Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report November 13-19, 2017: Three Activists Detained in Hanoi after Meeting with EU Delegation

 

Defend the Defenders, November 19, 2017

On November 16, security forces in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi detained three activists, Dr. Nguyen Quang A, blogger Pham Doan Trang, and former prisoner of conscience Bui Thi Minh Hang right after meeting with high-ranking officials from the EU in the lead up to the Vietnam-EU Human Rights Dialogue slated for December 1.

After hours of interrogation, police released Dr. A and Ms. Hang in the late afternoon but kept Ms. Trang until midnight. Police later placed her under house arrest after taking her to her private residence during the night.

Vietnam’s authorities set the date of appeal hearing for prominent human rights defender and blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh or Mother Mushroom on November 30. Ms. Quynh, the mother of two kids, was arrested on October 10 last year on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code and sentenced to 10 years in prison by the People’s Court in the central province of Khanh Hoa on June 29. The appeal hearing will be carried out by the Danang City High People’s Court.

The investigation against Luu Van Vinh and Tran Hoang Phuc ended and their separate cases were handed over to the People’s Procuracy. Mr. Vinh was arrested on November last year on allegation of “attempting to overthrow the government” under Article 79 while Mr. Phuc was detained on June 29 this year and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code. Vinh was allowed to meet with his wife and kids while Phuc is still kept incommunicado since his detention.

On November 15, Hanoi police kidnapped local activist Truong Van Dung after summoning him to the police station to discuss about his relations with the Brotherhood for Democracy and its members but he refused to come. Police released Dung in the late afternoon after hours of questioning in which the activist remained silent most of the time.

Three days later, at 1 AM on November 18, Mr. Dung’s private residence was vandalized with waste lubricant oil and fermented shrimp paste. Dung said the act was made by plainclothes agents since he and his family members have no disputes with anyone.

Dissident singer Mai Khoi and her Australian husband were evicted from their apartment in Hanoi after the singer held a public protest against U.S. President Donald Trump when he visited the capital city. The landlord’s act was made after the local police detained and locked her in her apartment.

===== November 13 ======

Activist Luu Van Vinh Allowed to Meet with Family After More than One Year of Arrest as Investigation over Subversion Ends

Defend the Defenders: Security forces in Ho Chi Minh say they completed an investigation against pro-democracy activist Luu Van Vinh after more than one year of incommunicado detention.

The police said they handed the investigation results to the city’s People’s Procuracy and advised it to prosecute him on allegation of conducting attempts to overthrow the government under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

Mr. Vinh, who was detained on November 6, 2016, was allowed to meet with his wife and two kids for 15 minutes on November 12, the first meeting since his arrest.

Nguyen Thi Thap, the wife said his health has deteriorated seriously due to continuous interrogation and inhumane treatment during the detention. He looks slim with sunken eyes and worsened skin.

For the first time he was told that his father passed away seven months ago, or five months after his arrest.

His wife informed him that she had to abandon the business he started before being arrested due to harassment by the authorities in HCM City. With the help of some activists, she started working as a seamstress to earn money to feed their two kids and supply him with some additional food every month.

Vinh, 49, is a handyman, electrician and plumber from the northern province of Hai Duong who moved to HCM City several years ago. His family, including three children, aged between 6 and 19, joined him in 2015.

Vinh participated in many peaceful demonstrations in Hanoi and HCM City to protest China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and the Taiwanese Formosa’s discharge of huge amount of toxic industrial waste into sea waters in the central province of Ha Tinh which caused massive death of fisheries in four central coastal provinces.

He had been detained and beaten many times, including a three-day arrest in May, 2016 after he took part in a peaceful demonstration on environmental issue.

Vinh was beaten and detained in his private residence in the city during lunch on November 6 while his friend Nguyen Van Duc Do was arrested after visiting Vinh’s house earlier on the same day. Police also detained nearly ten others related in the same case on the same day but released them after torturing and interrogating them for several days, the victims said after being released.

The arrests were said to be linked to the Coalition for Self-determined Vietnamese People. Mr. Vinh founded the coalition in mid-July last year and became the president of the organization which aims to end the communists’ political monopoly. All major issues of the country should be decided by the people via referendums, according to its founding statement.

However, Vinh was reported to have left the coalition a few days before being detained.

After Vinh’s detention, Amnesty International issued a statement calling on Vietnam’s government to immediately and unconditionally release him and his friend Do.

In November last year, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia called on Vietnam to release three rights advocates who were detained by the government and to investigate allegations that the trio were tortured while in custody.

In its statement, the UN agency said prominent blogger Ho Van Hai and two political activists pushing for greater freedoms Vietnam, Vinh and Do, should be granted unconditional release.

The arrests of Vinh and other activists are part of Vietnam’s intensifying crackdown against local dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders amid increasing public awareness about the country’s socio-economic problems, including systemic corruption and widespread environmental pollution.

So far this year, Vietnam has arrested and tried or expelled 25 activists in the hardest campaign against government critics.

According to Amnesty International, Vietnam holds nearly 90 prisoners of conscience while other human rights organizations said 165 activists are held in prison now. Hanoi always denies holding any prisoners of conscience but only law violators.

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Vietnamese Musician-Activist Evicted after Trump Protest

The Guardian: A Vietnamese musician and activist is being evicted from her home after protesting against the US president’s visit to Hanoi by holding a sign saying “Piss on you Trump”.

Mai Khoi and her Australian husband Benjamin Swanton were told to leave their apartment in the Vietnamese capital in the early hours of Sunday morning after she staged a demonstration along a route travelled by the US president’s motorcade a few hours earlier.

As the black SUVs roared past, she unveiled a sign saying “Peace on you Trump”, with the letters of the word ‘peace’ crossed out and replaced with the word “piss”.

“I was just protesting the way any American would protest, I haven’t done anything wrong,” she said.

Khoi, a pro-democracy activist in a single-party communist state that bans dissent, is no stranger to trouble. She has been stalked, harassed, detained and has had her concerts raided.

For further reading: Vietnamese musician and activist evicted after Trump protest

===== November 14 ======

Appeal Court for Prominent Blogger Mother Mushroom Set on November 30

Defend the Defenders: Prominent human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, who is popular with her blog under the penname of Mother Mushroom, will have her appeal hearing on November 30, four months after the first trial in which she was convicted on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code and sentenced to ten years in prison.

The appeal hearing will be held by the Danang City High People’s Court at the headquarters of the People’s Court in the central province of Khanh Hoa, the native province of the activist.

Lawyers Nguyen Ha Luan, Le Van Luan, Ha Huy Son, Vo An Don, and Nguyen Kha Thanh will defend for the prominent blogger and human right campaigner in the appeal hearing.

On June 29, the People’s Court of Khanh Hoa found that Ms. Quynh, the mother of two, guilty of conducting activities on Facebook and other social media, including writing, uploading and sharing articles and video content critical of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and the state; producing, editing, and sharing a report titled “Stop Police Killing Civilians” that listed 31 people who, the report claimed, had died in police custody; for giving interviews with foreign media that “distorted” the situation in Vietnam; and for her possession of a poetry collection and compact disc recording that were deemed critical of the ruling party and the state.

Nine days before the trial, which failed to meet international fair trial standards, the lawyers were first allowed to meet Quynh for preparing her defense while foreign diplomats and her relatives and friends were not permitted to enter the courtroom.

Before and after the trial, international human rights organizations and foreign governments, including the US and the EU, called on Vietnam’s government to release her immediately and unconditionally, saying the charges against her violate the right to freedom of expression as provided in international human rights law, which binds Vietnam. Amnesty International considers Quynh a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for her peaceful activities promoting and defending human rights.

Ms. Quynh was awarded a Hellman Hammett grant from Human Rights Watch in 2010 as a writer defending free expression, the 2015 Civil Rights Defender of the Year award from Civil Rights Defenders in 2015 and the International Women of Courage award from the U.S. State Department this year.

In order to maintain the country under a one-party regime, Vietnam has little tolerance for government critics. It has used controversial articles such as 79, 88 and 250 in the national security provision of the Penal Code to silence local activists.

So far this year, Vietnam has arrested, sentenced, and expelled abroad 25 activists.

Vietnam is holding around 90 prisoners of conscience, says Amnesty International while BPSOS and 14 other international and domestic human rights organizations placed the number of political prisoners as high as 165 prisoners. Hanoi always denies of imprisoning any prisoner of conscience but only law violators.

==== November 15 =====

Hanoi-based Activist Kidnapped after Refusing Police Summoning

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi have kidnapped local activist Truong Van Dung after he refused to come to the city’s police to discuss about the Brotherhood for Democracy, an online organization working for promoting human rights and multi-party democracy, local activists said.

At 7 AM on Wednesday, Mr. Dung left his private residence in Dong Da district in a bid to join other activists to visit the family of imprisoned pro-democracy activist Phan Kim Khanh. However, Mr. Dung did not come to the meeting with them and they couldn’t contact him by phone.

Later, his family found that Mr. Dung was detained by the police near his house. People living in the area said he was taken by police officers.

Many activists came to the headquarters of the Dong Da district’s police to inquire about his situation, and the police said he was taken to the city’s police.

At 4.30 PM, Hanoi police released Mr. Dung after hours of interrogation in which Dung refused to answer any question.

Mr. Dung said he was detained by a group of several police officers who beat him and took him into a car.

Mr. Dung, who has actively attended peaceful demonstrations to protest China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) as well as government socio-economic policies and human rights abuse, has been summoned by Hanoi police in recent days on suspicion of his relationship with the Brotherhood for Democracy, the main target of the ongoing political crackdown, the most severe campaign in decades.

In the last ten days, police in Hanoi have harassed Mr. Dung and his family. During the APEC Summit, held in Danang on November 6-10, police maintained close surveillance over him, sending plainclothes agents to stay near his private residence for several days and nights. Plainclothes agents used iron wire to lock his house door gate during the night.

Dung has been beaten many times in the past by plainclothes agents who used iron bars and acid to attack him. He suffered severe injuries from these assaults, including broken ribs.

Since late July, Vietnam’s authorities have arrested seven key members of the Brotherhood for Democracy on allegation of subversion under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code. Police also added subversion charges to its founder Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Le Thu Ha, who were detained in late 2015 with an initial allegation of conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the Penal Code.

In addition, police have also summoned many members of the Brotherhood for Democracy for interrogation. Among them are bloggers Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Le Anh Hung, and former prisoner of conscience Vu Van Hung.

In order to maintain the country under a one-party regime, the Communist Party of Vietnam has ordered the government to make all efforts to prevent the formation of opposition party and it sees the Brotherhood for Democracy as a potential political threat.

Other activists have also been persecuted by the government. Since the beginning of this year, Vietnam has arrested, sentenced or expelled 25 activists who exercise their basic rights enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution.

===== November 16 =====

Three Vietnamese Activists Detained After Meeting with EU Delegation

Defend the Defenders: Three out of four Vietnamese activists attending a meeting with a high-ranking delegation from the EU have been detained and questioned for hours by security forces immediately after the talks.

Dr. Nguyen Quang A, Ms. Bui Thi Minh Hang, and Ms. Doan Trang were taken by security forces in Hanoi at noon on November 16 after the meeting with the Political Counselors of the EU Member States at the Office of the EU Delegation to Vietnam.

Dr. A said at 11.30 AM on Thursday, when he left the Lotte Building in which the headquarters of the 28-nation bloc’s diplomatic delegation is located, he was detained by four police officers and taken to a police station in Gia Lam district where he resides.

At the police station, he was interrogated by a senior officer about the meeting with the guests from the EU. However, he refused to cooperate with him and police released him at 4.48 PM, Dr. A wrote on his Facebook account.

Meanwhile, police also detained Ms. Hang and Ms. Trang right after they left the Lotte Building. Police separated the two female activists and took them in two directions.

While Hang was taken to a police station in Thanh Cong ward not far from the EU’s headquarters, Trang was brought to the headquarters of the Investigation Agency under Hanoi Police Department on 89 Tran Hung Dao street.

Hang was also questioned but released in the evening while police kept Trang until late night. They took her to her private residence but still keep her under house arrest.

It was reported that police had confiscated all items of Ms. Trang, including her cell phones.

Nguyen Chi Tuyen who is popular on Facebook and Twitter under penname Anh Chi, was the fourth activist participating in the meeting. However, he left the Lotte Building safely after the event.

The meeting is part of preparations for an annual Human Rights Dialogue between the EU and Vietnam scheduled in early December. The activists were reportedly providing current situation in Vietnam regarding human rights abuse and the environmental disaster caused by the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant last year and the government’s suppression of those who voice their protest against the foreign company.

Two years ago, prior to the bilateral Human Rights Dialogue, Vietnam arrested prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai when he was on his way to meet with guests from the EU who came to attend the dialogue. Mr. Dai is still in detention and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 and later with “carrying out attempts to overthrow the government” under Article 79 of the country’s 1999’s Penal Code.

The EU is among the biggest trade partners of Vietnam. The two sides signed a Free Trade Agreement last year but the EU’s parliament has not approved the pact due to human rights abuse in the Southeast Asian nation.

Pham Doan Trang is a human rights defender, blogger and journalist. She is the founder of online law and human rights magazine Luật Khoa and a member of the editorial board of newly launched The Vietnamese, an independent news website which aims to raise public awareness on politics and human rights in Vietnam. She has also worked for major Vietnamese media agencies such as VnExpress, VietNamNet, Vietnam Week, HCMC Legal Daily and the English language website Vietnam Right Now. In 2012, after being arrested and interrogated, she published a recording of her interrogation and was resultantly forced to temporarily leave the country. She returned to Vietnam in January 2015.

Bui Thi Minh Hang is a human rights defender, blogger, and documenter of human rights violations in Vietnam. She also advocates for freedom of religion and has provided support to victims of land grabs. In 2011, Bui Thi Minh Hang was arrested and sent to a “re-education camp” for six months as a result of her activism. In June 2012 the human rights defender was released, however she was arrested again in February 2014 while visiting a former prisoner of conscience. In August 2014, she was sentenced to three years in prison for “causing public disorder.” She was released in February 2017.

Nguyen Quang A is a human rights defender and a prominent member of Vietnamese civil society. In 2007, he co-founded the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), an independent, non-profit think-tank, since closed, that frequently questioned the government’s policies. In 2013, he co-founded the Civil Society Forum in response to Decree 72, a party document that limits online expression. The forum has, among other activities, organised protests against environmental damage and promoted the participation of independent candidates for Parliament elections. Lately, Nguyen Quang A has been extremely vocal regarding the 2016 Formosa spill, an industrial disaster which caused tens of thousands of fishermen to lose their source of livelihood.

===== November 18 =====

Private Residence of Hanoi-based Activist Attacked with Dirty Mess

Defend the Defenders: The private residence of activist Truong Van Dung in Hanoi was vandalized with waste lubricant oil and mam tom (fermented shrimp paste) in the early hours of November 18.

Mr. Dung said the attack was made at around 1 AM. He suspected that the incident was carried out by plainclothes agents since him and his family members have no personal disputes with anyone.

Dung, who was kidnapped by Hanoi police several days earlier, said his family spent hours to clean their house after the attack.

Earlier this month, when Vietnam hosted APEC Summit in Danang and U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Hanoi, plainclothes agents also locked the gate door of his house with iron wires in a bid to block him inside.

Attacking activists’ private residences with dirty messes is one of many acts carried out by plainclothes agents and pro-government thugs in Vietnam in a bid to threaten and discourage them from continuing activities to promote human rights and democracy values.

===== November 19 =====

Investigation against Young Activist Tran Hoang Phuc Ends, Trial May Be Held Soon

Defend the Defenders: Hanoi police has completed the investigation against young activist Tran Hoang Phuc and handed the investigation results to the city’s People’s Procuracy, said his mother Hoang Thi Ut.

The city police have advised the People’s Procuracy to prosecute him on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s Penal Code, Mrs. Ut said after meeting with representatives from the two agencies on November 7-9.

With the charge, Phuc is facing imprisonment of up to 20 years if is convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.

His family has signed legal counseling contracts with three lawyers namely Nguyen Van Mieng, Le Van Luan and Dang Dinh Manh. However, the lawyers have yet to be granted with approval from Hanoi authorities for the case.

Phuc has been kept incommunicado since his arrest on June 29.

Phuc is a 23-year-old activist based in Saigon. He publicly calls for multi-party democracy and human rights enhancement as well as environmental protection.

Phuc was selected to take part in the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), a U.S. government leadership development and networking program in Southeast Asia. In late May last year, when then U.S. President Barack Obama visited Saigon, he was invited to meet him but was detained by local security shortly prior to the meeting.

On April 13 this year, Phuc and his fellow Huynh Thanh Phat were kidnapped by plainclothes agents, who robbed and brutally beat them before releasing the activists in a remote area in Vietnam’s central province of Quang Binh.

For other details about Mr. Phuc: http://www.vietnamhumanrightsdefenders.net/?s=%22tran+hoang+phuc%22

 

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