Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for May 28-June 3, 2018: Hanoi-based Activist Arrested after Calling for Peaceful Demonstration


Defend the Defenders | June 3, 2018


Authorities in Hanoi have arrested local political dissident Nguyen Trung Linh after he called for peaceful demonstrations to protest China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and the government’s weak response to Beijing’s aggresiveness.

His detention has not been publicized and it is unclear whether the 51-year-old activist will be charged criminally or not.

Mr. Linh, 51, would be the 4rd activist arrested so far this year, after Vu Van Hung, Do Cong Duong,and Nguyen Duy Son.

On the morning of June 2, a group of activists held a small demonstration in theHanoi’s streetsto support democracy and the jailed members of the Brotherhood for Democracy. Police dispersed them and detained three activists namely Truong Van Dung, Trinh Ba Phuong and Phung The Dung for hours. Phuong said he was beaten by police while in custody.

In the early hours of June 2, Hanoi police detained dissident blogger Pham Doan Trang at her friend’s flat in Hanoi when she arrived from Ho Chi Minh City. Police took her to her mother’s apartment and in the morning of the next day, they forced her to go to a police station for questioning. Trang was released in the eveningof Saturday but remains under close surveillance, and police told her that the interrogation will continue on Monday (June 4).

Police in many localities are intimidating activists and their relatives. In Hanoi, police sent a summonsto pro-democracy campaigner and human rights defender Ngo Duy Quyen to go to a police station for interrogation about his posts on Facebook, one week after callingfor the arrest of a police general reportedly sought by German authorities in relations with theBerlin kidnapping of former oil executive Trinh Xuan Thanh last July.

On the same day, police in Bac Ninh province sent letters requestingtwo daughters of anti-corruption campaigner Do Cong Duong go to a police station to discuss his activities. Mr. Duong, 54, was arrested in January and charged with “Abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” under Article 331 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.

Many prisoners of conscience and their relatives are suspecting that the food supplied by prisons are unsafe and contain toxic substances. Prominent human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh said she felt sick after consuming prison food so she is eating only food supplied by her mother. Former prisoner of conscience Can Thi Theu also said she did not feel comfortable many times after eating prison food whileservingher 20-month imprisonment.

Authorities in many localities tightenedsecurity control during the weekend. They sentpolice and militia to station near private residences of local activists to prevent them from gathering to protest China’s invasion in the East Sea and the Vietnamese government’s policies in socio-economic development, especially the government’s plan to set up special economic zones.

===== May 27 =====

USCIRFProposes to Re-designate Vietnam in CPC

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)has recommended the Department of State to re-designate Vietnam onthe list of “Countries of Particular Concern”or CPC for short.

In its Release 2018 Annual Report, Vietnam should be among 16 countries onthe list, USCIRFsaid.

In its 2018 report, USCIRF recommends 16 countries for CPC designation: 10 that the State Department so designated in December 2017—Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—and six others—Central African Republic, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.


USCIRF Releases 2018 Annual Report, Recommends 16 Countries be Designated “Countries of Particular Concern”

===== 31/5 =====

Jailed Prominent Blogger Mother Mushroom Conducts Hunger Strike to Protest Ill Treatments 

Defend the Defenders: Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, a prominent human rights defender and a well-known blogger under the penname of Mother Mushroom, conducted a hunger strike to protest herinhumane treatment byauthorities inPrison Camp No. 5 in Vietnam’s central province of Thanh Hoa, said her mother.

Ms. Quynh, who is serving her ten-year imprisonment in the prison, carried out the hunger strike betweenMay 5-11, said Mrs. Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan, who accompanied Quynh’s two kids to visit her in the prison on May 31.

Quynh, who was convicted in June last year, said she is not allowed to send mail to her kids orreceive mail from relatives and friends as the prison’s authorities punish her for her refusal to admit wrongdoings.

Quynh said she stoppedeating the food supplied by the prison because she felt bad and tired after consuming it. Now she is taking only the food provided by her family.

The prison’s authorities refused to allow her to take lunch together with her kids, saying only “good” inmates can enjoy the privilege.

Quynh was arrested on October 10, 2016 and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code for her peaceful activities and articles about police brutality, China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty and environmental pollution, especially the environmental disaster in 2016 caused by the illegal discharge of toxic industrial waste of the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant in the central coast.

In late June 2017, Quynh was convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison. Her conviction has been condemned by many foreign democratic governments and international human rights organizations as well as Vietnamese citizens.

In February, she was transferred to the Prison Camp No. 5 in Yen Dinh district, Thanh Hoa province, about 1,200 km from her native province of Khanh Hoa as Vietnam’s authorities want to punish her by making trouble for her mother and kids to visit her in prison. Due to the long distance, her mother can only visit her twice every three months. She can send her food via postonce a month,but it must not exceed six kilograms.

In Vietnam, it is a common practice to send prisoners of conscience to prisons far from their families along with other inhumane treatment measures such as solitary confinement, low-quality food and water, bad hygiene, limit family visit and use of criminal inmates to attack prisoners of conscience, as well as forced labor.

Quynh, who 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 US State Department in 2017, pledged to continue to fight for the right of sending and receiving mails, and expects other activists and friends to write her so she can get update information of the life outside.

===== June 1 =====

Hanoi-based Activist Reportedly Held after Calling for Peaceful Demonstrations Last Week

Defend the Defenders: Mr. Nguyen Trung Linh, a pro-democracy activist in Hanoi, was reportedly held by Vietnam’s security forces due to his statement last week calling for peaceful demonstrations nationwide to protest China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).

Several days ago, Defend the Defenders learned from a source that Mr. Linh had been detained by security forces on May 27 afterhe appeared in centralHanoi.

Some activists tried to connect with Mr. Linh by phone but failed. Others came to his apartment in Hanoi but it was closed. His neighbors told them that Mr. Linh had been arrested and his house had been searched.

However, it is unclear when security forces arrested him and when they conducted thehouse search. Noone knows whether he has beencharged,and if so withwhich article ofthe Penal Code.

Mr. Linh’s detention seems to be linked tohis callfor peaceful demonstrations posted on his Facebook account Trung Linh Nguyenon May 25. Accordingly, he called all people across the nation to gather in cities’ centers in the morning of May 27 to protest China’s invasion in the East Sea and the weak response of the Vietnamese communist government to Beijing’s aggressiveness in the resource-rich sea which is also important for international trade.

Mr. Linh, 51, obtainedabachelor degree intheCzech Republic. After returning to Vietnamin the early 1990s, he often voiced to support multi-party democracy. He was said to have established a number of pro-democracy parties but they were unpopular among Vietnamese.

Once he was arrested due to his activities and sent to a mental clinics for treatment for several months.

Several years ago, he joined the Brotherhood for Democracy for a short time. Recently, he has been an independent activist, not closely connected with othercivil society organizations in Vietnam.

He may face charges of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 or”conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code. People convicted under the first may face imprisonment of up to seven years in prison, and 20 years in prison underthe second.

Last week, after the call byMr. Linh, security forces in many Vietnamese localities were mobilized, ready to deal with potential public gatherings. Authorities in cities sent plainclothes agents to private residences of local activists during the weekend to effectively place them under house arrest. Some were only allowed to go out under close surveillance of security forces.

Vietnam’s communist governments does not welcome spontanous public demonstrations on most issues, including the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea. In recent years, security forces have suppressed many peaceful demonstrations and persecuted and jailed a number of activists for their participation under allegation of “causing public disorders.”

Mr. Linh’s detention isbe part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local dissent which started in late 2015 with the arrest of prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai. Vietnam arrested nearly 50 activists last year, and four so far this year namely Vu Van Hung, Do Cong Duong, Nguyen Duy Son and Nguyen Trung Linh. Most of them have been charged with controversial articles of the national security provisions in the Penal Code.

Over 40 activists have been convicted and sentenced to heavy sentences between three and 16 years in prison since mid-2017.


Vietnam Police Intimidate Family of Jailed Anti-corruption Activist, Summoning His Children for Interrogation

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s northern province of Bac Ninh are intimidating the family of anti-corruption activist Do Cong Duong, who was arrested on January 26 and charged with  “Abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” under Article 331 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.

On June 1, Bac Ninh province’s Police Department sent two letters to Mr. Duong’s family, asking his daughters Do Hong Anh, 14, and Do Lan Anh, 17, to reportto the department’s Investigation Agency the next day to “work” on his case.

However, his wife and the two girls rejected the summoning, saying they have nothing to discusswith the police.

Mr. Duong, 54, was arrested on January 26 while filming a land seizure in the neighboring commune of Tam Son in Tu Son town.Police announced nine days later they had charged him with “causing public disorders”but in April, they changed the allegation to “Abusing democratic freedoms.” He will face imprisonment of up to seven years in prison if convicted.

Mr. Duong is an activist on land issue. Together with other local residents, he filled a letter to the state’s leaders to accuse Tu Son town’s government of illegal land seizure.

Duong is also a citizen journalist, producing hundreds of video clips which he has posted on his Facebook accountto report local officials’ corruption and cronyism, including provincial communist leader Nguyen Nhan Chien, who has big houses and has promoted numerous relatives to key positions in provincial agencies. The state-run media has also covered news affirming the information unveiled by Mr. Duong.

Due to his anti-corruption activities, Duong and his family have been persecuted by local authorities. He was summoned by the police for interrogation many times. Police also came to his private residence to threaten him.

His house has been attacked with a stinking concoction of feces, shrimp paste, and petrol, and his children have been discriminated in schools.

Duong’s arrest is likely reprisal for his efforts to fight illegal land grabbing and corruption, said his fellow My while hisattorney lawyer HaHuy Son said authorities in Bac Ninh provinceand Tu Son townare seeking to silence the anti-corruption activist and citizen journalist without respecting the country’s law and the presumption of innocence.

Land grabbing is a systemic problem in Vietnam where all land belongs to the state and local residents only have lease rights. The central government and local governments are authorized to seize any land from citizens for socio-economic development without paying adequate compensation.

In many localities, authorities have grabbed local residents’ land at very low compensation prices and sold it to property and industrial developers at prices much higher.

Thousands of farmers losing their land in that way are gathering in big cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to demand justice. The land petitioners are treated like second-class residents by the government. They are living in streets and house with cheap renting fees, being subjects of torture and detention by security forces.

Vietnam is among most corrupt nations in the world. According to Trading Economics, the nation scored 35 points out of 100 on the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. Corruption Index in Vietnam averaged 27.80 points from 1997 until 2017, reaching an all time high of 35 points in 2017 and a record low of 24 points in 2002.

In Vietnam where communists have ruled for decades, the government strictly controls media. Dozens of bloggers and independent journalists have been harassed and jailed.

Vietnam’s press freedom index is ranked at the 175th out of 179 countries in the Reporters Without Borders’ 2017 Report.

===== June 2 =====

Vietnamese Dissident Blogger Pham Doan Trang Detained, Interrogated

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s security forces kidnapped prominent dissident blogger Pham Doan Trang when she came back to Hanoi from Ho Chi Minh City, and heldher incommunicado for several hours.

According to blogger Trinh Kim Tien, Ms. Trang whose new book Chính trị bình dân(Politics for All) is very popular among Vietnamese, arrived in Hanoi around midnight onJune first. Upon her arrival to the capital city, she was detained by officers from the Ministry of Public Security.

Trang was reportedlytaken to her mother’s apartment in Le Duc Tho residental building where four plainclothes agents stationed near the apartment whole night.

At around 8 AM onJune 2, security officers came and took her to an unknown location. Her mother wasnot informed where they tookher daughter nor the reason for being detained, Mrs. Tien said.

Police returned Trang to her mother’s house around 8pm onSaturday but she remains underclose surveillance. In a police station, Trang was questioned about her activities, and police officers said she will have to return for moreinterrogation on Monday (June 4).

The detention maybe linked to the appeal hearing of four senior members of the Brotherhood for Democracy slated on June 4, Tien suggested.

This is the third detention of Trang so far this year, a textbook case of judicial harassment against her rights defense. On February 24, she was summoned to a police station for 10-hour interrogation on her book Chính trị bình dân, and on March 8, security forces kidnapped her in a bid to prevent her from meeting with Cynthia Veliko, head of the UN Office of the High Commisioner for Human Rights’ Regional Office in the Southeast Asia when she visited the communist nation.

Trang is among the leading political dissidents in Vietnam. After resigning as a journalist for state-run media, she has blogged politically and has been involved in a number of political activities, including working as a writer and editor for Vietnam Right NowandLuat Khoa Tap Chi, an independent legal websiteas well as a namely political blog The Vietnamese.

She has produced nearly ten books. Chính trị bình dânis the latest, in which she encourages all people to engage in politics to settle the country’s issues instead of allowing the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam to decide on the behalf of the 94-million nation.

Due to her political activities, she has been under close surveillance by security forces.

In 2015, while participating in a peaceful demonstration in Hanoi to protest the city’s plan to chop down thousands of old-growth trees, she was brutally beaten by security forces which resulted in serious injuries in her left leg. The injuries have not healed. She is in need of medical care.

In May 2016, she was kidnapped by security forces when she was on her way to a meeting between then US President Barack Obama and civil society in Hanoi when he visited the communist nation.

On November 17 last year, after a meeting with political officers of the EU Member States at the Office of the EU Delegation to Vietnam together with some other activists, she was detained for questioning for many hours, only being released around midnight.

OnMarch 5, People in Need, a Prague-based non-profit organization founded on the ideals of humanism, freedom, equality and solidarity, awarded her its Homo Homini Prize for 2017 for her contribution to human rights and democracy.

Along with purging political opponents within the ruling communist party to solidify his power, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and his faction in the country’s leadership have intensified the crackdown on local dissents and independent civilsociety.

The government has discouraged citizens from getting interested in politics, saying they should focus on economic activities and leave political issues, including the country’s sovereignty and environmental problems to the party and its government. It considers Chính trị bình dâna provocation as the book encourages people to get involved in politics, so all people can decide major issues of the nation instead of leaving for communists.


Hanoi-based Activist Summoned for Interrogation After Calling for Arrest of Police General Involving in Kidnaping In Berlin

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s authorities have summoned pro-democracy campaigner and human rights defender Ngo Duy Quyen to a police station for interrogation overposts on his Facebook account, the activist told Defend the Defenders.

According to the police summons, dated on June 1, Mr. Quyen, 44, was required toreportat 8.30 AM of June 2 to work with Hanoi police about the content of his recent posts.

Quyen refusedto gomeet with police officers on Saturday,for whichhe may face detention in coming days.

The police move came five days after Quyen posted a status calling Vietnam to arrest Lieutenant General Duong Minh Hung, deputy chief of the General Department of Security under the Ministry of Public Security, who is reportedly sought by Germany’s authorities inrelation tothe kidnappingof former Vietnamese senior officialTrinh Xuan Thanh in Berlin last July.

According to German media, Gen. Hung is likely the key figure in designing and implementing theabduction andillegal detention of Thanh, a former executive of an affiliate company of the state-owned PetroVietnam. Thanh fled to Germany and applied for political refugee before being kidnapped by Vietnamese secret agentsoff the Berlin streets and later reappearing in Vietnam.

After Thanh appeared in Vietnam’s national television, Germany investigated the case and found many Vietnamese diplomatshad beeninvolvedin the kidnapping. The government of Germany expelled two diplomats working in Vietnam’s Embassy in Berlin. It was reported that German authorities issued international arrests for a number of Vietnamese officials, including Gen. Hung.

It is not the first time Quyen has beensummoned by Hanoi police in relation with his social activities.

He has participated in many peaceful demonstrations, including 11 gatherings in Hanoi in 2011 to protest China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea). He wasarrested many times duringthese events.

In 2016, he was detained twice by Hanoi police after he, on behalf of a group of activists sent a joint petition demanding an investigation of police power abuse to authorities in the capital city.Police also threatened him and his family after searching his private residence and confiscated a number of things, including computers and money. They still keep these items and money.

Mr. Quyenis the husband of prominent former political prisoner Le Thi Cong Nhan and an older brother of former prisoner of conscience Ngo Quynh.

Due to his political activities, he has been persecuted by local authorities. Under police pressure, Quyen was forced to quit his job in a law firm. He tried to work in other fields, however, he was forced to abandon them because he could not tolerate systemic corruption among state officials.

Finally, Quyen returned to his home town in Bac Giang, and together with his brother Quynh set up an organic farm for production of chicken, ducks, fish and vegetables. His high-quality products meet high demand, and he has become a regular supplier of safe farm produce for social activists in Hanoi and adjacent localities.

Quyen is a key member of a charity organization named BauBi Tuong Than (People Solidarity)which has granted financial assistance for prisoners of conscience and their families as well as land petitioners. The unsanctioned human rights organization has provided limited but valuable supports for hundreds of activists nationwide.


Three Hanoi-based Activists Held in Police Station for Hours, One Beaten After Holding Peaceful Mini-demonstration

Defend the Defenders: On June 2, authorities in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi detained three local activists when they held a mini-demonstration to support multi-party democracy.

In the morning of Saturday, a group of Hanoi-based activists namely Truong Van Dung, Phung The Dung, Trinh Ba Phuong, Luu Phuong and Le Hung gathered in Kim Lien street to conduct a small peaceful demonstration with banners “Đòi hỏi dân chủ không phải là tội” (Request for democracy is not a crime) and pictures of jailed senior members of the Brotherhood for Democracy.


Withinin minutes, police from O Cho Dua ward, Dong Da district came to disperse their gathering, detaining Truong Van Dung, Phung The Phung, and Trinh Ba Phuong. They took the trio to the ward’s police station and held them until evening.

Mr. Phuong, the older son of former prisoner of conscience Can Thi Theu, said he was beaten by police during custody. One police officer beat him on his head, he said in a video clip he made after being freed.

The activists held the demonstration to support jailed senior members of the online group Brotherhood for Democracy. Nguyen Trung Ton, Truong Minh Duc, Pham Van Troi and Nguyen Bac Truyen, co-founders of the organization, were convicted by the People’s Court of Hanoi on April 5 on charge of subversion under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code. Being sentenced to between seven and 12 years in prison, they appealed their sentences and their appeal hearing is slated on June 4.

Police in Hanoi are expected to tighten control in the next few days to prevent local activists from gathering to support the imprisoned pro-democracy activists. Local authorities may send plainclothes agents to private residences of activists to place them under house arrest, like onmany other occasions.

===== June 3 =====

Vietnam Suspected of Poisoning Prisoners of Conscience

Defend the Defenders: Many prisoners of conscience and their families are suspecting that Vietnam’s authorities have been poisoning them with unsafe food and drinks.

Mrs. Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan, the mother of prominent human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, the well-known blogger with the nickname Mother Mushroom said thatthe activist stopped eating food provided by Prison Camp No. 5 where she is serving her 10-year imprisonment since the prison’s food sickened her every time she ate.

Quynh, who was convicted for “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code, said she is only eating noodle and fruits sent by her family.

Former prisoner of conscience Can Thi Theu, who completed her 20-month imprisonment in early early February this year, said that many times when she was held in Gia Trung prison camp in Gia Lai province and later in Prison camp No. 5 located in Yen Dinh district, Thanh Hoa province, she felt tired andhadinflamation in her throat but was notthirsty after consuming food provided by the prison. She suspected that the food supplied by the prison was unsafe and maybe mixed with toxic chemicals.

Vietnameseauthorities are willing to use all tricks to kill political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, said Theu, who spent totally 40 months in prison on allegation of “causing public disorders” and “resisting on-duty state officials” for her peaceful activities to protest land grabbing by Hanoi authorities.

Mrs. Le Thi Minh Ha, the wife of jailed prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh, also suspects that her husband was poisoned while being held in Prison camp No. 5. During her visit on May 21, Mr. Vinh, who is serving his 7-year imprisonment for his blogging activities, told her that he suffered diarrhea and pain after drank a beverage given by a two stranger men.

Chemical teacher Dinh Dang Dinh, who was sentenced to six years in prison on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” for protesting the China-invested bauxite mining project in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, died in March 2014, one month after being released from prison. He died from stomach cancer and he suspected that the disease was caused by chemical-tainted food supplied by the authorities in An Phuoc prison.

Political prisoner Huynh Anh Tri, who was freed in early 2014 after spending 14 years in prison on charge of terrorism and subversion, died in July in the same year from HIV disease. He suffered from the deadly disease afterbeingplaced in the same cell with HIV-infected inmates while serving his imprisonment in Xuan Loc Prison camp (Z230) located in the southern province of Dong Nai.

Vietnam is holding between 100 and 170 prisoners of conscience or political prisoners, according to international human rights organizations. Hanoi always denies of holding prisoners of conscience, saying it imprisons only law violators.

Amnesty International has reported that Vietnamese prisoners, especially prisoners of conscience, have been treated inhumanely,withprisonors’treatment failing to meet The  UN Standard  Minimum Rules  for  the Treatment  of  Prisoners (the  Nelson Mandela  Rules).