Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for May 13-19, 2019: Vietnam Holds 128 Prisoners of Conscience, Says Amnesty International
Defend the Defenders | May 19, 2019
Amnesty International says Vietnam’s communist regime is holding 128 prisoners of conscience in prison or pre-trial detention by the end of April. The number included only the names of those who could be verified, suggesting the number of detained people was likely to be higher.
On May 13, authorities in the northern province of Bac Ninh arrested anti-corruption campaigner Trinh Viet Bang for his denunciations against senior bank officials. He is likely charged with “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the 2015 Penal Code with the maximum imprisonment of seven years for the allegation.
Prisoner of conscience Nguyen Van Hoa, who is serving his seven-year imprisonment in An Diem Prison camp in the central province of Quang Nam, is reportedly beaten by prison’s guards and placed in a solitary cell for an unknown reason.
Dong Nai authorities have illegally detained Mr. Nguyen Dinh Khue, who owns Facebook account Ngài Nam Tước, according to Saigon-based lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng. The 41-year-old Facebooker was charged with subversion and faces long-term imprisonment if is convicted for his online activities.
Meanwhile, four residents in Thanh Hoa province were fined a total VND30 million ($1,280) for their posts and shares on Facebook.
Authorities in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Lam Dong and other localities were placing many local activists and their families under de facto house arrest before and during the Vietnam-US Human Rights Dialogue which was taken in the capital city on May 15.
On May 17, the European Union Delegation to Vietnam expresses its concern following the sentencing of Ms. Vu Thi Dung and Ms. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Suong on May 10 by the People’s Court of Dong Nai province. In its press release, the delegation called on Vietnam’s government to unconditionally and immediately release the two women who were sentenced to six and five years in prison on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” for their campaign to call on street protests against the regime.
===== May 13 =====
Anti-corruption Campaigner Trinh Viet Bang Arrested on Allegation of “Abusing Democratic Freedom”
Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s northern province of Bac Ninh have arrested local anti-corruption campaigner Trinh Viet Bang for his denunciations against senior bank officials, Defend the Defenders has learned.
On May 13, the Security Investigation Agency of the Bac Ninh province’s Police Department arrested him and conducted a house search of his private residence in Bac Ninh city.
According to Hanoi-based lawyer Ha Huy Son, who participates in many political cases, said Mr. Bang, 60, is likely charged with “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.
Mr. Bang will be held for investigation in the next four months at least, and he is facing imprisonment of up to seven years, if is convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.
Mr. Bang is a deputy director of Tien Du district’s branch of the Vietnam Bank for Social Policies. He has submitted a number of denunciations accusing the Bac Ninh province branch’s director named Doan Van Khai and his colleague named Nguyen Ba Binh of financial frauds and mistreatment of staff.
The Communist Party of Vietnam which monopolistically rules the country for decades and its government have verbally encouraged people to fight against corruption. However, numerous citizens have been imprisoned or received reprisals after speaking out about state officials’ corruption.
Last year, Bac Ninh convicted anti-corruption activist Do Cong Duong, sentencing him to a total 8 years in prison on charges of “disturbing public orders” and “abusing democratic freedom” in a trumped-up case in a bid to silence him.
Banking is one of the most corrupted sectors in Vietnam where corruption is systemic and the country scored 33 points out of 100 on the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. Corruption Index in Vietnam averaged 28.04 Points from 1997 until 2018, reaching an all time high of 35 Points in 2017 and a record low of 24 Points in 2002.
At least 128 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam: Amnesty
aljazeera.com: The number of prisoners of conscience in Vietnam has risen by a third over the past year amid a continuing crackdown on freedom of expression in the Southeast Asian nation, Amnesty International has said.
The London-based human rights group said on Monday it had counted at least 128 people in jail for expressing their views, a 10th of them for online activity, by the end of March 2019. There were 97 people in detention the previous year, it said.
The Amnesty list included only the names of those who could be verified, suggesting the number of detained people was likely to be higher.
“This research shows that Vietnam’s tightening stranglehold on every area of public and private life,” Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty’s director for East and Southeast Asia, said in a statement.
Bequelin added that Vietnamese people’s right to speak their minds was increasingly at risk.
“The Vietnamese authorities are becoming more thin-skinned by the day,” Bequelin said. “It’s their own citizens who are paying a terrible price simply because of something they said or someone they met.”
The Amnesty report comes as the government in Vietnam moves to deepen diplomatic ties with both the United States and the European Union. US officials are due to travel to Vietnam this week for a “human rights dialogue” that is usually held every two years.
Dhevy Sivaprakasam, a Bangkok-based international associate legal adviser at the International Commission of Jurists, said the crackdown was not only taking place in the context of global and regional concern about online content, but also amid uncertainty about Vietnam’s leadership.
There are concerns about the health of 75-year-old President Nguyen Phu Trong, who also heads the ruling Communist Party.
His predecessor, Tran Dai Quang, who took office in 2016, died in September last year of a serious illness at the age of 61.
“The crackdown intensified from 2016,” Sivaprakasam told Al Jazeera. “But there have been more cases and the sentences are getting tougher. They are trying to crack down on dissent and any form of discussion online.”
Given the worsening crackdown, she said the US and the EU should put more pressure on Vietnam over its human rights commitments.
For further reading: At least 128 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam: Amnesty
===== May 14 =====
Prisoner of Conscience Nguyen Van Hoa Reportedly Beaten in An Diem Prison Camp, Placed in Solitary Cell
Defend the Defenders: Prisoner of conscience Nguyen Van Hoa has been reportedly beaten and placed in a solitary cell in An Diem Prison camp in the central province of Quang Nam.
On May 13, Defend the Defenders was informed from the family of prisoner of conscience Hoang Duc Binh, who is also serving his 14-year imprisonment in the same camp, that in his telephone call to his family, Binh said detention officers gripped Hoa’s neck and beat him harshly.
He advised Hoa’s family to immediately conduct a prison visit to learn more about his situation.
On May 14, Ms. Hue, the older sister of Hoa, went to the camp and requested to meet with him. However, she was denied and told that Hoa is disciplined in a solitary cell so he will not be able to meet his relatives.
The camp authorities have not informed her the reason for disciplining him, Hue told Defend the Defenders.
Blogger Hoa, who worked for the Radio Free Asia and other foreign-based outlets, is one of the prisoners of conscience listed by Amnesty International and NOW! Campaign, a coalition of 15 domestic and international NGOs working for the release of all prisoners of conscience in Vietnam.
Many international rights groups such as Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalist, Human Rights Watch and Freedom Now have called on Vietnam’s communist regime to free Hoa immediately and unconditionally.
Many Activists Placed in House Arrest during Vietnam-US Human Rights Dialogue
Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Lam Dong and other localities were placing many local activists and their families under de facto house arrest before and during the Vietnam-US Human Rights Dialogue which was taken in the capital city on May 15.
From HCM City, former prisoner of conscience and well-known lawyer Le Cong Dinh said he was forbidden to go out from May 13 as his private residence was surrounded by a group of five or six plainclothes agents. When he tried to go out, these men came to forcibly request him to go in.
Mr. Hua Phi, a senior clerk of the independent Hoa Hao Buddhist sect, said his house in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong was under close surveillance of the local police from May 12.
The family of prisoner of conscience Hoang Duc Binh was also watched by police officers.
Many other activists or relatives of imprisoned activists in Hanoi, Thai Binh and other localities said they were not permitted to go out on May 15 and before.
===== May 15 =====
Citizen Nguyen Dinh Khue Arbitrarily Arrested by Dong Nai Authorities: Lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng.
Defend the Defenders: Dong Nai authorities have illegally detained Mr. Nguyen Dinh Khue, who owns Facebook account Ngài Nam Tước, according to Saigon-based lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng.
Accordingly, Mr. Khue, 41, was arrested on April 25 for “’contact, discuss with Doan Viet Hoan and other subjects about a plan to stage street protests, cause a fire and an explosion against the people’s authorities as per the order of ‘Lisa Nguyen’ who is based overseas. Khue was charged with “disruption of security” under Article 118 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.
Dong Nai province’s police said Khue may be held in a solitary cell for four months while under investigation and faces a jail sentence from six months to 15 years.
Lawyer Mieng said Dong Nai police searched Mr. Khue’s house and confiscated a mobile phone and a laptop, there was no evidence about Mr. Khue’s planning a street protest, neither was evidence of him [possessing] explosives.
The attorney said that the arrest and detention of Mr. Khue for planning street protests were illegal according to Vietnam’s current law.
Mr Khue is a worker at Teakwang company in Bien Hoa 2 industrial area, Dong Nai province. He is married with two young children, one is four years old, the other seven years old.
==== May 17 =====
Statement on behalf of the EU Ambassador to Vietnam on the recent convictions of Ms Vu Thi Dung and Ms Nguyen Thi Ngoc Suong
The European Union Delegation to Vietnam expresses its concern following the sentencing of Ms Vu Thi Dung and Ms Nguyen Thi Ngoc Suong on 10 May by the People’s Court of Dong Nai province.
These cases are part of extensive enforcement of the national security provisions of the 2015 Penal Code and continue the negative trend, of prosecuting and sentencing Vietnamese citizens, including for peacefully expressing their opinions online.
Freedom of opinion and expression – online and offline –, as well as the freedoms of association and peaceful assembly, are fundamental rights of every individual. These individuals have peacefully advocated the promotion and protection of human rights as guaranteed by the Vietnamese Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Their sentences are in direct breach of these international obligations, which Vietnam has itself signed up to, and which the European Union expects full respect for.
The European Union expects Ms. Vu Thi Dung and Ms. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Suong to be immediately and unconditionally released.
The European Union is strongly committed to the protection of human rights defenders across the world. We will continue to monitor the Human Rights Situation in Vietnam, and work with the authorities towards the improvement of the human rights situation in the country.
===== 18/5 =====
Four Facebookers Fined VND30M for Slandering Leadership
Defend the Defenders: On May 18, four residents of Tinh Gia district, Thanh Hoa province, were fined VND30 million ($1,280) on allegation of using their personal Facebook pages to “publish, share, comment using insulting language that hurts the honour and integrity of Party leaders, the state and Tinh Gia police force who were involved in the tasks of forced land appropriation, the land to be used in a number of projects in the district, of Nghi Son economic area.”
They are Mr. Le Quang Cuong, 40 from Hai village; Ms. Nguyen Thi Loan, 28, from Truc Lam village, Mr. Le Khac Linh, 37, from Phu Lam village and Dang Nguyen Tung, 25, from Nguyen Binh village.
It is unclear which Party leaders were “hurt” by the “insulting language” and what the four residents had specifically said regarding the forced land appropriation.
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