Ms. Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy to respectively five and three years in prison on the charge of “abusing democracy freedom”.

March 30: Blogger Nguyen Ngoc Gia or Nguyen Dinh Ngoc was sentenced to four years in jail and three years under house arrest for posting articles “defaming” state leaders.

On the same day, the People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced three female land petitioners for calling for political change and bringing home-made flags of the former Saigon regime to a demonstration at the U.S. Consulate General in 2014. Accordingly, Ngo Thi Minh Phuoc was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment with an additional three years under house arrest, whereas Nguyen Thi Tri and Nguyen Thi Be Hai received three-year prison sentences and two years’ house arrest.

March 24: The People’s Court in Vietnam’s central province of Thanh Hoa sentenced 73-year-old corruption fighter Dinh Tat Thang to seven months and 11 days on charge 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 Penal Code.

March 2: The People’s Court in Vietnam’s southern province of Long An rejected the appeal of 15-year-old boy Nguyen Mai Trung Tuan, saying the boy is guilty for attacking police with acid when local authorities deployed police and militia to seize his family’s land in mid-April last year.

Vietnam has still kept human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha and in detention since December 16 last year for investigation on charges of conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the Penal Code. The two pro-democracy activists have not been allowed to meet with their family members since the arrest.

Human rights activist and outspoken medical doctor Hoang Van Giang from Vietnam’s central province of Thanh Hoa has been in police custody since mid-October last year on the trumped-up allegation of possessing drug, local activists have reported.

Mr. Hoang Giang was arrested on October 14 and accused of illegal possession of drug, said Mr. Nguyen Trung Ton, a local human rights activist. If found guilty, he could face long-term imprisonment as the country’s law imposes heavy punishment for the trade and possession of drugs.

========== Other forms of harassment and intimidation

Vietnam’s security forces have continued their intimidation against Hanoi-based activists Ngo Duy Quyen and his wife Le Thi Cong Nhan after detaining the husband and searching their private residence and robbing money and other items on February 6.

Mr. Quyen, a member of the charity group Bau Bi Tuong Than (People’s Solidarity) which has provided financial assistance for prisoners of conscience and their families, reported from his home town Bac Giang that many security agents are gathering around his family’s house where he and his younger brother Ngo Quynh are running a farm. Mrs. Nhan, a former political prisoner and member of the independent labor union Lao Dong Viet (Viet Labors) said from Hanoi that the private apartment of her mother in which the couple lives is also blocked by many police officers.

Police in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Lam Dong continue their persecution against local activist Tran Minh Nhat, a former political prisoner. During late night of February 13, thugs attacked the private house of Mr. Nhat’s father with stone, breaking window glass and lamps and threatening Nhat and his family members. One day earlier, also during late night, thugs burned dried wood near the house but the family detected the fire and successfully extinguished the fire.

Human rights activists Nguyen Van Huong and Tran Thuy Nga from Ha Nam province have been under constant persecution of the local authorities which have sent large number of plainclothes to station near their private residences and attacking them with stones and dirty substances.

Many activists complained that their businesses were affected by intervention of local authorities due to their political engagement.

Hanoi, July 29, 2016

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