Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weeky Report for October 8-14, 2018: Jailed Citizen Journalist Do Cong Duong Added With Five-year Imprisonment, 9th Member of Right Group Arrested

Defend the Defenders | October 14, 2018

 

Vietnam’s communist regime has given citizen journalist and anti-corruption activist Do Cong Duong with additional five years of imprisonment as reprisal for his peaceful activities against local corrupted officials.

On October 12, the People’s Court of Bac Ninh province convicted Mr. Duong on allegation of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the 2015 Penal Code one month after the People’s Court of Tu Son town sentenced him to four years on charge of “disrupting public order” under Article 318 of the law. He was arrested on January 24 this year and charged with the two allegations while filming a forced land eviction in his town.

On October 10, authorities in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho arrested blogger Le Minh The, a member of the unsanctioned group Hiến Pháp (Constitution), and charged him with “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the 2015 Penal Code. He is facing imprisonment of up to seven years in prison if is convicted just because of voicing about human rights and democracy. So far, Vietnam’s security forces have arrested nine members of the group, charged two of them with Article 118, one with Article 331 and one with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117, and still hold five others in custody without informing their families about their arrests, detentions and possible charges.

Despite troubles carried out by security forces, Dr. Nguyen Quang A, one of the leading government critics, managed to travel to Brussels where he was invited to take part in the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement hearing organized by the European Parliament Committee on International Trade (INTA) on October 10. Last month, he was blocked on his way to Australia and during the detention which lasted many hours, security officers from the Ministry of Public Security took his passport, changed his birthday information in the document by hand, and returned it later. The move aims to make his passport invalid for international travel, however, it is likely that Vietnam’s security forces changed their mind so they gave him the new passport in latest minutes.

Vietnam convicted four more mid-June protesters on allegation of “disrupting public order” and sentenced them to a total seven years in prison and two years of probation. The move raised the number of mid-convicted demonstrators in mid-June to 65, 56 of whom were sentenced to between eight and 54 months in prison and eight were given probation of between five and 24 months.

The police in Hanoi have extended the investigation period against independent blogger Le Anh Hung two more months. Hung, who was arrested in early July and charged with “abusing democratic freedom” was allowed to meet with his mother and lawyer this week.

===== October 8 =====

Security Officers in Hanoi Accused of Forging Dr. Nguyen Quang A’s Birthday with Handwritten Change on His Passport

Defendthe Defenders: Passport of Dr. Nguyen Quang A with forged handwritten change by Vietnam security forces on his birthday information.

Vietnam’s security forces have defaced the passport of prominent dissident Dr. Nguyen Quang A with their handwritten change on his birthday information, making his document ineligible for oversea travel, Defend the Defenders has learned.

The police act likely aims to prevent him from going to Brussels this week for participating in a hearing on the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement organized by the European Parliament Committee on International Trade (INTA) on October 10.

Dr. A, one of leading figures of Vietnam’s government critics, was invited to the event. He has had a plan to travel to the European capital city on October 8 to take part in it. However, several hours before he left for Noi Bai International Airport, a security officer from the Ministry of Public Security came to his private residence in Hanoi asking him to check for his documents’ validity.

After the officer left, Dr. A checked his passport and found out that his birthday information in his passport was forged by handwritten marks, particularly they erased his year of birth of 1946 and forged it to 1949.

Dr. A recalled that on September 18, he was blocked from taking a flight to Ho Chi Minh City where he would take another flight to Australia.

When security officers detained him, they took his passport and returned it him several hours later. He did not suspect that they would change his information in his passport by that way.

Vietnam’s communist regime has applied a number of tricks to prevent local dissents from meeting with foreign diplomats or attending international forums, especially events related to human rights and democracy.

Dozens of activists have been denied of being granted with passports while hundreds of others have been blocked from taking international flights or their passports have been confiscated by police due to “national security” excuse.

Since 2014, Vietnam’s security has blocked Dr. A from going abroad for 20 times.

Despite the incident, Dr. A went to Noi Bai International Airport to go to Brussels as planned. Unexpectedly, at the airport, the security officers came up and gave him the new passport with his correct personal information so he could take his flight to the EU.

At the time of this story was written, Dr. A was boarded and on his way to Brussels.

———————-

Four More Mid-June Protesters Imprisoned

Defend the Defenders: On October 8, the People’s Court of District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, convicted four citizens on charge of “disrupting public order” for their participation in the mass demonstration in mid-June this year.

The court sentenced Nguyen Van Tuan, 30-year old man from Bac Giang province, to three years in prison, Truong Ngoc Hien, 21 from Thua Thien-Hue province, to two years, Nguyen Huynh Duc, 18 from Soc Trang province, and Bui Van Tien, 17 from Vinh Long province, to one year each in jail. Additionally, Tien was given two years of probation after completing his imprisonment.

Tuan was ordered to pay a compensation of VND9.5 million ($410) for “causing property damage.”

Theindictment said they illegally conducted rally on streets in Tan Binh and Phu Nhuan districts and then to the city’s center. They were accussed of demolishing some police’s vehicles during the demonstration.

On June 9-11, tens of thousands of Vietnamese in HCM City, Hanoi, Danang, Nha Trang, Dong Nai, Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan rallied on streets to protest the plan of the National Assembly to approve two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security. The first is likely to favor Chinese investors to hire land for 99 years amid increasing concerns about Beijing’s aggressiveness in the South China Sea while the second bill aims to silence online critics.

In response, Vietnam’s security forces violently suppressed demonstrations, arresting hundreds of protestors and charged many of them with “disrupting public order” under Article 318 of the 2015 Penal Code. So far, 65 protestors have been convicted, 56 of them were given prison sentences of between eight months and 4.5 years and eight of them were with probation of between five months and two years. In addition, Vietnamese American William Anh Nguyen was deported to the US after nearly two months of detention.

===== October 9 =====

U.S. Deeply Concerned about Vietnam’s Conviction of Five Activists: Press Release

Defend the Defenders: On October 9, four days after Vietnam convicted Mr. Luu Quang Vinh and his four friends on subversion, the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in the Southeast Asian nation issued a statement to express its deep concern in the case.

“We are deeply concerned that a Vietnamese court has convicted five Vietnamese activists, including Luu Van Vinh and Nguyen Van Duc Do to jail terms ranging from eight to 15 years under the vague charges of “attempting to overthrow the people’s administration,” the statement said.

“The trend of increased arrests and harsh sentences for peaceful activists since early 2016 is deeply troubling,” the statement said, adding “Vietnam has convicted over 30 peaceful activists thus far in 2018, significantly above last year’s number.”

Washington calls on Hanoi to release all prisoners of conscience, and to allow all individuals in Vietnam to express their views freely without fear of retribution.

The US also urges the Vietnamese communist regime to “ensure its actions and laws, including the Penal Code, are consistent with the human rights provisions of Vietnam’s constitution and its international obligations and commitments.”

Mr. Luu Van Vinh, Nguyen Quoc Hoan, Nguyen Van Duc Do, Tu Cong Nghia and Phan Trung were arrested in November 2016 in relation with their plan to set up the Vietnam National Coalition to promote multi-party democracy and human rights. They were charged with subvesion under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code. On October 5, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City found that they are guilty and sentenced them to between eight and 15 years in prison and three years of probation each.

===== October 10 =====

Vietnam Arrests 9th Member of Unsanctioned Hiến Pháp Group amid Intensified Crackdown

Defend the Defenders: Security forces in Vietnam’s southern city of Can Tho have detained Le Minh The, a member of the unsanctioned group Hiến Pháp (Constitution) in effort to intensify crackdown on local dissent, Defend the Defenders has learned.

 

According to a member of the group who is hiding to avoid the group’s suppression, authorities in Binh Thuy district deployed around 40 police officers to Mr. The’s private residence in Tran Quang Dieu street in Can Tho City on October 10.

 

On late afternoon of Wednesday, police broke in his house and detained him to the district police station. State media reported that he was charged with “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the 2015 Penal Code. With this allegation, he is facing imprisonment of up to seven years, if is convicted.

Mr. The, 55, will be held in the next two months for investigation, state media said, adding he is accused of using his own Facebook accounts to call for demonstration against two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security.

Mr. The, with his Facebook account Lê Minh Thể, has been the 5th Facebooker arrested and charged with “abusing democratic freedom” in Can Tho since September. Last month, Can Tho City’s authorities arrested and convicted four local residents named Doan Khanh Vinh Quang, Bui Manh Dong, Nguyen Hong Nguyen and Truong Dinh Khang, sentencing them to between 12 months and 30 months in prison.

He is the 9th member of Hiến Pháp group being arrested since the beginning of September. Others include Huynh Truong Ca (Facebooker Huỳnh Trương Ca) who was arrested on September 1 and charged with “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code, and Ho Dinh Cuong (Facebooker Văn Cương Hồ)and Ngo Van Dung (Facebooker Ngo Van Dung)who were kidnapped on September 4 and later charged with “disruption of security” under Article 118 of the 2015 Penal Code. Police also kidnapped Ms. Doan Thi Hong (Facebooker Xuân Hồng), Ms. Tran Hoang Lan (Facebooker Tran Hoang Lan), Mr. Do The Hoa (Facebooker Bang Lĩnh), Mr. Hung Hung (Facebooker Hung Hung), and Mr. Tran Phuong in the first week of last month on the occasion of the country’s Independence Day (September 2), however, police have not noticed their families about their detentions and charges.

According to the current Vietnamese law, individuals accused of allegation under Article 117 may face imprisonment of up to 20 years while the maximum punishment for the allegation under Article 118 is 15 years in jail.

Hiến Pháp was established on June 16, 2017, striving to educatepeople abouthuman rights as well as political and civil rights by disseminating Vietnam’s 2013 Constitution among citizens. Its members were key figures in the mass demonstrationon June 10 in HCM City which aimed to protest the Vietnamese parliament’s plan to approve two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security, one of the group’s member told Defend the Defenders.

Vietnam’s communist regime has resumed its raid to arrest government’s critics after arresting seven members of the unregistered group Brotherhood for Democracy in July-September last year.

Since the beginning of 2018, Vietnam has arrested 24 activists, mostly with allegations in national security provisions such as subversion (Article 109), conducting anti-state propaganda (Article 117), disruption of security (Article 118) and abusing democratic freedom (Article 331).

Hanoi has convicted 38 human rights defenders and online bloggers, sentencing them to a total of 282.5 years in prison and 66 years of probation.

More arrests will be expected in coming months and especially from January 1 next year when the Law on Cyber Security becomes effective. According to international human rights groups and local critics, the law aims to silence online bloggers and Facebookers.

===== October 11 =====

Vietnamese Activist Released From Prison After Serving Six-Year Term

RFA: Jailed Vietnamese activist Dinh Nguyen Kha was freed from prison on Thursday after serving a six-year term for handing out leaflets criticizing government policy over disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Kha was taken by ambulance from Xuyen Moc prison in Vietnam’s Vung Tao province to a police station in Tan An Town’s Ward 6, where he was processed for release, Kha’s mother Nguyen Thi Kim Lien told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

“I had sent people to different places to watch for him, and after my husband noticed a car parking in front of the police station of Ward 6, he notified the rest of the family, and we all rushed over there,” she said.

At the time, Kha was in the building talking with police, she said.

“Then he came out of the office, but then went back in for another hour, and finally he emerged from the police station, and all of us who were sitting at a nearby coffee house went over to him to welcome him home.”

Asked why Kha had been brought back in an ambulance, police replied that the vehicle could hold nine officers, while their regular vehicles could hold only seven, she said.

More than a month before, Kha had been examined in prison by another political prisoner, a medical doctor, who said that Kha was suffering from hemorrhoids, and that these should be treated as quickly as possible, Kha’s mother said.

After protesting Vietnam’s handling of disputes over islands claimed by China in the South China Sea, Kha was arrested on Oct. 11, 2012, and was sentenced to six years in prison at his trial on May 16, 2013, according to a Vietnamese Political Prisoner Database prepared by the 88 Project.

Time spent in pretrial detention was credited toward his full sentence.

Kha’s older brother, Dinh Nhat Uy, was later arrested on a charge of “abusing democratic freedoms” for launching a Facebook campaign calling for his brother’s release, and on October 29 received a 15-month suspended sentence.

China’s claims and construction of artificial islands in the region have sparked frequent anti-China protests in Vietnam, which the one-party communist government in Hanoi fears as a potential threat to its own political control.

===== October 12 =====

Imprisoned Citizen Journalist Do Cong Duong Given Five More Years for Second Charge of Abusing Democratic Freedom

Defend the Defenders: Citizen journalist and anti-corruption activist Do Cong Duong, who was sentenced to four years in prison for allegation of “disrupting public orders” last month, has been given five more years for the charge of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.

On October 12, the People’s Court of Bac Ninh province found Mr. Duong guilty of the secondallegation, said his lawyer Ha Huy Son who insisted that his client is innocent and should be released immediately and unconditionally.

Like in his first-instance hearing on the allegation of “causing public disorders,” his relatives were not allowed to enter the courtroom but observed the trial on the second charge outside of the room on Friday, his daughter Do Lan Anh told Defend the Defenders.

Mr. Duong, 54, was arrested on January 24, 2018 while filming the land grabing case in Tam Son commune, Tu Son town. Initially, he was charged with “distrupting public order” under Article 318 of the 2015 Penal Code. Later, authorities in Bac Ninh province added the second charge of “abusing democratic freedom.”

On September 17, the People’s Court of Tu Son sentenced him to four years in prison for the first charge.

With the conviction for the second charge, Mr. Duong has to spend his next nine years in bar.

Mr. Duong, who is a land petitioner, became an activist on land issue. Together with other local residents, he filled letters to the state’s leaders to accuse Tu Son town’s government of illegal land seizure.

Duong is also a citizen journalist, producing hundreds of video clips which he has posted on his Facebook accountto report local officials’ corruption and cronyism, including provincial communist leader Nguyen Nhan Chien, who has big houses and has promoted numerous relatives to key positions in provincial agencies. The state-run media has also covered news affirming the information unveiled by Mr. Duong.

Due to his anti-corruption activities, Duong and his family have been persecuted by local authorities. He was summoned by the police for interrogation many timesbefore being arrested. Police also came to his private residence to threaten him.

His house has been attacked with a stinking concoction of feces, shrimp paste, and petrol, and his children have been discriminated in schools.

Duong’s arrest andconvictions arelikely thelocal authorities’ reprisal for his efforts to fight illegal land grabbing and corruption, said his fellow My while hisattorney lawyer HaHuy Son said authorities in Bac Ninh provinceand Tu Son townare seeking to silence the anti-corruption activist and citizen journalist without respecting the country’s law and the presumption of innocence.

Two days after the trial against him for the first charge, the Committee to Protect Journalist issued a statement to condemn the Vietnamese government’s move, saying he should be released and all pending charges against the journalist should be dropped.

“If Vietnam wants to be taken seriously as a responsible international actor, it must stop jailing journalists,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative.

Land grabbing is a thorny problem in Vietnam where all land belongs to the state and local residents only have lease rights. The central government and local governments are authorized to seize any land from citizens for socio-economic development without paying adequate compensation.

In many localities, authorities have grabbed local residents’ land at very low compensation prices and sold it to property and industrial developers at prices much higher.

Thousands of farmers losing their land in that way are gathering in big cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to demand justice. The land petitioners are treated like second-class residents by the government. They are living in streets and house with cheap renting fees, being subjects of torture and detention by security forces.

Vietnam is among most corrupt nations in the world. According to Trading Economics, the nation scored 35 points out of 100 on the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. Corruption Index in Vietnam averaged 27.80 points from 1997 until 2017, reaching an all time high of 35 points in 2017 and a record low of 24 points in 2002.

In Vietnam where communists have ruled for decades, the government strictly controls media. Dozens of bloggers and independent journalists have been harassed and jailed.

Vietnam’s press freedom index is ranked at the 175th out of 179 countries in the Reporters Without Borders’ 2017 Report.

Related link: Vietnam jails activist for using Facebook to abuse freedoms

———————

Hanoi Police Extend Investigation Period against Independent Blogger Le Anh Hung

Defend the Defenders: The Security Investigation Agency of the Police Department in Hanoi have extended the investigation period against local independent blogger Le Anh Hung by two months more, according to his mother Niem.

With the new move, the police from Vietnam’s capital city raised the total investigation period against him to at least five months.

On October 11, Hung was permitted to meet with lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng and next day, the Ho Chi Minh City-based attorney was approved by the Hanoi police to provide legal assistance for Hung.

According to Ms. Niem who recently met Hung in custody, he has denied of cooperating with police during the interrogation since being detained.

She is permitted to meet him once a month in the temporary detention facility No. 1 under the authority of Hanoi’s Police Department

Mr. Hung, 45, was arrested July 5 this year on allegation of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code. He is facing imprisonment of up to seven years, if is convicted.

His detention came after he filed his letter 139 times to state agencies to denunciate General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) and Hoang Trung Hai, Politburo member of the party and secretary of the party in the capital city, for cooperating with China and betraying the nation.

Hung is a regular political writer for Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA) as well as British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in their Vietnamese programs. He and former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Vu Binh are the key figures of the Đài Phát thanh Việt Nam (Vietnam Broadcasting Radio), in addition to being member of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN).

Due to his denunciations against high-profile state officials and participation in peaceful protests against China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the South China Sea, he was detained and interrogated many times in recent years.

In late January 2013, he was arrested and sent to a mental clinics but released two weeks later after he and his wife Phuong Anh accused Hoang Trung Hai, then deputy prime minister, ofinvolvementin drug trafficking.

In order to keep the country under a one-party regime, the Vietnamese communist government has intensified crackdown on local dissent. It has arrested and imprisoned over 50 activists in recent years.

Mr. Hung is among 25 activists and bloggers being detained so far this year as Vietnam’s communist regime intensifies crackdown on local dissent.

Hanoi has convicted 38 activists and human rights defenders, mostly on controversial articles in the national security provisions of the Penal Code, sentencing them to a total 287.5 years in prison and 66 years of probation.

In addition, Vietnam has imprisoned more than 60 individuals participating in the mass demonstration in mid-June to protest two bills Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security, giving them a total 121 years and five months in prison and 108 months of probation.

Vietnam is one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists. At least 10 journalists were behind bars in Vietnam as of December 1, 2017, according to Committee to Protect Journalists.

On October 12, a court in Bac Ninh province sentenced local citizen journalist and anti-corruption activist Do Cong Duong to five years in prison on allegation of “abusing democratic freedom” after giving him four years in jail for allegation of “disrupting public order” under Article 318 just because he was filming a forced land eviction in his town of Tu Son.

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