Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly October 31-November 6: Vietnam Continues Political Crackdown, Arresting Two More Activists

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By Defend the Defenders, November 06, 2016

Vietnam’s communist government continues its ongoing political crackdown, arresting two activists within four days and charged them with controversial provisions in the country’s Penal Code.

On November 2, police in Ho Chi Minh City detained well-known blogger Ho Van Hai who had posted numerous articles on the country’s systemic corruption, environmental issues and the nation’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) on his blog and Facebook page under penname BS Ho Hai. He is the second blogger arrested within one month on allegation of conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the Penal Code.

Two days after Hai’s arrest, the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned Vietnam’s move and requested Hanoi to release him and other bloggers unconditionally and immediately.

Four days later, police in Ho Chi Minh City arrested pro-democracy activist Luu Van Vinh and charged him with carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the administration under Article 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. Vinh was founder of the Coalition of Self-determined Vietnamese People which declared to fight for ending of the Vietnamese communists’ political monopoly.

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières- RSF) has listed General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) as one of 35 predators of press freedom worldwide.

Trong, who took the current position from 2011, was among 35 presidents, politicians, religious leaders, militias and criminal organizations that censor, imprison, torture or murder journalists, according to the Paris-based RSF’s grim portrait gallery published on November 2 on the occasion of International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

According to RSF, as the party’s chief, Mr. Trong, 72, has deployed Soviet-style totalitarianism to suppress local bloggers and cyber-citizens, the only source of independent news and information in the Southeast Asian communist nation.

On November 5, police in Hanoi detained pro-democracy activists and human rights defenders Truong Minh Tam for around five hours in a bid not to allow him to attend the final examination of a bachelor course in law in the Vietnam’s Judicial Academy. Tam is the third activist facing police harassment during their studies in the past few years.

And other important news

 

===== October 31 =====

Vietnam Affirms Commitment to Promoting Human Rights: Ambassador

Vietnam has done its best to preserve an environment of peace, stability, promote sustainable development, to safeguard the full enjoyment of human rights for its people, Nguyen Phuong Nga, ambassador and head of the Vietnam Mission to the UN has said.

Speaking at the October 31 meeting of the Committee for Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs (Third Committee) of the 71st Session of the General Assembly in New York, she reiterated Vietnam’s commitment to joint global efforts and actions to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights for all.

“We place the people at the center of development and have further strengthened our legal system, policies, and institutions by mainstreaming the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights treaties to which Vietnam is a party,” she said.

Vietnam appreciates the role and contribution of the Universal Periodic Review, she said, adding that the country has already presented two national reports and undertaken the Master Plan to implement all accepted recommendations.

The ambassador also noted that during its three years serving in the Human Rights Council, Vietnam has upheld the principles of objectivity, transparency, constructiveness and equal treatment to all.

Vietnam still faces challenges in the promotion and protection of human rights, and one such challenge is the impacts of climate change, she said. Vietnam was severely affected by the unprecedented droughts and salinization a few months ago, and by deadly floods just recently, she noted.

More frequent natural disasters hinder the people’s right to food, health, education and adequate housing, said the ambassador, calling for assistance in addressing this challenge.

The ambassador underscored the Declaration on the Right to Development and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as guiding international legal framework in the field.

She stressed that civil and political, economic, social and cultural or right to development must all be treated as equal, and as such, one right or group of rights must not have primacy over others. The right to development, for instance, should not be delegated to a “second class” human right, she declared.

“While promoting and protecting human rights, we must respect the sovereign rights of states, as well as their historical, social, cultural and development circumstances, enhance mutual understanding, trust, dialogue, and cooperation,” said the diplomat.

Vietnam has been criticized by democratic governments and international human rights organizations for ongoing suppression of political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders. The country has used controversial articles such as 79, 87, 88, and 258 in the country’s Penal Code to silence government critics.

Vietnam has imprisoned around 130 political prisoners who exercised their rights of freedom of expression and assembly enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution. So far this year, it has jailed about 20 activists and detained around ten others.

Hundreds of people have been detained while attending peaceful demonstrations on environmental issues and anti-China protests. Many of them have been tortured in police station. Many other activists have been brutally assaulted by plainclothes agents, according to local human rights groups.

===== November 01 =====

Vietnam Considers Allowing Prison Inmates to Have Private Time with Spouses

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security has issued a draft circular which would allow well-behaved prisoners to meet with their spouses in a private cell for 24 hours with female inmates required to use contraceptives.

The privilege is expected to be given to rule-abiding inmates and the visiting husband or wife must present their marriage certificate or other confirmation papers issued by local authorities in their neighborhood.

According to Col. Tran Huu Thong, a superintendent at Thu Duc prison in the central province of Binh Thuan, female inmates are required to use contraceptive methods and make a written commitment not to get pregnant.

This is a humane regulation that allows husbands and wives have time with each other even in prison, he said.

Under the draft document issued on Oct 20, regulations on prisoners’ rights to be visited, to send and receive mails, receive money and items, and to make phone calls with family members and relatives are all specified.

===== November 02 =====

RSF Lists Vietnamese Communist Leader as Predator of Press Freedom

By Defend the Defenders: Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières- RSF) has listed General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) as one of numerous predators of press freedom.

Trong, who has been in the current position since 2011, was among 35 presidents, politicians, religious leaders, militias and criminal organizations that censor, imprison, torture or murder journalists according to the Paris-based RSF’s grim portrait gallery published on November 2 on the occasion of International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

According to RSF, as the party’s chief, Mr. Trong, 72, has deployed Soviet-style totalitarianism to suppress local bloggers and cyber-citizens, the only source of independent news and information in the Southeast Asian communist nation.

RSF said Trong knows about journalism because he was a journalist himself for much of his adult life. He was the editor of Tap Chi Cong San, a theoretical review that helps to shape the ruling CPV’s ideology. In other words, he practiced journalism that complied with Soviet-style totalitarianism, under which the only legitimate media are those that disseminate state propaganda.

When Nguyen Dac Kien, a journalist of the Family and Society newspaper, expressed an opinion in his coverage of a speech by Trong, he was immediately fired for violating the newspaper’s ethics.

In Vietnam, pluralism is completely banned and the Internet is subject to close surveillance. By decree, all journalists are required to reveal their sources and are forbidden to use pseudonyms.

Bloggers and cyber-dissidents are often given long jail sentences. At least 15 citizen journalists and bloggers have been imprisoned for “abusing democratic freedoms,” “carrying out propaganda activities” or “activities aimed at overthrowing the government” under controversial articles 258, 88 and 79 of the country’s Penal Code, respectively.

According to Vietnam’s law, website with “articles and messages that promote Nazism, violence, a multi-party political system, and ideological pluralism” are regarded as criminal.

Other foreign leaders, including Chinese President and communist chief Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Un, Cuban President Raul Castro, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and the Taliban and Islamic State were also on the list.

Vietnam was ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index. The communist nation is one of the world’s most hostile countries to media freedom, said the Paris-based group.

RSF Lists Vietnamese Communist Leader as Predator of Press Freedom

Blogger detained amid escalating crackdown in Vietnam

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Vietnam Arrests One More Blogger for Alleged Anti-state Propaganda

By Defend the Defenders: On November 2, police in Ho Chi Minh City arrested blogger Ho Van Hai, accusing him of spreading anti-state propaganda in his blog and social networks, including Facebook.

According to an electronic portal of HCMC’s Police Department, Mr. Hai had been posting a number of articles defaming the Communist Party of Vietnam and its government in his blog BS Ho Hai and Facebook account with the same penname.

Mr. Hai, 52, is charged with Article 88 of the country’s Penal Code and if he is found guilty, he may face imprisonment of up to 20 years in prison.

Mr. Hai had posted numerous articles concerning systematic corruption in Vietnam, the Chinese violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South Chin Sea) and environmental issues, especially the catastrophe caused by the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant in the central coastal region in April-May in which hundreds of tons of fish were killed.

Hai is the second Vietnamese blogger arrested within one month. On October 10, police in the central province of Khanh Hoa detained prominent blogger and human rights defenders Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh and charged her with anti-state propaganda under Article 88.

These arrests are part of the ongoing crackdown of the Vietnamese communist government against local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders.

So far this year, Vietnam has imprisoned nearly two dozens of activists. A number of activists, including prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and pro-democracy campaigner Tran Anh Kim have been under police detention for months.

Many international human rights organizations and foreign democratic governments have urged Vietnam to remove controversial articles 79, 87, 88 and 258 of the Penal Code which have been used to silence local dissent. Vietnam has been a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights since 1982 so it must respect universal human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, they said.

Vietnam is imprisoning around 130 political prisoners, according to Human Rights Watch. The country was ranked 175th out of 180 on Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index.

Vietnam Arrests One More Blogger for Alleged Anti-state Propaganda

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Vietnam Urged to Perfect Laws to Better Protect Reporters

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam needs to supplement regulations on rights and obligations of reporters to better protect them amid rising assaults of journalists while on duties, experts have said at a conference in Hanoi on November 2 supported by Canada, UNESCO, and Southeast Asian Press Alliance.

Doctor Le Hong Son, former head of Agency of Examination of Legal Normative Documents under the Ministry of Justice, said that the ministry needs to review all documents relating to reporters to ensure that they are given all rights to report on different issues, especially investigative journalism, without any threats.

Nguyen Duc Hien from Ho Chi Minh City Legal newspaper said that reporters should be equipped with knowledge of their own rights and obligations to work without harming others or benefiting from their writings but they must be protected by laws.

Statistics shown at the event indicate that the number of assaults against reporters in 2014 doubled since 2011 to 38 cases. So far this year, up to 12 cases have been reported.

The latest case occurred when reporter Tran Quang from the state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper was beaten and left bleeding by a group of 10 people who are believed to be plain-clothed policemen when he was covering news on a deadly traffic accident which took place on September 23 on a bridge north of Hanoi.

A video clip taken by other reporters showed that a police officer in plain clothes kicked Mr. The and broke his camera when the reporter attempted to get information of the death of a taxi driver

===== November 04 =====

CPJ Condemns Arrest of Blogger Ho Van Hai, Demanding Vietnam to Release Him

On November 4, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a press release condemning the arrest of blogger Ho Van Hai and requested Vietnam’s government to release him immediately and unconditionally.

“The arrest and detention of blogger Ho Van Hai underscores Vietnam’s reputation as one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Hai should be immediately and unconditionally released, along with all the other journalists wrongfully held behind bars for their writing in Vietnam.”

Hai’s arrest comes amid an intensifying government clampdown on dissent that has targeted independent bloggers in particular, said CPJ, adding three bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh, Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, and Nguyen Ngoc Gia were sentenced for their writing.

Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières- RSF) has listed General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) as one of numerous predators of press freedom.

Trong, who has been in the current position since 2011, was among 35 presidents, politicians, religious leaders, militias and criminal organizations that censor, imprison, torture or murder journalists, according to the Paris-based RSF’s grim portrait gallery published on November 2 on the occasion of International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

Vietnam remained at 175th position among 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index. The communist nation is one of the world’s most hostile countries to media freedom, said the Paris-based group.

Blogger detained amid escalating crackdown in Vietnam

===== November 05 =====
Police Detain Human Rights Activist to Prevent Him from Attending Law Course Final Examination

By Defend the Defenders: Police in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi on November 5 detained human rights activist Truong Minh Tam in a bid to prevent him from attending the final examination of a bachelor law course at the Vietnam’s Judicial Academy.

A group of security officers detained him near the academy at noon prior to the start of the examination and later deported him to his home province of Ha Nam, around 70 km from the capital city, said Tam, a former prisoner of conscience and member of the Vietnam Pathway Movement, a pro-democracy group which strives to promote human rights understanding among Vietnamese.

Police said they detained him to question the activist about his travel to the central province of Ninh Tuan last month. They released Tam in late afternoon when the examination ended, the victim said, adding the purpose of the detention was related to his examination.

Tam, who was imprisoned in 2013-2014 in a politically-motivated case, is the third activist facing harassment in their education in the past few years.

Last month, authorities in the central province of Thanh Hoa pressured Hong Duc University not to allow pro-democracy activist Nguyen Van Trang (Facebooker Trang Nguyen) to graduate from the university’s Science and Technology faculty.

Last year, human rights activist Pham Le Vuong Cac was troubled during enrolment in a Hanoi-based law university as the university did not want to accept him under pressure of police. However, Cac did not give up and later he was admitted to study there.

Since being released in October 2014, Tam has been actively involved in democracy and human rights advocacy works. In 2015, he went to the U.S. to participate in a hearing of the Congress to report on the situation of prisoners of conscience in detention facilities in Vietnam.

In late April, he and former political prisoner Chu Manh Son traveled to the central coastal region to cover news on the environmental catastrophe caused by the discharge of very hazardous industrial waste by the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant in which hundreds of tons of aquatic species died in April-May. They were detained and tortured by police.

He has been suppressed many times by Vietnam’s authorities, suffering from arbitrary detentions, torture, assaults and robberies. (For suppressions on Mr. Tam: http://www.vietnamhumanrightsdefenders.net/category/truong-minh-tam/ )

===== November 06 =====

Vietnam Police Arrest Pro-democracy Activist amid Escalating Political Crackdown

Defend the Defenders: On November 6, security forces in Ho Chi Minh City arrested Mr. Luu Van Vinh, a pro-democracy activist, and charged him with allegation of carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the administration under Article 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code as part of the ongoing escalating crackdown against local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders.

Authorities in HCMC, the biggest economic hub in Vietnam, deployed a large number of police officers to Mr. Vinh’s private residence in the city, local activists said. Police were reported to conduct search in his house several house afternoon of Sunday, they said.

His wife said police brutally beat him and confiscated a number of items, including computers and cell phones.

If found guilty, Vinh may face capital punishment according to Vietnam’s law.

Mr. Vinh, 49, is from the northern province of Hai Duong. He has participated in numerous peaceful demonstrations in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to protest China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea, as well as against the Taiwanese Formosa Plastic Group which discharged large volume toxic industrial waste from its Ha Tinh province-based steel plant into the central coastal waters.

Last year, Mr. Vinh moved to HCMC. In mid July, he declared to establish the Coalition of Self-determination Vietnamese People which aims to fight for ending the communists’ political monopoly. All major issues of the country should be decided by people via referendums, according to the founding statement.

However, he was said to leave the coalition recently.

Mr. Vinh is the third activist detained within one month. On October 10, Vietnam arrested prominent blogger and human rights activist Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh and on November 2, it arrested well-known blogger Ho Hai. The two bloggers were accused of conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88.

Vietnamese communist government has intensified its crackdown against local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders. It has imprisoned around twenty activists and detained nearly ten others so far this year.

In addition, hundreds of activists have been brutally tortured by police officers and assaulted by plainclothes agents.

Vietnam Police Arrest Pro-democracy Activist amid Escalating Political Crackdown