Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for October 16-22, 2017: Vietnam’s Crackdown Continues, with Female Activist Arrested on Allegation of Subversion and Many Others Interrogated


Defend the Defenders | October 22, 2017

[themify_box style=”blue announcement rounded”]

Vietnam continues its unprecedented political crackdown on peaceful expression, arresting female activist Tran Thi Xuan and summoning many others to police station for questioning. The detainee, active in charity missions, is a member of Brotherhood for Democracy.

On October 17, security forces in the central province of Ha Tinh abducted Ms. Xuan and later, the province’s Police Department announced that they carried out an urgent arrest of her on allegation of subversion under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code.

Meanwhile, many other activists, including former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Xuan Nghia and independent journalist Khuc Thua Son, have been summoned to police stations for interrogation about Brotherhood for Democracy, one of the main targets of the ongoing crackdown.

Police in the central city of Danang have also summoned many local activists, including Lam Bui and Tran Le Quang Vinh to work on “security issues” when the city is preparing for APEC Summit scheduled in November.

Defend the Defenders and nine other domestic and international rights groups, and many individuals have issued a joint statement calling on Vietnam’s government to stop its crackdown. So far this year, Vietnam has arrested or exiled 25 peaceful activists.

The fate of 700 prisoners, many of whom are prisoners of conscience, in Prison No. 5 in the central province of Thanh Hoa remains unclear when the prison was submerged during the torrential rain and flood on October 9-13. The prison’s authorities rejected a rumor, which said 300 prisoners had died from drowning during the disaster.

And other news


===== October 17 =====

10th Vietnamese Activist Arrested, Charged with Subversion

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s central province of Ha Tinh have abducted a local female activist namely Tran Thi Xuan and latter announced that they arrested her on allegation of “carrying out activities aiming to overthrow the government” under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

Ms. Xuan, 40, will be held incommunicado for at least four months, according to the announcement of the province’s police released on October 17. She may face imprisonment of up to life imprisonment or death sentence if convicted, according to the current law.

She is a member of the online group Brotherhood for Democracy, the organization becoming the main target of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local political dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and online bloggers, with nearly 20 activists being arrested and charged with controversial articles of the national security provision in the Penal Code.

The female activist from Thach Kim commune, Loc Ha district, has participated in many charity activities to help local residents affected by the environmental disaster caused by the Hung Nghiep Formosa steel plant of the Taiwanese Formosa Plastic Group in April 2016, and raised concerns about the environmental pollution due to Formosa’s discharge of toxic industrial chemicals to the central waters.

Since late July, Vietnam has arrested seven key individuals of Brotherhood for Democracy namely Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Van Tuc, and Nguyen Trung Truc and former member and founder Nguyen Bac Truyen on allegation of subversion.

Vietnam’s security forces have also summoned other low-profile members of the organization such as primary teacher Pham Ngoc Lan, former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Xuan Nghia, Son Thua Khuc, Le Trung Hieu, and Nguyen Van Trang to local police station to “work for issues related to national security.”

Meanwhile, security forces have also arrested other activists, including Le Dinh Luong from the California-based pro-democracy Vietnam Reform Party but labeled by Hanoi as a terrorist group, and retired teacher Dao Quang Thuc, and charged them with subversion, and Nguyen Viet Dung, a former prisoner of conscience and accused him of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code.


Former Political Prisoner Summoned, Interrogated about Relations with Brotherhood for Democracy

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s northern city of Haiphong have summoned a local former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Xuan Nghia to a police station to question him about his relations with Brotherhood for Democracy, an online organization which became a main target of the ongoing crackdown.

During the four consecutive days October 17-20, in a police station, security officers interrogated him about his relations with imprisoned key figures of Brotherhood for Democracy such as Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi and Nguyen Van Tuc, who were arrested few months ago and charged with “carrying out activities aiming to overthrow the government” under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

Police also questioned about Facebook postings about human rights and democracy under nickname Nguyen Xuan Nghia.

Police said Mr. Nghia is one of key members of the organization and he had tried to persuade others to join it. However, Mr. Nghia rejected the police’s accusation.

Police may summon him for further interrogation in coming days, his wife told Defend the Defenders.

Mr. Nghia, who spent six years in prison in 2008-2013 on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code and his three-year probation period ended last year, said police officers told him not to publicize the contents of the interrogation to social networks, including Facebook, the most popular communication tool in the heavily-censored Vietnam.

Mr. Nghia, 68, is a poet, writer and journalist. He is a member of the Haiphong   Writers’ Association and one of co-founding members of the 8406 Bloc, a banned pro-democracy organization in Vietnam.

His writings have been banned for publication since 2003 since they promote multi-party democracy and human rights in the communist nation.

Two years ago, he was honored with the Freedom of Expression Prize of the Norwegian Authors’ Union for his writings which aims to promote multi-party democracy and human rights.

After being released from prison, he continues to work to promote multi-party democracy and human rights in the one-party state.

He has been under constant harassment from local police who have often placed him under house arrest or summoned him to police station for interrogation.

Sometimes, local police also sent plainclothes agents and thugs to assault other activists coming to visit him.

The summoning of Mr. Nghia this time is part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local activists in which Brotherhood for Democracy and the California-based Vietnam Reform Party are being main targets. Ten activists from the two organizations have been detained in the last few months and charged with subversion.

Police in Danang have also summoned local activist Khuc Thua Son to police station to question him about his peaceful activities. Son, who is a member of the Independent Journalist Association of Vietnam, has to go to the city’s police investigation agency on October 20-22 as police ordered.

Facing a number of obstacles, including poor economic performance, systemic corruption, serious environmental pollution, China’s increasing aggressiveness in the East Sea (South China Sea), the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and its government have intensified persecution against local activists in order to prevent the formation of opposition party.

The government has also tightened online activities to silence netizens. A number of bloggers have been imprisoned in the past few years.

===== October 18 =====

Defend the Defenders, Rights Groups Join Forces to Oppose Vietnam’s Ongoing Crackdown

Defend the Defenders, English PEN, Lawyers for Lawyers, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, Reporters Without Borders, Viet Labor Movement, Bau Bi Tuong than Association, and Vietnam Reform Party (Viet Tan) as well as hundreds of activists worldwide have jointly called on Vietnam’s communist government to stop its “unprecedented” crackdown on rights activists and dissidents.

The move came as Vietnam intensified its persecution against local political dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and online bloggers with 25 peaceful activists being arrested or exiled so far this year.

In their joint statement, the coalition said Vietnam’s communist government has orchestrated the wrongful conviction and sentencing of human rights defenders and bloggers.

They accused the government of having “resorted to unsubstantiated national security charges to justify repression of free expression, free information and peaceful advocacy.”

Authorities have targeted social media and used “fake news” excuses to justify censorship, they said.

The coalition’s statement said government authorities “continually resort to tactics of prosecution, arbitrary detention, abuse, and harassment to silence dissenting voices.”

This crackdown violates international law, damages Vietnam’s reputation abroad, and limits the country’s progress, they added.


Related articles: #StopTheCrackdownVN: RSF joins counter-offensive against Vietnam’s persecution of bloggers

Rights groups join forces to oppose crackdown in Vietnam

===== October 19 =====

Fate of 700 Prisoners in Flooded Central Vietnam Remains Unclear

Defend the Defenders: The situations of around 700 prisoners held in Prison No. 5 in Yen Dinh district, Thanh Hoa province remain unclear when the Vietnamese province was seriously affected by flooding with many localities were submerged last week.

The prison, managed by the Ministry of Public Security, partly was under water of around two meters when the region suffered torrential rain on October 9-13 and discharge of water from hydropower dams, including the giant Hoa Binh Hydropower Plant.

State media reported that 4,000 pigs of a swine farm of the prison died from drowning, however, the media provided no details about the situations of the prisoners held by the two inmate facilities coded K2 and K5. The farm and the two facilities holding the prisoners are on the same elevation above sea level.

Media said the prisoners from the two facilities had been transferred to safe places isolated by water and prisoners had been provided with food and clean water from its staff who came to the place by boats. No more details were added.

At a press conference on October 18, Prison Warden Senior Lieutenant Le Van Cuu rejected a rumor, which said 300 prisoners died from drowning during the calamity. The rumor was circulated on Facebook and other social networks last week.

Many prisoners of conscience have been held in the prison, which imposes strict regulations and treats prisoners inhumanely, especially political ones.

Former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Van Hai, known by his pen name Dieu Cay, said most of Vietnamese prison facilities were built with a floor and two antresolas and maybe inmates in the two facilities in Prison No. 5 were transferred to the antresolas of the facilities.

However, there are big numbers of prisoner being held in each floor so they cannot stay in antresolas for days, Hai said. When imprisoned in Prison No. 6 in Nghe An province, a facility of 13 meters in length and six meters in width holds between 95 and 113 inmates. Hai also doubted that the construction of the facility may withstand for hours under attack of strong flood.

The antresolas are much smaller than the floor and has no hygienic facilities, he said.

Other former prisoners who were held in Prison No. 5 agreed with Hai who was allowed to stay in the U.S. for medical treatment.

Over a hundred of people died and went missing in the northern Vietnam due to torrential rains last week which forced hydropower dams, including the giant in Hoa Binh province, to discharge water. Any individuals were blamed for the disaster was result of massive deforestation for building hydropower plants as well as water release from the dams, according to experts and environmentalists.

===== October 20 =====

Vietnamese American Refused to Come Back to Visit His Family in Hanoi

Defend the Defenders: Mr. Dominic Pham, a Vietnamese American, has been refused to come back to his native country to visit his family and friends.

On October 18, security forces in Noi Bai International Airport in the capital city of Hanoi blocked Mr. Pham from entering the country, saying his trip to Vietnam may harm the country’s security.

Mr. Pham said he was forced to go back to the U.S. where he has resided after fleeing the communist nation.

He is among many people with Vietnamese origin paying attention to the country’s issues such as sovereignty, environmental pollution and land seizure.

Pham has provided significant support for land petitioners in Duong Noi commune in Ha Dong district, where the local authorities have grabbed hundreds of hectares of land from them to give to property developers without paying adequate compensation.

Pham is among many Vietnamese who reside in foreign countries but have not been permitted by Vietnam’s authorities to visit their native country.

Last month, Vietnam’s authorities rejected to grant a visa to human rights activist Grace Bui when she planned to visit Hanoi and attend the wedding party of Trinh Ba Phuong, one of the leaders of land petitioners in Duong Noi.