Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report on July 2-8, 2018: Independent Journalist Le Anh Hung Arrested for Cricizing Communist Leaders

 

Defend the Defenders | July 8, 2018

 

On July 5, authorities in Hanoi arrested independent political journalist Le Anh Hung, charged him with “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the 2015 Penal Code for his online posts criticizing communist leaders, including Nguyen Phu Trong, secretary general of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam, and Hoang Trung Hai, secretary of the Hanoi party’s Committee.

Mr. Hung, 45, who has many articles on Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Asia (RFA) and his own blog, will be held at least forthe next three months in the Temporary detention facility No. 2 under the authority of the Hanoi police department. He will face imprisonment of up to seven years in prison if is convicted, according to current Vietnamese law.

Mr. Hung isthe 6th activist detained so far this year as the Vietamese government continues its crackdown on local dissents started in late 2015. Othersinclude anti-corruption blogger Do Cong Duong,two Facebookers Nguyen Duy Son and Nguyen Van Quang, apro-democracy campaigner Nguyen Trung Linh,and former prisoner of conscience and Brotherhood for Democracy member Vu Van Hung.

A few hours after Hung’s arrest, Amnesty International issued a statementcalling for his immediate and unconditional release, saying he should not be detained as he “was simply using his platform as a well-known blogger to express his opinion about a government policy. For writing a letter he now faces the prospect of up to seven years in jail if convicted.”

Prominent human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, well-known dissident blogger popularly known asMother Mushroom, likely started a hunger strike on July 6, the second within two months, in a bid to protest inhumane treatment of the Prison Camp No. 6 in Yen Dinh district, Thanh Hoa province. Quynh was said to be under mental torture byone of her cellmatesbut prison authorities have takenno actions to halt it.Sometimes she is placed in solitaryconfinement. Her first hunger strike in May aimed to protest prison authorities who denied her right to communication with her family by mail.

In June, Quynh said she only eatsfood supplied by her family after suffering food poisoning from the food supplied by the prison.

Authorities in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong continued their attacks against former prisoner of conscience and President of the Viet Labor Movement Do Thi Minh Hanh and her father from June 24 until recent days when she was taken out of her father’s house in Di Linh commune, Di Linh district. Plainclothes agents cut off electricity of the house and threw stones, bricks, a hand-made bomb,and tear gasduring nights in late June and early July.

Vietnam’s authorities have transferred prisoners of conscience Hoang Duc Binh and Truong Minh Duc, two vice presidentsof the Viet Labor Movement, to prisons far from their families without informing their relatives. Mr. Binh, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for his activities to help Formosa-affected fishermen, was transferred to An Diem prison camp in the central province of Quang Nam, about 550 km from his native province of Nghe An while Mr. Duc, who was given 12 years in prison and three years under house arrest for his activities which aim to promote human rights and multi-party democracy, was taken to Prison camp No. 6 in Thanh Chuong district, Nghe An, about 1,200 km from Ho Chi Minh City where his family is residing.

Authorities in the southern province of Dong Nai still hold sisters Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong, 30 and Nguyen Thi Truc Anh, 24, two Catholic followers from Phuc Lam parish, Ho Nai ward, Bien Hoa city. Police in Bien Hoa city detained the duo on June 10 when they participated in a peaceful demonstration to protest two bills on Cyber Security and Special Economic Zones. Their family has not been informed about their detention nor the causes of their arrest.

The Higher People’s Court in Hanoi will hold the appeal hearing for Vu Quang Thuan, Nguyen Van Dien and Tran Hoang Phuc, three members of the Vietnam Reviving Campaign on July 10. In their trial on January 31, their families were not allowed to enter the courtroom. Phuc’s mother is seeking permission for attending the appeal hearing. The trio were givenatotal of 20 years and six months in prison and 13 years under house arrest by the Hanoi People’s Court in their first-instance hearing for allegations of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code.

Prominent dissident Dr. Nguyen Quang A was held by security forces in the morning of July 8 when he came back from Thailand. In his 16th detention from 9.30 PM until 3PM of the same day, he was interrogated by security officers about his activities during his foreign trip, however, he denied taking about it, saying he did nothing illegally. One of police officers cursed him, he said.

===== July 2 =====

Prisoner of Conscience Hoang Duc Binh Transferred Far from His Family

Defend the Defenders: Vietnameseauthorities have transferred labor activist and environmental campaigner Hoang Duc Binh to An Diem prison camp in the central province of Quang Nam, about 550 km from his family.

Authorities in his native province of Nghe An didnot inform his family about the transfer, Hoang Nguyen, younger brother of the jailed activist told Defend the Defenders.

Mr. Nguyen said on July 2, his parents and he went to the Nghi Kim temporary detention facility under the authority of the Nghe An province’s Department of Public Security to visit Binh and provide him with some food supplements. However, the facility’s authorities told them that Binh had beentaken away without mentioning the time ofthe transfer.

An Diem prison camp is located in a mountainous area of Dai Loc district with severe natural conditions. A number of political prisoners have been imprisoned there, including prominent human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan and well-known writer and democracy campaigner Nguyen Xuan Nghia.

Mr. Binh, vice president of the unsanctioned organization Viet Labor Movement, was arrested on May 15 last year and charged with “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties” under Article 330 and “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 February 6 this year, the People’s Court of Dien Chau district sentenced him to 14 years in prison in the first-instance hearing and the People’s Court of Nghe An province upheld the sentence in the appeal hearing on April 24.

According to his lawyer Ha Huy Son, both the first-instance hearing and the appeal hearing failed to meet international fair trial standards. The court’s decisions were based on statements of police officers while the judge rejected the requests of the defendant and his lawyer to use video clips made by Binh and his fellows which couldprove that the activist had done nothing to be accused of resisting on-duty officials as well as abusing the right to freedom of democracy as evidents of the hearing.

He was convicted for his defenseofworkers’ rights, and assisting Formosa-affected fishermen in seeking adequate compensation.

He had been kept incommunicado formonths until late March when he was permitted to meet with his lawyer to prepare for his defense. His family was allowed to meet him for the first time in late April, after the appeal.

The arrest and conviction of Binh ispart of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and bloggers. Since early 2017, Vietnam has arrested more than 50 activists, charging them with vague articles in the national security provisions of the Penal Code.

Dozens of activists have been convicted and sentenced to lengthy imprisonments of between three and 16 years. Among convicted are eight key members of the unregistered organization Brotherhood for Democracy.

Viet Labor Movement has also been one of main targets of the Vietnamese government persecution. Two other vice presidents of the organization namely Nguyen Van Duc Do and Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung are in jail while President Do Thi Minh Hanh has been under continous attacks of under-covered policemen who threw stones, bricks and a hand-made bomb to her father’s private residence in Di Linh district, Lam Dong province where she lives with her father.

===== July 4 =====

Labor Activist Do Thi Minh Hanh Attacked with Tear Gas ]

Defend the Defenders: During the night of July 3, under-cover policemen in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Lam Dong attacked the private residence of labor activist Do Thi Minh Hanh with stones, bricks, wasted lubricant oil and tear gas, the victim told Defend the Defenders.

Ms. Hanh, former prisoner of conscience and president of the unsanctioned organization Viet Labor Movement, said the attack started at around 11.30 PM as they cut off electricity of the house in Di Linh commune, Di Linh district, in which she and her elderlyfather live.

Later, thugs threw stones and bricks as well as wasted lubricant oil into the house, breaking all glasses in windows and doors.

Few minutes later, her 76-year-old father detected a strange and uncomfortable odor. Minh Hanh reported her skin feeling hot and burning, and havig trouble breathing without coughing.They suspected that the thugs sprayed the house with tear gas.

The assault lasted several hours during the night, Ms. Hanh said.

In the early morning, Ms. Hanh used an empty glass on a table near a window to take water and drink. Shortly after that, she felt pain in her throat and mouth. She suggested that the glass was contaminated with the toxic substances the thugs used to assault them.

It took Hanh and her father hours to clean bricks, stones and plastic bags the thugs used for lubricant oil. They found also some glass bottles which were used for toxic substances, Hanh said, adding she telephoned the local police but they never came.

The attack was among a series of assaults against Ms. Hanh and her father since late June.

The campaign of plainclothes agents startedon June 24 with anassault against her on street by two masked men.

Overthe next two nights, thugs attacked their house with stones and bricks, and on June 27, they even threw a hand-made bomb into the house, however, the deadly device failed to work.

The thugs repeated their violent acts on June 30 and July 1.

Hanh tried to call the local police to report the assault but they did not answer, she said.

Ms. Hanh, who was sentenced to seven years in prison on allegation of disrupting security for her union activities but spent only four years and four months in prison in 2010-2014 thanks to international pressure, has been a constant subject of police harassment.

In May, she was barred from going to visit her mother in Austria where she is staying with Hanh’s older sister.

Hanh had recently returned from HCMCity to DiLinh to take care ofher elderlyfather in Lam Dong. However, the local police have maintained tight surveillanceover her activities.

Under-cover policemen have hired a room near her father’s house to keep close eyes on her.

The recent aggressive moves of the Lam Dong police likely aim to force her to move out of the province.

Hanhis the third victim of theLam Dong police inrecentweeks. Lastweek,they also attacked former prisoner of conscience Truong Van Kimand religious activist Hua Phi.

In the morning of June 27, blogger Dinh Van Hai came to Hanh’s house to support her. On the way to go home, he was beaten up and badly injured by a group of thugs. Hai received a broken right hand and left shoulder from the assault. Mr. Hai was taken to the Di Linh district general hospital for treatment of the injuries.

On July 2, Amnesty International issued a statementcalling the authorities in Lam Dong to take measures to protect Ms. Minh Hanh and her father, and launch an investigation to bring the attackers to justice.

“These disturbing incidents pose a serious threat to Do Thi Minh Hanh’s safety and have left her and the family fearing for their lives. The authorities of Di Linh town must take urgent steps to protect her before the situation deteriorates further.

“The attacks, which are becoming increasingly violent, are likely motivated by Do Thi Minh Hanh’s high-profile activism – this must not be used by authorities as a reason to turn a blind eye. Local police must ensure that measures are immediately put in place to protect Do Thi Minh Hanh and Vietnamese authorities must launch an investigation to bring those responsible to justice,” said Minar Pimple, Senior Director of Global Operation at Amnesty International.

===== July 5 =====

Independent Blogger Le Anh Hung Arrested, Charged with “Abusing Democratic Freedom”

Defend the Defenders: On July 5, Vietnam’s authorities arrested independent blogger Le Anh Hung and charged him with “Abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, lawful rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” under Article 331 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.

Police also searchedhis mother’s house in Kim Giang commune, Hoang Mai district, Hanoi, according to independent journalist Nguyen Vu Binh, who is also a former political prisoner.

In the late afternoon on July 5th, the Investigation Agency under the Hanoi Department of Public Security confirmed the arrest, saying he is held in the Temporary detention facility No. 2 under the authority of the department.

According to the current Vietnamese Criminal Procedure Code, Mr. Hung, 45, will be held in the next three months for investigation. He will face imprisonment of up to seven years in prison if is convicted.

Mr. Hung filed his letter 139 timesto state agencies to denunciate General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) and Hoang Trung Hai, Politburo member of the party and secretary of the party in the capital city, forcooperating with China andbetraying the nation.

Hung is a regular political writer for Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) as well as British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in their Vietnamese programs. He and Mr. Nguyen Vu Binh are the key figures of the Đài Phát thanh Việt Nam(Vietnam Broadcasting Radio), in addition to being member of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN).

Due to his denunciations against high-profile state officials and participation in peaceful protests against China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the South China Sea, he was detained and interrogated many times in recent years.

In late January 2013, he was arrested and sent to a mental clinics but released two weeks later after he and his wife Phuong Anh accused Hoang Trung Hai, then deputy prime minister, ofinvolvementin drug trafficking.

In order to keep the country under a one-party regime, the Vietnamese communist government has intensified crackdown on local dissent. It has arrested and imprisoned over 50 activists in recent years.

Mr. Hung has been the 6th activist being detained so far this year. Other include anti-corruption blogger Do Cong Duong and two Facebookers Nguyen Duy Son and Nguyen Van Quang, apro-democracy campaigner Nguyen Trung Linh and Vu Van Hung, former prisoner of conscience and member of the Brotherhood for Democracy. The first two were charged with Article 331 while Mr. Quang was accused of ” Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code. Mr. Linh was arrested by Hanoi police in late May but his situation is unknown while Mr. Hung was arrested on January 4 and convicted of “inflicting injuries” in a trumped-up politically case with sentence of one year in prison.

Vietnam is one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists. At least 10 journalists were behind bars in Vietnam as of December 1, 2017, according to Committee to Protect Journalists.

———————

Imprisoned Labor Activist, Pro-democracy Campaigner Truong Minh Duc Transferred to Notorious Prison in Nghe An

Defend the Defenders: Truong Minh Duc, who was convicted of “carrying out activities to overthrow the people’s government” in April, was transferred to the Prison Camp No. 6 in Thanh Chuong district of the central province of Nghe An, his wife Nguyen Kim Thanh told Defend the Defenders.

Mrs. Thanh said she had learned the transfer of her husband from a “good source,” adding she has yet to be informed from Vietnam’s authorities.

The prison camp is located about 1,200 km from Ho Chi Minh City where his family is living. With his transfer to Prison Camp No. 6, Mrs. Thanh will face difficulties in visiting him and supplying him with additional food given the poor-quality food provided by prisons in Vietnam, she said.

Mr. Duc, vice president of the unsanctioned organization Viet Labor Movement and a key figure of the Brotherhood for Democracy, was arrested together with three other senior members of the online pro-democracy group on July 30, 2017 and charged with subversion under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

On April 5, the People’s Court of Hanoi convicted him and five other members of the Brotherhood for Democracy, and sentenced him to 12 years in prison and three years under house arrest. One month later, on June 4, the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi upheld his sentence.

Before being arrested, Mr. Duc had beenkidnapped and brutally beaten by plainclothes agents many times.

This is the second imprisonment of Mr. Duc. He was imprisoned in 2007-2012 for “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 258 of the 1999 Penal Code for his writings which aimed to promote multi-party democracy and human rights.

You can get more information about Mr. Duc here.

Prison Camp No. 6 is one of the most severe prisons in Vietnam. Many activists, including legal expert Cu Huy Ha Vu and priminent blogger Nguyen Van Hai (or Dieu Cay) have conducted hunger strikes to protest inhumane treatment of the prison while serving their sentences there.

===== July 6 =====

Jailed Prominent Vietnamese Blogger Mother Mushroom to Conduct Hunger Strike to Protest Prison Inhumane Treatment 

Defend the Defenders: Prominent Vietnamese human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, who is serving her 10-year imprisonment, will conduct hunger strike to protest inhumane treatment of the authorities in the Prison Camp No. 5 located in Yen Dinh district, Thanh Hoa province.

In her telephone conversation with her mother Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan from the notorious prison for political activists in the early morning of July 6, Ms. Quynh, who is wellknown onsocial media as Mother Mushroom, said she will stop eating prison food and the food supplied by her mother.

It is not a normal call given the fact that Quynh used to make calls to her mother onSunday mornings.

Since June 26, Quynh has asked to meet with the prison’s authorities to settle problems she is facing but the authorities have to this pointdeniedany such meeting, said blogger Duong Dai Trieu Lam, a closed friend of Quynh’s family.

Last week, Ms. Lan visited Quynh in the prison and the blogger said she is under threat as one of the two inmates in their shared cell is cursing her all times.

Sometimes Quynh is placed in solitary confinementwithout proper ventilation and sunlight.

This would be the second hunger strike of Quynh within two months. In May, Quynh also stopped eating to protest the prison’s authorities who denied her right to communicate with her family by mails.

Quynh, the mother of two kids, 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 online postings on police brutality, country’s sovereignty, environmental pollutionand other issues.

In June 2017, she was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Her conviction has met strong international and domestic condemnation.

Last week, the NGO Vietnam VOICE launched a documentary film on Quynh titled When Mother’s Awayin Bangkok. However, the Thai government, likely under interventionfrom Hanoi, suspendedits projection for the second time this week.

Quynh is a brave human rights defender and independent journalist. She has been honored with the 2015 Civil Rights Defender of the Year by the Stockholm-based CivilRights Defenders, the United States Department of State International Women of Courage Award in 2017,and 2018 International Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

On July 3, CPJ issued a statementcalling Vietnam to release Quynh immediately and unconditionally.

“Vietnamese authorities must put an immediate stop to the deliberate psychological abuse of jailed Vietnamese journalist Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s Southeast Asia representative. “As long as Quynh remains behind bars, the world will view Vietnam as an unconscionable abuser of basic human rights.”

In late June, on the occasion to mark one year of Quynh’s conviction, Civil Rights Defenders issued a statementreiteratingits call for her freedom.

The living conditions in Vietnam’s prisons are hard. Inmates, especially prisoners of conscience,routinelyface alack of food, hygene and medical services. In addition, prison authorities useguards and criminal inmates to terrorizeand beat jailed activists. Many activists have conducted hunger strikes to protest inhumane treatment of prisons.

Jailed activists are often sent to prison camps far from their families which meet difficulties in making prison visits and supplying them with additional food and other basic things.

——————–

Two Catholic Followers Still in Custody Since Arrest in Early June

Defend the Defenders: Sisters Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong, 30 and Nguyen Thi Truc Anh, 24, two Catholic followers from Phuc Lam parish, Ho Nai ward, Bien Hoa city, have been in custody since being detained on June 10, according to Nhat ky Bieu tinh(Protest Diary), a Facebook account managed by local activists.

Accordingly, Ms. Phuong and Ms. Anh were arrested by Bien Hoa police on June 10 while participating in a peaceful demonstration protesting two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security

Their family has not been informed about their detention from the police in Dong Nai province, Nhat ky Bieu tinh said, adding the two sisters are held in the Temporary detention facility under the authority of the Bien Hoa city’s police.

According to local activists, on June 10, many citizens in Dong Nai province went to Bien Hoa, the biggest city in the province, to join demonstrations. Police had detained around 100 protestors, mostly workers, they said, adding it is unclear how many are still in custody.

Activists suggested that detainees may be sent to labor camps where homeless people are imprisoned without being convicted with criminal charges.

On June 10 and June 17, tens of thousands of Vietnamese rallied on streets in many cities, including Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Nha Trang, Phan Thiet, and Bien Hoa to protest the two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security, the first was postponed to the next session of the parliament scheduled in October-November and the second was approved by the rubber-stamped National Assembly on June 12.

In response, Vietnam’s security forces used violent measures to disperse the demonstrations, including tear gas, and water cannons. Police detained hundreds of protestors and ordinary citizens, beating them on scenes and in custody.

Many detainees were released after being tortured and interrogated while dozens of others are still in custody and charged with “causing public disorders,” “disrupting security” or “resisting state officials in duty.” Convicted one faces imprisonment of up to seven years in jail for each charge.

The right to asssembly is enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution, however, the communist government does not welcome spontanous gatherings, and use violent measures to suppress those demonstrations considered to challenge the ruling communist party’s power.

=====

Motherof Pro-democracy Activist Tran Hoang Phuc Seeks Permission to Attend His Appeal Hearing

Defend the Defenders: Mrs. Huynh Thi Ut, the mother of jailed pro-democracy campaigner Tran Hoang Phuc has sought permission from Vietnam’s authorities for attending his appeal hearing scheduled on July 10.

The Ho Chi Minh City-based mother has sent her request to the Supreme People’s Court and the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi. However, she has yet to receive response from the two agencies.

The appeal hearing of Phuc and two other members of the Vietnam Reviving Campaign, Mr. Vu Quang Thuan and Mr. Nguyen Van Dien, is open for public, according to the announcement of the Supreme People’s Court. It will be carried out by the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi.

In their first-instance hearing on January 31 this year, ostensiblyopen for public, no one from their families was permitted to enter the courtroom. They were kept far from the court area while all the roads leading to the court were blocked by numerous police officers and militia. Foreign diplomats were not permitted to observe the hearing in the courtroom while many activists in Hanoi were blocked from going out during the day.

In their trial more than five months ago, they were convicted of “conducting anti-state propganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code. Particularly, Mr. Thuan and Mr. Dien were accussed of producing and posting 31 video clips on social networks which defame state leadership, including late President Ho Chi Minh, the founder of the communist regime.

Mr. Thuan was sentenced to eigh years in prison and five years under house arrest while Dien was given six years and six months in prison and four years of probation.

Phuc was said to assist Thuan and Dien in posting three video clips, and was sentenced to six years in prison and four years under house arrest.

At the end of the trial, the defendants reaffirmed that they are not guilty and had only been exercising basic rights enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution as well as the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights to which Vietnam is a signatory.

The arrest of the trio was part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local dissent. Last year, Vietnam arrested at least 40 activists and charged most of them with controversial articles of national security provisions in the Penal Code.

They have been among 20 activists convicted so far this year.

It is expected that their sentences will be upheld by the Higher People’s Court in Hanoi given the fact that few political defendants got lighter sentences in their appeal hearings.

The trio have been held in the Temporary detention facility No. 1 under the authority of the Hanoi police department. Mrs. Ut has reported that the facility’s authorities refuse to allow her to send medical drugs for Mr. Phuc who is suffering from hepatitis C disease.

===== July 8 =====

Prominent Dissident Nguyen Quang A Held, Interrogated for 5 Hours After Coming Back from Thailand

Defend the Defenders: On July 8, prominent dissident Nguyen Quang A was detained and interrogated by Vietnam’s security forces in Noi Bai International Airport when he came back from Thailand, the victim reported on his Facebook account.

Dr. A, who was trained in Hungary and former head of Institute of Development Studies – IDS, the first private thinktank in Vietnam, said that when he left the airplane, security officers appeared and took him to a police station near the airport.

From 9.30 AM until 3 PM, a group of four security officers questioned him about his activities in Bangkok as well as his opinions about recent demonstrations in Vietnam. One of them even cursed him.

Dr. A refused to answer their questions. He also denied to take food and coffee offered by security officers.

It is likely Dr. A went to Bangkok as a traineron social issues. He cancelled his plan to go to Europe.

This is the 16th detention of Dr. A by security forces in recent years. As a leading dissident, he has been invited to meet with foreign diplomats and officials visiting the one-party country, but he has been blocked many times. He has also been detained many times after coming back from foreign trips.

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