Pro-democracy Activist Vu Van Hung Accused of Inflicting Injury

Pro-democracy activist Vu Van Hung

Defend the Defenders, January 15, 2018

Pro-democracy activist and human rights advocate Vu Van Hung (or Vu Hung) has been accused of “Intentionally inflicting injury on or causing harm to the health of other persons,” the allegation under Article 134 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code, according to the notice of Hanoi police.

In its written notice given to his family dated on January 13, police said the former secondary school teacher will be held for at least two months for investigation of the accusation. It is unclear on whom he inflicted injury and what the level of his victim’s injury.

Mr. Hung, member of the unsanctioned online group Brotherhood for Democracy, is currently held in the Temporary Detention facility No. 2 managed by Hanoi police.

Mr. Hung was arrested on January 4 after participating in a meeting of the unsanctioned Chu Van An Teachers Association in a restaurant in Thanh Xuan Bac ward, Thanh Xuan district. The lunch-meeting was disrupted as the restaurant owner under district police pressure asked the participants left the facility at the middle of the event.

At a meeting with his lawyer after several days in police custody, Hung said when the meeting ended, he went back to his private residence in Ha Dong district by bus. Two plainclothes agent followed him and they provoked him near his house.

The agents attacked him and with the support of local police, they detained him to the police station of Thanh Xuan Bac ward, Thanh Xuan district, Hung told his lawyer. Later, he was taken to the temporary detention facility of the Thanh Xuan district police.

In their notice given to his family last week, Thanh Xuan district police said Hung was held for investigation on the allegation of “causing public disorders” under Article 318 of the 2015 Penal Code.

According to the current law, people accused of “inflicting injury” may face imprisonment of between six months to 12 years in prison.

Hung’s arrest is related to his human rights activities, affirmed Vu Quoc Ngu, chief executive officer of Defend the Defenders, adding Vietnam’s security forces often detain or kidnap targeted activists in trumped-up cases and later charge them with criminal allegations.

As a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, Mr. Hung has been targeted for long time ago, Mr. Ngu said. He was summoned by Hanoi police for interrogation about his membership in the pro-democracy group after authorities in the capital city detained its seven key members on allegation of subversion.

Brotherhood for Democracy is one of main targets of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local dissent, the most severe campaign for many years.

Last year, Vietnam arrested key members of the online organization, including Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Van Tuc, Truong Minh Duc, and Nguyen Trung Truc. The founder Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha were arrested in late 2015. They were charged with subversion under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code and face life imprisonment or even death punishment if convicted, according to the current law.

Mr. Hung is a former political prisoner. In 2008, he was arrested for hanging banners calling for multi-party democracy and later convicted with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code. He was sentenced to three years in jail and three years under house arrest. He was forced to abandon his job as a physic teacher.

After being released in 2011, Hung has actively participated in peaceful demonstrations and meetings on social issues, including the environmental disaster caused by the toxic industrial waste discharge of the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant in the central coastal region in 2016 which caused massive death of marine there.

The Communist Party of Vietnam has ruled the country for decades and strives to maintain the nation under a one-party regime.

Since the 12th National Congress of the party in February 2016 with appointments of many police officers to senior positions of the party and state apparatuses, Vietnam has launched severe campaign to suppress local political dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and online bloggers.

The peak of the crackdown was 2017 with arrests of at least 45 activists on allegations under controversial articles 79 and 88 of the 1999 Penal Code. The communist government convicted 19 activists, sentencing them to between three and 16 years in prisons.

In addition, Vietnam also expelled two pro-democracy activists to France.