Female Activists Doan Thi Hong, Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hanh Investigated for Disrupting Security, Facing Lengthy Sentences


Defend the Defenders, December 9, 2018


Female activists Doan Thi Hong (Facebooker Xuan Hong) and Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hanh (Facebooker Tran Hoang Lan) may be charged with the allegation of “disrupting security” under Article 118 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code, Defend the Defenders has learned.

The two activists, detained in early September this year, are held incommunicado by the police of Ho Chi Minh City for investigation. They have been not permitted to meet with lawyers or families since being kidnapped on September 2-3.

Having legal contract with the family of single mother Hong, the Hong Duc Law firm of attorney Dang Dinh Manh had contacted with the city’s Police Department  to request for meeting with her, however, the police said she will not be allowed to meet with lawyers during the investigation period which may be from four months to 16 months, according to the 2015 Crimimal Code Procedure.

Police said Hanh was the head of the group which is accussed of disrupting security.

According to the 2015 Penal Code, the people accused of “disrupting security” may face imprisonment of up to 15 years if are convicted.

Ms. Hong and Ms. Hanh are among nine members of the unregistered group Hien Phap (Constitution) kidnapped or arrested in early September. The 18-member group established in mid 2017 works to promote human, political and civil rights in the one-party nation by disseminating Vietnam’s 2013 Constitution to educate citizens on their rights.

Between September 1 and October 10, security forces in Vietnam arrested Mr. Huynh Truong Ca and Mr. Le Minh The, and kidnapped Mr. Do The Hoa, Mr. Ho Dinh Cuong, Mr. Tran Thanh Phuong, Mr. Hung Hung, and Mr. Thao Pham. The last one was released after several days of interrogation.

Police have charged Mr. Ca of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117, Mr. Cuong and Mr. Dung with “disrupting security” under Article 118, and Mr. Le Minh The with “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the Penal Code.

The remaining five are without formal charges. However, police have yet to inform their families about their arrest and detention.

The arrests and detention of nine members of the Hien Phap are part of the intensified crackdown on local dissent after the mass demonstration in mid June in which tens of thousands of people from different social groups rallied in major cities such as HCM City, Hanoi, Danang, Bien Hoa, Nha Trang, Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan to protest two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security.

Other activists and bloggers arrested in late August and early September included shrimp farmer Nguyen Ngoc Anh, safe food campaigner Hoang Thi Thu Vang, bloggers Truong Dinh Khanh, Nguyen Hong Nguyen, Nguyen Dinh Thanh, Doan Khanh Vinh Quang and Bui Manh Dong. Mrs. Vang was charged with Article 118 while others were alleged with “conducting anti-state propaganda.”

Some activists said a number of other government critics have been arrested and held incommunicado since September, however, Defend the Defenders couldn’t verify their cases.

So far this year, Vietnam arrested 25 human rights defenders and convicted 39 democracy activists with a total 294.5 years in prison and 66 years of probation. As many as 21 activists are held in pre-trial detention.

Vietnamese communists have rulled the country for decades and their government has little tolerance with critics. According to Now!Campaign, a coalition of Defend the Defenders and 13 other domestic and international NGOs, Vietnam is holding at least 248 prisoners of conscience.

Hanoi always denies of holding prisoners of conscience, saying it is imprisoning law violators only.