Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly February 26-March 04, 2018: Prominent Political Blogger Pham Doan Trang Vows to Stay in Vietnam to Work for Change

Defend the Defenders | March 4, 2018

Prominent political blogger Pham Doan Trang has said that she will not leave the country but stay in Vietnam, despite the government’s persecution, to work for human rights and multi-party democracy.

Despite heavy police surveillance in her mother’s private residence in the capital city, Trang evaded the police and went into hiding on February 27.

“I will never leave Vietnam when there is no change in the country,” she said, implying the country needs drastic political reform to switch from a one-party regime to democratic one.

Her recently-published book Chính trị bình dân or “Politics for all the masses” has become the most wanted book in the country after security forces detained her on February 24 and summoned her to the police station on Monday to talk about the book.

Prominent human rights defender and well-known blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (Mother Mushroom) was denied permission to receive needed medicine and necessities from her family after she was secretly transferred to Camp No. 5 prison in the central province of Thanh Hoa, about 900 km from her native city of Nha Trang.

Meanwhile, Protestant pastor Nguyen Trung Ton’s health is deteriorating while he is kept in B14 detention facility due to severe conditions of the pre-trial detention and bad weather conditions in the northern region, said his wife.

Vietnam is holding 168 prisoners of conscience, according to Now!Campaign, an initiative of 15 international NGOs including BPSOS, Civil Rights Defenders, and Defend the Defenders.

===== February 27 ======

Jailed Blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh Denied Medicine and Necessities

Defend the Defenders: Authorities of Camp No. 5 prison under the authoritiy of the Ministry of Public Security have denied permission to provide medicine and necessities for prominent human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, who is serving her 10-year imprisonment after being convicted by the communist government last year.

Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan, mother of the jailed activist and blogger, said that in a 5-munite phone conversation with her daughter on February 13, Quynh told her that she needed medicine.

On February 20, Lan sent a parcel including medicine and necessities to Quynh, however, one week later, she received the parcel back with the contents intact. The prison’s authorities said Quynh cannot receive the parcel because it weighed more than the allowed amount.

Quynh has no warm clothes to wear amid severe winter in the northern region, nor medicine to take for her treatment, the mother said.

After losing her appeal, Quynh was transferred to Thanh Hoa, about 900 km from her native city of Nha Trang, where her mother is taking care for her two school age children as well as the 90-year-old grandmother.

Transfer to locations far from the family and the denial of medical treatment are measures frequently used by the Vietnamese communist government to punish prisoners of conscience who refuse to make confessions during trials or sentencing.


Prominent Political Blogger Pham Doan Trang Leaves Hanoi Untracked despite Heavy Police Surveillance 

Defend the Defenders: Prominent political dissident and well-known blogger Pham Doan Trang has reportedly gone into hiding from Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi, despite heavy police surveillance.

Since February 24, the private residence of her mother in Le Duc Tho residential complex has been under heavy police surveillance as the Vietnamese authorities have deployed large numbers of police officers, plainclothes agents, and militia to the area in a bid to closely follow Trang, who became famous for her new book titled Chính trị bình dân or “Politics for all the masses.”

Already, for most of the recent months, Trang has been forced into hiding in a bid to avoid harassment of local authorities, especially following a brief detention after she spoke with the EU Delegation preceding the EU-Vietnam human rights dialogue in November. She had returned to her mother house in recent days to celebrate the Lunar New Year festival.

On the afternoon of February 24, security officers from the Ministry of Public Security came to the house of Trang’s mother, cheating her mother to get in and arbitrarily detained her. After interrogating her for about 10 hours in a police station, police allowed her to return to the house.

Security officers warned her of not trying to go out, saying the area was under heavy surveillance.

Trang was summoned to the police station again on February 26 for further questioning regarding her book.

Police were said to lose track of her on February 27. Many activists and friends who attempted to contact her, failed. Others said she likely temporarily relocated somewhere to avoid being troubled by security officers. After being released in mid-night of February 24, Trang said police may arrest her soon.

Many believe that Trang will not try leave the country. In 2014, she was invited to stay in the US after a short training course in journalism, but she denied, determined to come back to Vietnam to fight for human rights and democracy.

In her written statement publicized on late February 26, she said she will continue to work against the Vietnamese communist dictatorship.

Meanwhile, most activists in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City complained that they have been placed under house arrest on February 27 as local authorities are sending plainclothes agents and militia to station near their private residences. Police blocked activists from going out while others said police followed them closely when they leave their houses.

Trang is among the leading political dissidents in Vietnam. After resigning as a journalist for state-run media, she has blogged politically and has been involved in a number of political activities, including working as a writer and editor for the Vietnam Right Now and Luat Khoa Tap Chi, an independent legal website.

She has produced nearly ten books. Chính trị bình dân is the latest one, in which she encourages all people to engage in politics to settle the country’s issues instead of leaving the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam to decide on the behalf of the 94-million nation.

Due to her political activities, she has been under close surveillance by security forces. She has been forced into hiding for most of the past few months.

In 2015, while participating in a peaceful demonstration in Hanoi to protest the city’s plan to chop down thousands of aged trees, she was brutally beaten by security forces which resulted in serious injuries in her left leg. The injuries have not healed. She is in need of medical care.

In May 2016, she was kidnapped by security forces when she was on her way to a meeting between then US President Barack Obama and civil society in Hanoi when he visited the communist nation.

On November 17 last year, after a meeting with political officers of the EU Member States at the Office of the EU Delegation to Vietnam together with some other activists, she was detained for questioning for many hours, only being released around midnight.

In mid-February this year, People in Need, a Prague-based non-governmental, non-profit organization founded on the ideals of humanism, freedom, equality and solidarity, awarded her with its Homo Homini Prize for 2017 for her contribution to human rights and democracy.

Along with purging political opponents within the ruling communist party to solidify his power, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and his faction in the country’s leadership has intensified its crackdown on local dissents and independent civil society. Since the beginning of 2017, the communist government has arrested at least 47 activists and convicted 30 of them, mostly on allegations of national security provisions in the Penal Code.

The government has discouraged citizens to get interested in politics, saying they should focus on economic activities and leave political issues, including the country’s sovereignty and environmental problems to the party and its government. It considers Chính trị bình dân a provocation as the book encourages people to get involved in politics, so all people can decide major issues of the nation instead of leaving for communists.

===== February 28 ======

Prominent Blogger Pham Doan Trang Vows to Stay in Vietnam to Fight for Democracy, Human Rights

Defend the Defenders: Prominent political blogger Pham Doan Trang has issued a statement vowing to remain in the country to work for human rights and multi-party democracy despite increasing persecution against her in recent days.

In the statement posted on her Facebook account Pham Doan Trang, the blogger said she would never leave the country, even for a short time for Prague next week to receive the Homo Homini Prize for 2017 from the Czech non-profit non-government People in Need.

“I will never leave Vietnam when there is no change in the country,” she said, implying the country needs drastic political reform to switch from a one-party regime to democratic one.

Trang said she also assured security forces that she will not try to go to Prague to participate in the awarding ceremony scheduled on March 5.

Trang said she is in a safe situation, without giving more details on her temporary relocation.

One day earlier, after leaving her mother’s private residence in Hanoi which has been under heavy police surveillance, Trang said in her Facebook account that she will continue to work for defeating the communist dictatorship regardless of the government’s intensifying persecution against her.

“I will fight all kinds of dictatorship and because the communist state of Vietnam is one. I shall fight till the end”

Responding to the ongoing persecution against Trang, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued a statement to condemn the Vietnamese government’s move and called for international pressure on the communist regime.

RSF also urges the Vietnamese government to end its crackdown on independent journalists and bloggers or risk paying the consequences.


Jailed Protestant Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton’s Health Deteriorates

Defend the Defenders: President of the unsanctioned Brotherhood for Democracy Protestant pastor Nguyen Trung Ton is struggling with deteriorating health conditions while being held in pre-trial detention, his wife Nguyen Thi Lanh informed Defend the Defenders.

The prison’s harsh conditions and the weather in the North of the country are the main causes for his poor health, said Lanh, who visited her husband at B14 detention facility under the Ministry of Public Security in Hanoi on February 28.

The serious injuries to both legs that he suffered from savage attacks in February last year became even more serious, as he has not been given treatment, Lanh said, adding he has trouble moving about and suffers from constant pain.

Five months before being arrested and charged with subversion, Ton was kidnapped and savagely bashed by plainclothes agents in Quang Binh province.

Since then, Pastor Ton underwent surgery once for one leg. The tendon in the other leg was completely ruptured and damaged but is still waiting for the other leg to heal before surgery.

For several months now, the pastor has had to put up with the excruciating pain in a cramped and bitter cold cell, with substandard hygiene condition.

===== March 1 =====

Vietnam Holds 168 Prisoners of Conscience: Now!Campaign

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam is holding 168 prisoners of conscience, according to the Now!Campaign, an initiative launched by a coalition of 15 non-profit NGOs.

As many as 15 of the prisoners are female, the coalition said.

On November 11, 2017, the coalition launched the NOW! Campaign, calling on the Vietnamese government to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience.

At that time, 165 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam were identified. They are bloggers, lawyers, unionists, land rights activists, political dissidents, and followers of non-registered minority religions who have not used violence or advocated violence or hatred.

Since, two prisoners have been released, nine detainees pending trial have been convicted and five individuals have been added to the list.

The NOW! Campaign is a joint initiative by 15 organizations focusing on Vietnam or campaigning for human rights regionally and internationally. BPSOS, Civil Rights Defenders, and Defend the Defenders are among its parties.