Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for October 29-November 4, 2018: Dak Lak to Prosecute HRD Huynh Thuc Vy


Defend the Defenders | November 4, 2018


Authorities in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak have decided to prosecute human rights activist and political blogger Huynh Thu Vy on allegation of disrespecting Vietnam’s national flag under Article 276 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

On November 2, the province’s People’s Procuracy issued a decision to asign the People’s Court of Buon Ho town to carry out a trial against her which may be conducted within a month.

Vy, whose daughter is around two years, has been placed under house arrest since September. She will face imprisonment of up to three years if is convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.

Dang Ngoc Thanh, one of human rights activists opposing China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the South China Sea, has been fined with VND7.5 million ($340) for production and dissemination of leaflets with the content calling for peaceful demonstration against two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security. He was detained, beaten and interrogated by the police of Tra Vinh on October 26-27.

On October 31, authorities in the central coastal province of Binh Thuan convicted 30 local residents on allegation of disrupting public orders due to their participation in the mid-June demonstration. In a one-day trial, the People’s Court in Phan Thiet city sentenced them to between two and three and half years in prison.

===== October 30 =====

Southern Activist Fined with $340 After Being Beaten, Interrogated by Police for Opposing Bill on Special Economic Zones 

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s authorities have imposed the administrative fines of VND7.5 million ($340) on local activist Dang Ngoc Thanh for production and dissemination of leaflets with the content opposing a bill on Special Economic Zones.

On October 25, Ho Chi Minh City’s Police Department issued a decision to request Mr. Thanh to pay a fine of VND2.5 million for “writing, disseminating and circulating 1,598 leaflets  that have incorrect contents and defames the government. The leaflets was written “Say No to Giving Land to China even for One day.”

Four days later, the Department of Information and Communication of Tra Vinh province also imposed a fine of VND5 million on the activist for allegation of “providing, transfering, storing, and using information whit aim to threaten, harass or defame state officials.”

Between the two fines, on October 26-27, Thanh was detained by the police of Tra Vinh province. During his arrest and interrogation, Thanh was beaten by a police officer.

Thanh, 25, is a blogger from Can Tho City but lives temporarily in Tra Vinh. He has posted a number of articles in his Facebook account to protest China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the South China Sea.

Thanh’s detention is likely linked to the allegation that in early June he had disseminated leaflets in Can Tho City with the content calling for peaceful protest again the Vietnamese regime’s plan to pass 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 aims to silence online critics.

On October 9-11, tens of thousands of Vietnamese from different social groups rallied on streets in Hanoi, HCM City, Danang, Nha Trang, Binh Thuan, Ninh Thuan, Dong Nai and other localities to protest the two bills.

In response to the public anger, Vietnam’s security forces used violent measures to disperse the public gatherings, beating and detaining hundreds of peaceful demonstrators. So far, 56 protesters have been sentenced to between eight and 54 months in prison on allegation of “disrupting public orders” while tens of others, including eight members of the Hiến Pháp (Constitution) group, are still held in police custody and facing serious accusations such as “disrupting security” and “conducting anti-state propaganda” with punishment of up to 15 years and 20 years in prison, respectively.

In September-October, Vietnam’s authorities convicted five activists named Nguyen Hong Nguyen, Truong Dinh Khang, Doan Khanh Vinh Quang, Bui Manh Dong, and Nguyen Dinh Thanh to between one year and seven years in prison for posting and disseminating leaflets calling for opposing the two bills.

The rights to freedom of peaceful expression both online and offline, and assembly have been violated seriously, especially in the past few years. Since the begining of 2018, Vietnam has arrested 27 activists and sentenced 39 human rights defenders and democracy campaigners with a total 294.5 years in prison and 66 years of probation.

As many as 22 activists are in pre-trial detention with allegations in the national security provisions in the Penal Code. They are facing lengthy imprisonments if are convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.

===== October 31 =====

No Progress Seen in Case of US Citizen Held in Vietnam

RFA: Almost four months after being detained by Vietnamese police, U.S. citizen Michael Nguyen is still being held in unclear circumstances with no charges filed against him, according to family members and congressional representatives working for his release.

Nguyen, a 54-year-old father of four from California, disappeared on July 6 while visiting friends and relatives in Vietnam, and his whereabouts and condition were unknown for more than three weeks.

On July 31, the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City Franc Shelton confirmed that Nguyen had been arrested and was being held at a detention center in the city while under investigation for “activity against the People’s government,” according to Article 109 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.

No formal charges have yet been filed in his case, and he has not been allowed access to a lawyer or his family, though U.S. embassy staff may visit him once a month, Rep. Mimi Walters (R-California) said in an Oct. 29 press release.

Requests for information on Nguyen’s case, both by herself and other members of Congress, have not been answered, Walters said.

“The Vietnamese government continues to stonewall Congress and the Nguyen family,” Walters said.

“Despite several meetings with the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington D.C. in which I demanded his immediate release, Michael remains imprisoned on baseless charges. The Vietnamese government continues to deny Michael access to family and friends.”

Walters said she remains in frequent contact with the U.S. State Department and the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam while working in Congress to build “a bipartisan congressional delegation to increase pressure on the Vietnamese government” to secure Nguyen’s release.

“I will continue the fight and stop at nothing to bring Michael home and reunite him with his family,” Walters said.

Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Oct. 31, Nguyen’s brother-in-law Robert Mark said that Nguyen’s family has been given no information at all on his case or on any accusations made against him.

“The government there has provided nothing to substantiate their supposed investigation,” Mark said, adding that Vietnamese authorities may be stalling not just to investigate “but maybe create some information” against him.

“Something has to give on this very soon,” Mark said. “They can’t keep holding him forever and ever.”


Binh Thuan Province Jails 30 More Mid-June Protesters

Defend the Defenders: On October 31, the People’s Court of Phan Thiet city in Vietnam’s central coastal province of Binh Thuan convicted 30 citizens on allegation of “disrupting public orders” under Article 318 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code for their participation in mid-June protest, state media reported.

The indictment said the group took part in the mass demonstration in front of the provincial People’s Committee headquarters building which caused public disorders. Many protesters were said to demolish the building and throw stones and bricks toward police while others burn police vehicles. Police used water cannon and other hard measures to disperse protesters and arrested numerous demonstrators, media said.

The court found them guilty and sentenced Nguyen Quoc Hue to 3 years and six months, six others to three years, ten others to two years and six months, four others to two years and three months, and remaining nine to two years in prison.

Authorities in Binh Thuan are still investigating other individuals on allegation of demolishing property, disrupting public orders and resisting on-duty state officials, media said.

On June 9-11, tens of thousands of Vietnamese citizens rallied on streets in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Nha Trang, Binh Thuan, Binh Duong, Dong Nai and other localities to protest two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security. The first plans to grant long-term leases for foreign companies operating in special economic zones (SEZs) and the second aims to silence online critics.

Vietnam’s security forces were sent to disperse the gatherings. They used violent measures to deal with the peaceful protesters, including water cannons and Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) to suppress peaceful demonstrations. Hundreds of protesters were beaten, detained and charged with “causing public disorders.”

So far, Vietnam has convicted 96 mid-June protesters, sentencing 88 of them to between eight and 54 months in prison and given probation of between five months and two years to the eight remaining protesters.

Vietnam is still holding many other protesters, including eight members of the unsanctioned group Hiến Pháp (Constitution) who were key individuals in the mid-June protest in HCM City.


Dak Lak to Prosecute HRD Huynh Thuc Vy on Charge of Disrespecting National Flag

Defend the Defenders: The People’s Procuracy of Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Dak Lak has decided to prosecute local human rights activist and democracy campaigner Huynh Thuc Vyon charge of “Affronting the national flag or national emblem” under Article 276 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

The decision was made based on the investigation results of the Dak Lak province’s Police Department which launched investigation on the case on August 9 when it sent police to her private residence to detain her and conduct house search.

The People’s Court of Buon Ho town is asigned to carry out a trial against Vy soon, according to the procuracy decision dated on November 2.

Vy, the 33-year mother of a two-year-old girl, will face imprisonment of between six months and three years in prison, if is convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.

In early August, police in Dak Lak detained herafter she denied police’s request to go to a local police station for interrogation.She was released in late evening of the same daythanks to the the law’s regulation which states that mothers of babies under three years old are not subjects for detention.

Police also searched her house and confiscated her laptop, Ipad, books and other items. Later, police announced to charge her with disrespecting the national flag and placed her under house arrest. They also issued a decision banning her from travel abroad.

Police summoned her on October 16 and returned some of these items.

The allegation linked to an event last yearwhenVy was pictured with the Vietnamese national flag which was tainted with paint. Someone said she intentionally defamed the flag that she has never recognized.

Vy is the oldest child of former political prisoner Huynh Ngoc Tuan, who spent ten years in prison in 1992-2002 for sending his political book abroad.

She has posted a number of articles for human rights and multi-party democracy, including a book titled “Nhận định Sự thật Tự do và Nhân quyền” (A view on Truth, Freedom and Human Rights). She also advocates for rights of ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands, often visiting families of prisoners of conscience in the region.

She is among founders of the unsanctioned organization Vietnam Women for Human Rights and was its president before getting maternal leave.

She is banned from foreign trip as police confiscated her passport when she was on her way to attend a workshop on cyber security organized by Reporters Without Borders and Defend the Defenders in Bangkok in June 2015.

She was interrogated many times in the past. In 2012, she was arrested by the police, put in a car that went for a 1,000kms. She was then interrogated continuously for 12 hours, before being dropped at a fuel station at midnight.

In May2018, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) listed Vy as one of five female activists who are risking their lives to protect others’ rights. Other activists include Wang Yu from China, Maria Chin Abdullah from Malaysia, Anchana Heemina from Thailand and Phyoe Phyoe Aung from Myanmar.

Since 2013, Mr. Tuan’s family has been suppressed by police. He was brutally assailed by plainclothes agents several times and suffered a number of severe injuries.

The family of his youngest child, Huynh Trong Hieu, was forced to flee to Thailand to seek for political asylum.

Under police’s pressure, Vy and her husband Duy were forced to leave Ho Chi Minh City to Buon Ho several years ago where they are running coffee business.