Hanoi Security Forces Suppress Bloggers, Blocking Meeting to Discuss Obama’s Upcoming Visit

Hanoi-based bloggers at a meeting of IJAVN in early 2015
Hanoi-based bloggers at a meeting of IJAVN in early 2015

[themify_box style=”blue, comment, rounded” ]The suppression against bloggers at the meeting of the IJAVN, an organization of Vietnam’s bloggers who fight for freedom of press, is part of a series of actions showing that Vietnam continues its intensified crackdown against political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders as the country has the new leadership.[/themify_box]

By Vu Quoc Ngu, April 17, 2016

On April 17, security forces in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi suppressed local bloggers from a meeting to discuss the upcoming visit of President Barack Obama to the Southeast Asian nation scheduled in late May.

A number of members of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), including IJAVA’s Vice President Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Vu Quoc Ngu were blocked from going out of their private residences by plainclothes agents from Thanh Tri district’s police.

IJAVN’s President Pham Chi Dung from Saigon and Vice President Bui Minh Quoc from the Central Highlands, were detained by Hanoi police when they were on their way to the meeting in a cafeteria in Huynh Thuc Khang street.

Hanoi-based blogger Doan Trang was arrested by local police when she tried to go to the meeting. Many other activists who are not members of the IJAVN reported that they have also been barred from going out since early of Sunday.

Around eight bloggers managed to come to the cafeteria in Huynh Thuc Khang street, however, the police ordered the owner not to serve for them so they have to move to another place, Mr. Thuy said by telephone.

The meeting was organized by the IJAVN to discuss the visit of President Obama to Vietnam in late May. Vietnam and the U.S. are working on his working schedule during the first and the last trip of Obama on a capacity of the American president to the communist nation, given the fact that he has served for the two consecutive terms.

The suppression against bloggers at the meeting of the IJAVN, an organization of Vietnam’s bloggers who fight for freedom of press, is part of a series of actions showing that Vietnam continues its intensified crackdown against political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders as the country has the new leadership.

On April 8, Hanoi police also violently dispersed a peaceful meeting of local activists when they gathered in a local cafeteria to mark the 10th anniversary of the pro-democracy group Bloc 8406, severely beating and detaining eight activists before releasing them in the mid-night of the same day.

In the last eight days of March, Vietnam sentenced seven bloggers and dissidents to between two and five years on charges of conducting anti-state activities under controversial Articles 88 and 258 of the Penal Code. Among those jailed are prominent bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam) and Nguyen Ngoc Gia (Nguyen Dinh Ngoc).

Four months ago, Vietnam arrested prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Le Thu Ha and charged them under Article 88 with the maximum sentence of 20 years in jail.

In late March and early April, Vietnamese communists completed the power transition after the communist party’s 12th National Congress in late January, with the election of Police General Tran Dai Quang as the country’s president, Nguyen Xuan Phuc as the prime minister and Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan as the parliament’s speaker.

Many police generals have been promoted to key positions in state and government agencies, including President Quang, Prosecutor General Nguyen Hoa Binh, Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh and Head of the communist party’s Commission for Organization Pham Minh Chinh.

Quang, Truong Hoa Binh, Chinh, and Minister of Public Security Senior Lieutenant General To Lam are members of the 19-person Politburo of the party, the highest decision-taking body in Vietnam.