Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for February 25-March 03, 2019: Many Activists Detained, Dozens of Others Harassed During Trump-Kim Summit in Hanoi
Defend the Defenders | March 3, 2019
Vietnam’s authorities have detained many activists and harassed many others during the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in Hanoi in late February.
Police detained a number of citizen journalists and social activists in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City for hours, and still hold in pre-trial detention Facebooker Nguyen Van Cong Em with allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code.
On the same time between February 25-28, authorities in Hanoi, HCM City and other localities deployed a large number of police officers and plainclothes as well as militia to private residences of local dissents to place them de facto under house arrest. Some activists had complained that they were closely followed by undercover police when they went out.
The Higher People’s Court in HCM City has postponed the appeal of human rights defenders and democracy activists named Luu Van Vinh, Nguyen Quoc Hoan, Nguyen Van Duc Do, Tu Cong Nghia and Phan Trung, who were convicted of subversion in October 2018 by the People’s Court of HCM City for their plan to set up the Vietnam National Coalition with aims to promote political and civil rights of Vietnamese citizens. They were sentenced to between eight and 15 years in prison and three years of probation each.
The Thai authorities have reportedly arrested Vietnamese citizen Cao Lam in relations of the missing of former prisoner of conscience Truong Duy Nhat. Lam, who lives in Thailand for many years and often assists Vietnamese refugees in the country, was said to be connected to Nhat’s presence and missing in late January this year.
===== February 25 =====
Appeal of Democracy Activist Luu Van Vinh and His Four Fellows Postponed Again
Defend the Defenders: The Higher People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City have postponed the appeal hearing of human rights defenders and democracy activists Luu Van Vinh, Nguyen Quoc Hoan, Nguyen Van Duc Do, Tu Cong Nghia and Phan Trung for the second time, Defend the Defenders has learned.
Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thap, the wife of Mr. Vinh, told Defend the Defenders that the court has not unveiled the time for delaying. The detention period between the trial and the appeal hearing has been extended further after the one-month extension ended on February 12, authorities had informed her husband, she noted.
The delay may be related to the ongoing submit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in Hanoi.
Vinh told his wife that he and his four fellows are insisting for appealing although they have little chance to have reduced sentences or having been freed given Vietnam’s intensified crackdown on local dissent.
Vinh and his four friends had a plan to set up a group named Vietnam National Coalition with aim to fight for enhancing civil and political rights of citizens. Due to their plan, police arrested them in early November 2016 on allegation of subversion under Article 79 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.
On October 5, 2018, in the first-instance hearing, the People’s Court of HCM City convicted them and sentenced them to between eight and 15 years in prison and three years of probation each.
The Higher People’s Court in HCM City scheduled their appeal on January 21 this year, but postponed it due to lack of a lawyer of Phan Trung, who was ensured legal assistance of Saigon-based attorney Dang Dinh Manh few days ago.
The five activists have been listed in the lists of prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International and NOW! Campaign, a coalition of 15 international NGOs, including Defend the Defenders, BPSOS, Civil Rights Defenders and Front Line Defenders, with aim to work for immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience.
According to NOW !Campaign, Vietnam is holding around 250 prisoners of conscience.
===== February 26 =====
One Activist Detained, Dozens of Others under House Arrest When Trump and Kim Arrive in Vietnam
Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s security forces have detained one local activist and been placing dozens of others under house arrest when US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un came to Hanoi for their bilateral summit.
On February 26, police in Ho Nai, Dong Nai province, detained local resident Nguyen Quang Khai (Facebooker Khải Nguyễn) to a local police station and still hold him. Few days ago, he posted his picture with warm welcome to President Trump on his Facebook page.
In Hanoi, where Trump and Kim will hold two-day face-to-face meeting, local authorities are sending plainclothes agents to private residences of dozens of other activists to prevent them from going out.
Democracy campaigner Ngo Duy Quyen said he was followed by a group of several plaintclothes agents when he went to a gym exercise. After about a half of hour, they forced him to return back to his house. They threatened to detain him if he refuses their request.
Land petitioner Trinh Ba Phuong told Defend the Defenders that a group of five-six police officers, including a female, are stationing near his house.
The same situation is in Ho Chi Minh City, the southern economic hub, where Trump and Kim have no plan to visit. Local activists have complained that they cannot go out for their private businesses.
Vietnam’s communist regime often use plainclothes agents to block local activists from participating in social events or meeting with foreign guests or diplomats along with barring dozens of them from traveling abroad.
===== February 27 =====
More Arrests of Vietnamese Activists During First Day of Trump-Kim Summit in Hanoi
Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s security forces detained a number of local activists along with placing dozens of others under de facto house arrest in the first day of the ongoing two-day summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in the capital city o fHanoi.
In Hanoi, police detained bloggersLe Van Dung (Facebooker Le Dung Vova) and Cat Linh (Facebooker Cát Linh) when they were talking pictures and videos as citizen journalists in Trang Tien road on which the American delegation was moving. Police took the duo to a police station and held them for hours before releasing them in evening of the same day.
In Ho Chi Minh City, where Trump nor Kim has a plan to visit, security forces took into custody many Facebookers, including a group of five people named Vo Ha, Nguyen Thi Trang, Hien Gabriel and Hai Nguyen from 7 PM of February 26 when they were sitting in a local cafeteria.
Vo Ha was reportedly released at around 4PM of February 27 after being handcuffed and interrogated overnight. Police officers treated her inhumanely, her friends have claimed.
Meanwhile, four others ares till in custody. Trang and Hien were said to be beaten by police officers upon their detention and in a police station after they protested police for their arrest without solid ground.
According to Facebooker Nguyen Uyen Thuy, HCM City’s police also arrested three other Facebookers, two of them are Daniel Modan and Tran Duy Chien on afternoon February 27.
On the afternoon of February 26, police in Dong Nai detained local citizen Nguyen Quang Khai (Facebooker Khải Nguyễn) and held him for around 10 hours and released in in late evening of the same day.
Authorities in Hanoi, HCM City and other localities have been sending plainclothes agents and militia to station near private residences of dozens of other activists since February 25 in a bid to prevent them from goin gout. Other activists have complained t hat they were closely followed by plainclothes agents when they went out.
A number of roads in Hanoi have been blocked from February 26 when Trump and Kim came to the capital city of Hanoi. Thousands of citizens in the city have been affected by traffic regulations on the occasion of the summit.
Trump and Kim will continue to meet for the second day on February 28 with aim to disarm nuclear weapon and reduce tensions in the Korean Peninsula.
===== March 1 =====
Thai Police Arrest Vietnamese Citizen in Relations with Missing of Former Prisoner of Conscience Truong Duy Nhat
Defend the Defenders: The Royal Thai Police have reportedly detained Vietnamese citizen named Cao Lam in relation with the missing of former Vietnamese prisoner of conscience Truong Duy Nhat.
Mr. Lam’s family was said to be detained on March 1. His wife and children were released later but he is reportedly in police’s custody for further investigation.
The family of Lam lives in Thailand for years and he was said to provide regular support for many Vietnamese refugees in Thailand.
Mr. Nhat, who was jailed in 2013-2015 after being convicted of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 258 of the Vietnamese 1999 Penal Code due to his articles critical to Vietnamese leadership on his blog, was said to relocate in Thailand on January 19 this year. The Thai police have said that they have no record of his entry, but he went to the Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bangkok on January 25 to register for asylum seeker.
Nhat went missing next day as his family could not contact with him. According to famous Vietnamese blogger Nguoi Buon Gio (real name is Bui Thanh Hieu), who lives in Germany, said Nhat was kidnapped by secret agents of the Vietnam People’s Army (VPA)’s Intelligence General Department.
According to the dissident blogger, some Vietnamese living in Thailand, including Mr. Lam and political blogger Kami, supported the kidnappers who abducted Nhat when he was in a trade center in Bangkok’s outskirt.
After Nhat went missing, a number of international rights group, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have called on the Thai government to launch investigation on Nhat’s case.
In early February, the Royal Thai Police announced that they started to work in the case.
Abduction carried out by Vietnamese secret agents is not new. Last year, Germany accused Vietnam of kidnapping former senior Vietnamese official Trinh Xuân Thanh in 2017 when the guy was seeking for political asylum in Germany while Vietnam’s authorities said Thanh returned in his home country voluntarily and gave him up to the police.
Due to the abduction of Thanh, Germany revoked its strategic partnership with Vietnam. The case is one of reasons that the EU has postponed the approval of the EU-Vietnam Trade Agreement.
===== March 3 =====
Ben Tre Arrests Facebooker Nguyen Van Cong Em for Distributing “Wrong Information” about Trump-Kim Summit in Hanoi
Defend the Defenders: Authorities have reportedly arrested local resident named Nguyen Van Cong Em for “distributing wrong information about the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.”
According to the state media, police in Ben Tre conducted urgent arrest of Mr. Em, 48, and searched his house on February 28.
Police accused him of using four Facebook accounts to disseminate false information about the talks between the two leaders, and call for street gathering when the summit is taken in Hanoi.
Mr. Em is likely to be charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code. The sentence for individuals convicted for the allegation is between seven and 12 years in prison, according to the current Vietnamese law.
Vietnam’s communist regime has intensified crackdown on online dissent. So far this year, security forces have arrested five Facebookers, two of them Huynh Dac Tuy and Duong Thi Lanh were charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” while the charges for two named Huynh Minh Tam and Huynh Thi To Nga, who are a brother and a sister, are unknown. Ms. Nga is still missing after being kidnapped by security forces on January 28.
Vietnam is holding around 250 prisoners of conscience, according to NOW! Campaign, a coalition of 15 international NGOs, including BPSOS, Defend the Defenders, Civil Rights Defenders and Front Line Defenders.
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