Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for June 4-10, 2018: Vietnam Violently Disperses Peaceful Demontrations in Many Localities

 

Defend the Defenders | June 10, 2018

 

On Sunday (June 10), thousands of Vietnamese rallied on streets to protest the bills on special economic zones and cyber security in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Nha Trang and other localities. Their peaceful demonstration were violently dispersed by security forces, with dozens being arrested and many other beaten by police and plainclothes agents and militia.

In HCM City, at least two protestors suffered serious injuries while in Danang, human rights defenders Bui Lam and his fellows were reportedly to be severely assaulted by local police.

Activists reported that security forces in HCM City also used Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs), a weapon purchased from the US to equip patrol forces, to deal with peaceful protestors.

Police held the detainees, interogating them for hours before releasing many of them in the late evening of the same day. Some protestors were taken away and no one knows their fates.

Police in Hanoi still hold local pro-democracy campaigner Nguyen Trung Linh without informing his family where he is held nor the charge he may face. Mr. Linh, who called for peaceful demonstration to protest China’s violations of the country in the South China Sea, was arrested in late May.

Vietnam’s authorities have released prominent human rights advocate Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Le Thu Ha but forced them to live in exile in Germany. Mr. Dai, 49, and Ms. Ha, 36, were taken from B14 temporary detention facility in Hanoi to Noi Bai International Airport on the migh night of June 7 and boarded in an international flight to Germany which accepted their political assylum. The duo were arrested in late 2015 and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” but later changed to subversion. On April 5, they were convicted, together with four other key members of the Brotherhood for Democracy, and sentenced to 15 years and nine years in prison, respectively.

On June 4, the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi rejected appeals of the four other activists namely Nguyen Trung Ton, Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Bac Truyen and Pham Van Troi, who were sentenced to between seven and 12 years in prison by the lower court in early April. They are former prisoner of conscience and co-founders of the online pro-democracy group.

On June 4-5, the Higher People’s Court in HCM City also upheld the prison sentences of 15 individuals in a terrorism case, sending them back to prison with sentences of between three and 16 years as decided by a lower court in late 2017. However, their cases were questionable as their first-instance and appeal hearings did not meet international standards for fair trial while activists said their cases are trumped-up politically motivated and there was no terrorism act conducted by the defendants.

The US and Canada, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have urged Vietnam’s highest legislative body National Assembly to delay the vote on the bill on cyber security proposed until it aligns with international standards. In its press release, the US Embassy in Vietnam said the bill may present serious obstacles to Vietnam’s cybersecurity and digital innovation future, and may not be consistent with Vietnam’s international trade commitments. Meanwhile, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch expressed their concerns that the bill aims to silence government critics and affect the basic right to freedom of expression.

and other news

===== June 4 =====

Vietnam Court Upholds Prison Sentences for Four Senior Members of Brotherhood for Democracy on Allegation of Subversion

Defend the Defenders: On June 4, the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi rejected appeals of three senior members and one co-founder of the Brotherhood for Democracy, sending them back to prison, Defend the Defenders has learned.

The court upheld the sentences of Protestant pastor Nguyen Trung Ton, veteran journalist Truong Minh Duc, engineer Pham Van Troi, high-ranking members of the online pro-democracy group, and its co-founder Nguyen Bac Truyen, who left the organization several years before being arrested in late July last year.

On April 5, the People’s Court of Hanoi convicted them, together with prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha, saying they were guilty of “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code. It gave Nguyen Van Dai the heaviest sentence of 15 years in prison and five years under house arrest, both Nguyen Trung Ton and Truong Minh Duc- 12 years in prison and three years of probation to, Nguyen Bac Truyen- 11 years in jail and three years of probation, Le Thu Ha- nine years in prison and three years under house arrest, and Pham Van Troi- the lighest sentence of seven years in prison and one year under house arrest.

After the first-instance hearing, only four activists appealed their sentences while Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thu Ha did not because they were tired of being in pre-trial detention and they do not expect that their sentences would be reduced in the appeal hearing.

Mr. Nguyen Van Dai and Ms. Le Thu Ha were arrested on December 16, 2015 on charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code.

On July 30, 2017, Vietnam’s authorities arrested the four others, and charging them as well as Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thu Ha with subversion.

In the appeal hearing, the wives of the four activists were allowed to enter the court room while diplomats from the US, the EU and Germany were watching the hearing from TV screen in adjacent room, similar to the first-instance hearing. Hanoi’s authorities sent plainclothes agents and militia to private residences of local activists to prevent them from gathering in the court’s areas and blocked all the roads leading to the courtroom, observers said.

The arrests and convictions of the six activists met strong international and domestic condemnation. The EU, the US, Australia and international human rights organizations issued statements to criticize Vietnam’s move, saying by convicting them, the communist regime in Hanoi violates international obligations on human rights. They also urged Hanoi to immediately and unconditionally release the convicted activists.

After convicting the six activists, Vietnam also jailed three other members of the Brotherhood for Democracy namely Nguyen Van Tuc and Tran Thi Xuan, also charged with subversion, and Vu Van Hung in a trumped-up politically case of inflicting injuries.

Vietnam is expected to try Spokesman Nguyen Trung Truc of the Brotherhood for Democracy soon. Truc was arrested last year and charged with subverion.

The arrest and convictions of senior members of the Brotherhood for Democracy are part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local dissent starting from late 2015. Since the begining of 2017, Vietnam arrested around 50 activists on allegations of the national security provisions in the Penal Code, and more than 40 of them have been convicted, sentenced to heavy sentences between three and 16 years in prison.

Vietnam has arrested four activists so far this year. Many members of the Brotherhood for Democracy have been forced to go into hiding in the nation or neighboring countries to avoid being arrested, Defend the Defenders has learned.

===== June 5 =====

Vietnam Court Upholds Prison Sentences for 15 Political Dissidents on Allegation of Terrorism

Defend the Defenders: On June 5, the Higher People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City rejected the appeals of 15 political dissidents who were convicted on terrorism under Article 84 of the 1999 Penal Code by the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City in their first-instance hearing on December 27 last year.

At the end of the two-day appeal hearing, the judge concluded that there were no new evidences which could lead to changes of their sentences so he decided to uphold the imprisonment terms of all the defendants.

Accordingly, the court upheld the sentence of 16 years in prison and five years under house arrest for Dang Hoang Thien, ten years in jail and three years of probation for Nguyen Duc Sinh, and sentences of between three years and 12 years in prison for the remaining 13 defendants in the case.

According to the indictment, the group had made a petrol bomb and placed them within the Tan Son Nhat International Airport in a bid to attract public attention. However, local police foiled the plot to bomb the airport after passengers spotted boxes that were later found to consist of explosive devices.

Police also said the group had burned a packing square in the city, and destroyed hundreds of motorbikes confiscated from traffic violators.

However, families of defendants said the case is trumped-up and there had no bomb plot nor attack of a motor packing. The defendants claimed their innocences, witnesses said.

The defendants said they have not been members of the same group, and even they have not known each other personally.

There is no independent procuracy and justice systems in Vietnam so it is very difficult for clarifying the case. In addition, many activists have been imprisoned in trumped-up politically motivated cases, including Huynh Anh Tú and Huynh Anh Tri, Bui Thi Minh Hang and Nguyen Thuy Quynh, Can Thi Theu, Vu Van Hung and ten key members of the Brotherhood for Democracy who were arrested in 2015-2017 and charged with subversion.

===== June 6 =====

Hanoi-based Activist Barely Escapes from Being Robbed by  Under-covered Policemen

Defend the Defenders: Hanoi-based pro-democracy campaigner and human rights defender Nguyen Tuong Thuy said his private house has been attacked by under-covered policemen who tried to rob him after he conducting money transfer at home.

Mr. Thuy, a member of a charity group Bau Bi Tuong Than (People’s Solidarity), said at 4.30 PM of June 6, a bank dealer came to his house in Thanh Tri district to hand over to him a donation of a person to the group.

Few minutes after the transfer was madeand the dealer left his house, a group of around ten men in plainclothes appeared and forcebly entered his house. They blocked his wife and went to the second floor where Mr. Thuy went to put the money to the family’s safe.

Alerted by his wife, Thuy locked himself in his room so they could not break in.

After few minutes failing to break in, the men left the house.

Mr. Thuy’s wife said four of the men blocked her so she couldnt call for help from neighbors. The men told her that they are police so there is no need to make noise.

When the men came, she was with her 18-month son. The baby was so scared with the men, and one of them stepped on his hand while trying to block his grandmother.

Mr. Thuy, who is also a vice president of the unregistered Independent Journalist Association of Vietnam, suggested that the men gained the transfer’s information from the bank or eavesdropped the telephone conversation between him and the bank staff so they knew about the transfer and organized the rob attempt.

Mr. Thuy plans to report the incident to the local police, however, he does not expect they will seriously investigate the case.

Many activists and their relatives have been robbed by under-covered police in similar way, said Mr. Thuy. The victims included the wives of former prisoner of conscience Vi Duc Hoi and Nguyen Trung Ton, and freelance journalist Nguyen Dinh Ha immediately after they took out money from banks or conducted transfers with bank agents.

Bau Bi Tuong Than is a group receiving financial supports from Vietnamese in the country and overseas and re-distribute to activists and victims of the communist regimes, including land petitioners. Their main targets are prisoners of conscience and suppressed activists and their relatives.

===== June 7 =====

Vietnamese Political Prisoner Tran Thi Nga Back in Touch With Family

RFA: Vietnamese political prisoner Tran Thi Nga, after having been cut off from seeing her family for several months as part of disciplinary measures, was able to call her husband this week and a family visit to her in jail may take place next week, her husband told RFA’s Vietnamese service on Wednesday.

A human rights defender noted in Vietnam for her online activism, Nga, 40, was sentenced on July 25 to nine years in prison for spreading “propaganda against the state” under Article 88 of Vietnam’s penal code, a provision frequently used to silence dissident bloggers and other activists. Her appeal was rejected in December.

Nga’s husband, Phan Van Phong, told RFA he spoke to her for five minutes on Tuesday.

“First of all, she complained about my note advising her to accept wearing prison attire so that she would be allowed to see relatives. She told me not do that anymore, as she knows how to behave,” Phong said.

“Then she asked about the health of all relatives and talked with our kids,” he added.

Last month Phong had received a phone call from an anonymous woman who said she was Nga’s cellmate and had just been released. The woman said Nga was not allowed to see her family or to use her monthly five-minute phone call to her husband.

No reason was given for Nga’s punishment, but Phong said that prison authorities had told him before that Nga always displayed a “protest attitude” since she was brought to her current prison.

On Wednesday Phong also said authorities indicated that he and the couple’s two children would be able to meet Nga.

Phong said he was planning a trip to faraway Gia Trung Prison on June 12 for a family reunion.

In March, Nga was transferred to a distant prison — a prison in Gia Long Province, more than 1,000 km (620 miles) from her home in Ha Nam — without informing her family. Such transfers are apparently designed by authorities to increase prisoners’ isolation and make it difficult for family and friends to visit them.

Vietnamese Political Prisoner Tran Thi Nga Back in Touch With Family

===== June 8 =====

Prominent Human Rights Attorney Nguyen Van Dai and His Assistant Le Thu Ha Released, Forced to Exile in Germany

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s authorities have released prominent attorney Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Le Thu Ha but forced them to go to exile in Germany, Defend the Defenders has learned.

Mr. Dai, 49, and Ms. Ha, 36, were said to be taken from B14 detention facility in Hanoi to the Noi Bai International Airport where they were boarded to an international flight to head to Germany on the mid night of June 7. Mrs. Vu Minh Khanh, the wife of Mr. Dai, was also on the same flight, a source said.

Mr. Dai, one of founders of the Brotherhood for Democracy, and Ms. Ha were arrested on December 16, 2015 and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of Vietnam’s 1999 Penal Code. More than seven months later, on July 30, 2017, their charges were changed into “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the samecode after Vietnam arrested four more key members of the online pro-democracy group.

On April 5, the People’s Court of Hanoi convicted the six activists, sentencing them to a total 66 years in prison and 17 years under house arrest afterward. Mr. Dai was given the heaviest sentence of 15 years in prison and five years under house arrest while Ms. Ha was sentenced to nine years in prison and three years of probation. On June 4, the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi upheld their sentences which are final, according to the current Vietnamese law although Dai and Ha did not appeal their sentences.

Being forced to live in exile in Germany, Mr. Dai and Ms. Ha are likely not allowed to come back to the communist-ruled Vietnam. Both have old mothers living in Hung Yen province and Hue City, respectively.

Their release is ensured thanks to great efforts of the German government. Vietnam’s communist government seems to take this step as part of its compensation for the kidnap of former senior official Trinh Xuan Thanh in Berlin in July last year.

In the past few years, in order to exchange economic and diplomatic interests with the US and the EU, Vietnam has forced a number of jailed pro-democracy activists to live in exile, including France-trained legal expert Cu Huy Ha Vu, prominent blogger Nguyen Van Hai (known as Dieu Day), independent journalist Ta Phong Tan, and Dang Xuan Dieu.

On the same time, Vietnam has intensified its crackdown on local dissent, arresting more than 50 political dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and bloggers since early 2016 and charged them with controversial articles in the national security provisions in the Penal Code. Most of them have been convicted and sentenced to prison between three and 16 years.

Vietnam’s highest legislative body National Assembly is discussing a bill on cyber security which aims to silence government’s critics. The bill’s vote is scheduled by the rubber-stamp parliament on June 12, and if it is approved, any Vietnamese speaking true but harmful for the communist government on social media may face imprisonment.

===== June 9 =====

Pro-democracy Campaigner Nguyen Trung Linh Still Under Detention, His Situation Unknown for Family

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi are still holding pro-democracy campaigner Nguyen Trung Linh in custody but have not informed his family about his situation, Defend the Defenders has learned.

Mr. Linh, who posted a statement on his Facebook page on May 25 to call for peaceful demonstrations to protest China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea), was arrested by security forces in late May. However, it is unclear what charge he is facing nor his prosecution is made.

Currently, his family does not know where he is held because the city’s police have not informed his family, his sister-in-law namely Ho Thi Lan told Defend the Defenders.

A retired activist said Mr. Linh was arrested on May 27 afterhe appeared in centralHanoi while his neighbors told his friends that the arrest was made in his private apartment on May 28. Police had also searched his apartment located in Hai Ba Trung district, neighbors added.

Mrs. Lan, who is residing in the US, said her family has litle information about Mr. Linh’s detention.

Mr. Linh’s detention can be listed as enforced disappearance, according to international norm, said Vu Quoc Ngu, director of Defend the Defenders. The domestic public and international human rights organizations should pay attention to his case, Mr. Ngu said.

Mr. Linh was born in 1967 in the central province of Thanh Hoa. He was an excellent student, sent to the Czech Republic in mid 1980s to study a bachelor program. Influenced by democratic revolution in the Eastern Europe in early 1990s, he worked for a student outlet established by Vietnamese pro-democracy activists in Prague.

After returning in Vietnam in mid 1990s, he was detained by security forces but no charge was made. After marrying to a university official, he was arrested again because of his pro-democracy writing and attempts to establish an organization with participation of other activists. In order to avoid being prosecuted, his family claimed that he had mental disease as one of his brothers. He was sent to a mental treatment facility for a short time.

Mrs. Lan said that in the past over 20 years, Mr. Linh has been under constant persecution of the Hanoi security forces who maintain close surveillance on him. He had been arrested and placed in detention for short time without being charged many times, she said.

He has been assaulted many times by policemen who were assigned to follow him, when he met with other activists or took his two children to school, Lan said, adding that in one of these cases, they knocked down his motorbike, causing serious injuries to his older son on his head.

Along with assaulting him, police threatened to take him back to mental disease treatment facilities if he continues to write to advocate multi-party democracy.

Hanoi police also disseminated the wrong information saying he is suffering from mental disease in a bid to isolate him with other activists and people in his areas. They have also blocked his economic activities.

Police have also threatened his relatives in order to prevent them from speak out to support him, Lan noted, adding as a result, few people understand his situation.

Linh had called for the establishment of opposition parties, however, police detected and arrested him in short time, she said.

Along with using controversial articles in the national security provisions to arrest and convict political dissidents, Vietnam’s security forces have used other measures to persecute activists, including abduction, torture, close surveillance, and blockage of economic activities. Many political dissidents have been arrested and placed in long detention without being charged and tried.

The detention of Mr. Linh is part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local political dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and bloggers. Around 80 activists have been arrested and convicted in the past few years.

Mr. Linh has been the 4th activist being detained so far this year. Others are namely Vu Van Hung, member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, Do Cong Duong, a anti-corruption activist, and university official Nguyen Duy Son. Duong and Son were charged with “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the 2015 Penal Code while Hung was sentenced to one year in prison for inflicting injuries in a trumped-up politically motivated case in early January.

===== June 10 =====

Dozens Detained, Beaten as Vietnam Violently Disperse Peaceful Demonstrations Protesing Bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s security forces in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other localities have violently cracked down peaceful demonstrations of local residents who are protesting the two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security.

Citizen journalists have reported that security forces arrested dozens of protestors in Hanoi and HCM City in the morning of Sunday (June 10). Police and militia were reported to brutally beat many peaceful demonstrators in the two biggest cities as well as in Danang, the largest economic hub in the country’s central region.

Facebookers circulate pictures and videoclips showing protester Huynh Tan Tuyen is with his blood on his dresses as results of being beaten by police in HCM City.

Activists reported that security forces in HCM City also used Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs), a weapon purchased from the US to equip patrol forces, to deal with peaceful protestors.

Blogger Nguyen Thai Son from Danang said police brutally assaulted Bui Lam and his fellows when they appeared in the city’s center to join with others in the demonstrations there.

Police still hold the detainees in many locations in these cities, local activists informed Defend the Defenders. In custody, police officers interrogated detainees, they said.

The mass protest started yesterday with the participation of around 50 thousands of workers in Tan Tao Industrial Zone in HCM City on Saturday (June 9).

On next day, thousands of Vietnamese rallied in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Nha Trang and other locations.

In these peacefeul demonstrations, participants used banners “No EEZs” or “Stop Bill on Cyber Security.”

Vietnam’s security forces across the nation have tightened control over the week. Authorities in localities have sent police and militia to station near private residences of local activists since June 9, effectively placing them under house arrest in a bid to prevent them from joining protests. Many activists reported that they left their house during the week to avoid being locked by security forces.

The demonstrations were planned days in advance in response to the plan of the country’s highest legislative body National Assembly to pass the two bills next week during its one-month meeting started on May 20.

According to legal experts, the bill on Cyber Security, if is approved, will give sweeping new powers to the Vietnamese authorities, allowing them to force technology companies to hand over potentially vast amounts of data, including personal information, and to censor Internet users’ posts. The law aims to silence government’s critics and every Internet users may be criminally charged just for exercising their basic right to freedom of expression, activists said.

Meanwhile, with the law on Special Economic Zones, Vietnam’s communist government wants to establish three zones namely Van Don, Phu Quoc and Bac Van Phong in the three strategic locations in the three regions of the country, in which foreign investors may be allowed to rent land for 99 years. Activists suspect that the bill is the first step to allow Chinese investors to acquire land and bring Chinese untrained workers to in these locations to turn them into China’s territory.

Vietnam has no need to set up more special economic zones to attract foreign investment, said many senior economists, including veteran chief economist Pham Chi Lan. The country has signed a number of free trade agreements with the EU, the US and other countries so it should focus on implementation of these pacts, they said.

In addition to national security issues with the potential investment from China, these special economic zones will create unfair treatments of companies and people in these locations and other remaining places, according to entrepreneur Le Hoai Anh.

Under the public pressure, Vietnam’s rubber-stamped parliament and its government said they will postpone the discussion and approval of the bill on special economic zones to the next session of the parliament scheduled in October this year.

The communist-controlled parliament is expected to conduct voting on the bill on cyber security on June 12.

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.”

More informations about Sunday’s protests:

Vietnam police halt protests against new economic zones

Vietnam tries to contain anti-China protests as plan for new economic zones sparks anger

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