Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report March 12-18, 2018: One Activist Beaten, Two Detained while Many Others under House Arrest on 30th Anniversary of Gac Ma Loss to China
Defend the Defenders | March 18, 2018
On March 14, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the loss of Gac Ma (South Johnson Reef) in the East Sea (South China Sea) to China, many Vietnamese activists planned to hold commemoration for 64 naval soldiers who were killed by China’s naval forces during the invasion of the island.
In response, Vietnam’s communist government applied many measures to prevent them from gathering. Security forces in Hanoi detained three activists namely Nguyen Thuy Hanh, Huynh Ngoc Chenh and Truong Van Dung and held them in a facility under the authority of the Ministry of Public Security. Police interrogated Hanh for hours and brutally beat Mr. Dung, breaking several teeths of Dung and causing many injuries to him before leaving him on a street near his private residence. Dung, who was hospitalized for treatment of the injuries, blamed security forces from confiscating his Iphone and a wallet with over VND3 million ($130).
Many activists in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City said they were placed under house arrest as local authorities sent plainclothes agents to station near their private residences in a bid to prevent them from gathering together to mark the loss of Gac Ma.
Vietnam’s authorities planned to hold a trial of Nguyen Viet Dung, the founder and the president of the unsanctioned Vietnam Republic Party, on March 28, six months after his detention on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.
Nguyen Van Tuc, former prisoner of conscience and key member of the unregistered Brotherhood for Democracy, has been held incommunicado since being arrested on September 17 last year. Authorities in Thai Binh province denies him from receiving additional food from his family. Due to severe conditions during the pre-trial detention, he is suffering several serious diseases such as heart disease, hemorrhoid, chronic keratitis. They also reject his right to have his own lawyer but appoint another for him.
Authorities in Hai Duong province detained and interrogated former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Ba Dang on March 16. Still holding his cell phone, police requested him to go to police station on March 19 for further questioning.
On March 14, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights & Labor under the US Department of State honored Do Thi Minh Hanh, president of the unsanctioned Viet Labor Movement, as one of human rights heroes this year. Hanh co-founded the VietLabor Movement which advocates for independent labor unions in Vietnam. She served 4 years in jail for encouraging workers to strike for better pay and improved working conditions.
===== March 12 =====
Vietnam to Try President of Vietnam Republic Party Nguyen Viet Dung
Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s authorities will hold a trial of Nguyen Viet Dung, who himself declares as the founder and the president of the unregistered Vietnam Republic Party, according to his family.
Dung, who is a former prisoner of conscience, will be tried for allegation of “conducting anti-state” propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code. The People’s Court of the central province of Nghe An will carry out the trial on March 28, the family said, citing information from his lawyers Ngo Anh Tuan and Le Kha Thanh.
Dung was kidnapped by Nghe An province’s security forces on September 27 last year and later the province’s authorities announced his arrest and the charge against him.
Dung had been kept incommunicado in police custody since being arrested in late September, lawyer Ngo Anh Tuan told Defend the Defenders, adding he and his colleage Le Kha Thanh are submiting their requests to authorities for meeting with their client for defense preparation.
Dung will face imprisonment of up to 20 years if convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.
Dung was an excellent university student but not allowed to graduate due to his social activities. In 2014, Dung established the unregistered Vietnam Republican Party to fight for multi-party democracy and became its president. In April of the same year, he was arrested after participating in a peaceful demonstration on environmental issues in Hanoi. Later he was sentenced to 15 months in prison on allegation of causing public disorders under Article 245 of the 1999 Penal Code. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considered his detention arbitrary in its adopted opinion.
After being released in July 2015, Dung has continued to work to promote human rights and fight for multi-party democracy. He has been detained and beaten many times by plainclothes agents and uniformed police officers.
The arrest and charge of Mr. Dung are part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local activists amid increasing social dissatisfaction caused by systemic corruption, human rights violations, poor economic performance, serious environmental pollution, and weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).
Since 2017, Vietnam has arrested at least 45 activists and convicted more than 20 activists with lengthy sentences between three and 14 years in prison on allegations under controversial articles of national security provisions in Penal Code.
The ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and its government have vowed to keep the nation under a one-party regime.
Bloggers Ngo Van Dung, Nguyen Uyen Thuy Detained while Covering News on Demonstration of Sacked School Teachers
Defend the Defenders: On March 12, authorities in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak detained citizen journalists Ngo Van Dung and Nguyen Uyen Thuy when they were covering news on the demonstration of sacked school teachers in the province.
Police took the two activists into custody for interrogation for hours and released them on late afternoon of the same day. However, they confiscated their cell phones the activists used for filming the demostration.
In recent days, 600 primary school teachers in Dak Lak were fired by the local authorities so many of them gathered to protest. Teachers also blamed some local officials from taking bribery in exchange of giving their teaching contracts.
Dung and Thuy were detained by police when they filmed the demonstration and interviewed some protestors.
Ngo Van Dung and Nguyen Uyen Thuy are members of the Vietnam Reviving Campaign which works for free press in the communist nation.
Last year, Vietnam arrested three members of the campaign namely Vu Quang Thuan, Nguyen Van Dien and Tran Hoang Phuc and in late January this year convicted them on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code. Thuan was sentenced to eights years, Dien to six years and six months and Tran Hoang Phuc to six years in prison and a total of 13 years under house arrest afterward. Human Rights Watch has called on Vietnam to release the trio immediately and unconditionally, saying they were convicted just for exercising their right to freedom of expression enshrined in the country’s 2013 Constitution.
===== March 14 =====
Hanoi-based Activist Truong Van Dung Beaten, Two Others Detained, Interrogated on 30th Anniversary of Gac Ma Loss to China
Defend the Defenders: On March 14, on the day of the 30th anniversary of the loss of Gac Ma (South Johnson Reef) in the Truong Sa (Spratlys) in the East Sea (South China Sea), Hanoi-based activist Truong Van Dung was brutally beaten by police officers who also detained bloggers Huynh Ngoc Chenh and his wife Nguyen Thuy Hanh for hours.
Authorities in many localities also placed many other activists under house arrest in a bid to prevent them from gathering to mark China’s invasion of the Vietnamese island on March 14, 1988.
Mrs. Nguyen Thuy Hanh and Mr. Truong Van Dung were detained by security forces in Hanoi after a meeting in the Le Thai To King monument in the city’s center where activists gathered to commemoraize the 64 fallen Vietnamese naval soldiers killed by the People’s Liberation Army of China.
Blogger and pro-democracy activist Huynh Ngọc Chenh, the husband of Hanh, was also detained by security force when he went to a police station under the authority of the Ministry of Public Security where Hanh was held. Police confiscated his cell phone and rudely treated him, said Chenh, who was an experienced journalist of the state-run media.
Until Hanh’s blood pressure fell, police released the couple so Chenh was permitted to take his wife to a local hospital for urgent medical treatment.
Mr. Dung was detained two times that day. Firstly, he was detained together with Hanh and released at 3 PM. When he came back together with Chenh to seek for Hanh, he was captured again. During the second detention, Dung was brutally beaten and robbed by police officers who later put him in a taxi and asked the driver to leave him on a street near his private residence in Dong Da district. He was reportedly to fall unconscious due to the assault and hospitalized in the evening of the same day, with the loss of some teeth and many injuries on his face and body.
Despite police’s harassment, a number of activists in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City managed to come to cities’ centers to mark the loss of Gac Ma. Many pro-government thugs also came to disturb the activists’ commemoration.
Vietnam claims the Hoang Sa (Paracels) and the Truong Sa in the East Sea. The first archipelago is under illegal occupation of China from 1974. China partly controls the Truong Sa after invading Gac Ma and several other reefs there. Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines also hold different islands in the second archipelago.
The Chinese invasion of Gac Ma and several other islands in the East Sea allowed Beijing to claim the southern part of the East Sea. In recent years, China boosted reclamation in Truong Sa, turning the islands it took from Vietnam into military facilities.
Vietnam verbally protests China’s reclamation in the Truong Sa and the Hoang Sa. However, Hanoi has yet to challeng Beijing in international arbitrary course as the Philippines did in the Hague tribunal court which ruled in 2016 that China’s claim of nearly the entire East Sea is groundless.
In the same time, Hanoi has suppressed activists who have raised their voices against China’s violations of the country’s soverignty in the East Sea. A number of activists have been detained, imprisoned or harassed.
Vietnam’s communists prioritize comprehensive strategic partnership with their Chinese comrades so they have made recession to China on costs of the country’s sovereignty, said activists.
===== March 17 =====
Pro-democracy Activist Nguyen Van Tuc Held Incommunicado, Health Is Critical
Defend the Defenders: Mr. Nguyen Van Tuc, 54, a senior member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, has been held incommunicado since being arrested on September 17 last year on charge of “subversion” under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.
Authorities in the northern province of Thai Binh have yet to allow his wife Bui Thi Re to visit the pro-democracy activist who is also a former prisoner of conscience. The wife said Mr. Tuc is suffering from a number of diseases, including heart disease, hemorrhoid, chronic keratitis.
The family wants to see him in person to be clearer about his health situation, but Thai Binh province prison did not allow it, the reason being “the case is still under investigation.”
The family was allowed to send some medicine to him but not food supplies.
The wife said throughout his arrest and persecution, Mr. Tuc determined to stick to his “3 Nos” principle: not signing any document, not working [with his jailers], not declaring anything.
Authorities in Thai Binh had also denied Mr. Tuc’s right to hire a lawyer, and not allowing a lawyer whom had been hired by his family after his arrest to participate in the legal process, Mrs. Re said.
Mr Tuc, a veteran activist, had previously represented villagers in Thai Binh province’s Dong Hung district in a land dispute, and had previously spent four years in prison after being convicted in 2008 of conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code. He was freed in 2012 after serving his full term.
After being released, he continues to work for promoting human rights and multi-party democracy. He joined the Brotherhood for Democracy co-founded by prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, who was arrested in late 2015 on charges of “conducting anti-state propaganda” and subversion under Article 88 and 79 of the 1999 Penal Code, respectively.
After the arrest of Mr. Dai and some other key members, Tuc became a senior member of the organization.
Former Prisoner of Conscience Nguyen Ba Dang Detained, Interrogated
Defend the Defenders: On March 17, security forces in the northern province of Hai Duong detained former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Ba Dang for interrogation about his peaceful activities.
Around 20 police officers kidnapped him at a local barber shop, robbing his cell phone and took him to a police station in Nam Sach district where they questioned him for whole day.
Without returning his phone, police released him on late afternoon and requested him to come back for interrogation on the coming Monday.
Police also demanded him abolish his Youtube account namely Hoa Sen on which he has posted livestream programs on many issues, including human rights, democracy, unjustice and corruption.
Mr. Nguyen Ba Dang was arrested in 2010 on charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code. Later, the political dissident was sentenced to three years in jail and two years under house arrest.
Since being released in 2013, he has continued to work for promoting human rights and multi-party democracy in the country.
He has been harassed many times, including the detention and interrogation in 2014.
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