Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for May 6-12, 2019: Two Female Activists Jailed for Calling for Public Protests


Defend the Defenders | May 12, 2019


Vietnam’s communist regime continues to suppress the local dissent, this time targeting people with less popularity. On May 10, the People’s Court of Dong Nai province convicted two local female residents named Vu Thi Dung and Nguyen Thi Ngoc Suong for disseminating leaflets which called for a public demonstration against two bills Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security.

Dung and Suong, both arrested on October 13 last year, were sentenced to six and five years in prison, respectively, on a charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.

The trial likely failed to meet the international standard for a fair trial and the two activists may appeal the court’s decision, said their families.

Authorities in Bac Ninh province are going to prosecute anti-corruption activist Ha Van Nam, who was arrested in early March on charge of “causing public disorders” due to his efforts to protest arbitrarily placed toll booths. Police in Que Vo district completed their investigation in the case.

On May 11-12, police in Hanoi brutally suppressed a peaceful protest of drivers against Thang Long-Noi Bai tollbooth. Police beat and detained around 20 protesters, holding them between five and 24 hours in a police station.

Authorities in Hanoi have decided to temporarily stop the investigation against blogger Le Anh Hung and send him to a mental clinic for involuntary treatment. Mr. Hung was arrested on July 5 last year and charged with “abusing democratic freedom” for his denunciations against senior communist officers, including former deputy prime minister Hoang Trung Hai, who is now the party’s secretary in the capital city of Hanoi.

Independent journalist Vo Van Tao from Nha Trang province claimed that he was kidnapped by police officers from the Ministry of Public Security’s Security Investigation Agency in the evening of May 4  and held in police’s custody until late evening of Saturday. Police confiscated his cell phone and returned it in next evening. The abduction aims to prevent him from conducting a visit to prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam) who was freed after completing his five-year imprisonment on allegation of “abusing democratic freedom.”

Mr. Tao said that he will submit a complaint on the arbitrary detention of Vietnam’s security officers to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Vietnamese American Michael Minh Phuong Nguyen and his friend Huynh Duc Thanh Binh have not been permitted to meet with their lawyers to prepare for their defense in their upcoming trial on allegation of subversion. Both of them were kidnapped by plainclothes agents on July 7 last year.

Authorities in the central coastal province of Ninh Thuan have imposed an administrative fine of VND7.5 million ($320) on local high school teacher Dang Nguyen Triet for allegation of “disseminating, store, use information on a Facebook account.

===== May 6 =====

Anti-corruption Activist Ha Van Nam Proposed to Be Prosecuted on “Causing Public Disorders”

Defend the Defenders: Police in Que Vo district, Bac Ninh province, have handed over the investigation results against anti-corruption activist Ha Van Nam to the district People’s Procuracy, proposing to prosecute him on “causing public disorders” under Article 318 of the Penal Code.

If the People’s Procuracy agrees, his case will be sent to the district People’s Court which will hold a trial in coming months. In that case, Mr. Nam, 38, will face imprisonment of between two and seven years in prison.

Six others were also included in the case, said lawyer Tran Thu Nam, one of six attorneys who will provide legal assistance for Nam.

Lawyer Nam said according to the police investigation results, seven had conducted public disorders. The attorney said the case is likely trumped-up and he and his colleagues will try their best to protect him.

Nam, who had completed his master of business administration, is a director of a private firm. He has joined a campaign of drivers protesting toll booths which were arbitrarily placed in wrong places in order to get higher fees even from drivers who have not used additional services provided by the investors.

Nam and other anti-corruption activists have been facing harassments and assaults from police and thugs hired by the investors.

In late January, he was kidnapped by plainclothes agents who beat him brutally before freeing him near the Dan Phuong district’s General Hospital. He suffered from broken ribs and bruises on his body.

On March 5, police in Bac Ninh province came to arrest him in his private residence in Hanoi.


Vietnam Detainee is Denied Contact With His Lawyer in Move Contrary to Law

RFA: Vietnamese authorities are blocking a defense attorney from meeting with his detained client, citing “national security” concerns in the case, the jailed man’s lawyer told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Thursday.

The move, made in conflict with Vietnam’s own laws, has raised additional concerns in the case of U.S. citizen Michael Nguyen, who was detained on July 7, 2018 and has been held without trial for almost a year.

Vietnamese law permits lawyers to meet with their clients even in sensitive cases once the investigation phase of the case has concluded, Nguyen Van Mieng—an attorney for Huynh Duc Thanh Binh, detained on July 7, 2018—told RFA, saying he had already filed several requests.

“I have sent via the post office my request to the chief of Ho Chi Minh City’s Prosecution Office,” Mieng said, adding that the chief of that office “is entitled to decide to let lawyers participate in a ‘national security’ case as soon as the case investigation ends.”

No reply to his requests have been received, however, Mieng said.

On March 3, police investigators announced their investigation had concluded, and that a charge of working to subvert state authority under Article 109 of the Vietnam Penal Code had been filed against Binh.

Also speaking to RFA, Binh’s mother Nguyen Thi Hue said that she had visited her son in detention in April.

“I saw that Binh was in good health,” Hue said.

“We were allowed to meet for around 30 to 40 minutes, but could only talk about his health. No questions about his case were allowed,” she said.

Detained on or around the same day as Binh were his father Huynh Duc Thinh, Facebook users Tran Long Phi and Quoc Bao, and U.S. citizen Michael Phuong Nguyen, who disappeared while visiting friends and relatives in Vietnam.

On July 31, the U.S. consulate in Ho Chi Minh City confirmed Nguyen had been taken into custody and was being held at a detention center in the city while under investigation for offenses under Article 109.

Nguyen has been held without trial and without contact with lawyers or his family ever since. Recent efforts by RFA to reach Nguyen’s family have been unsuccessful.


High School Teacher Fined for Online Activities and Setting Environmental Protection Campaign

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in the central coastal province of Ninh Thuan have imposed an administrative fine of VND7.5 million ($320) on local high school teacher Dang Nguyen Triet for allegation of “disseminating, store, use information on a Facebook account with the aim to tell lies, make false accusation, hurt the credibility of the Party and the state.”

The police acted under the request of the province’s Information and Propaganda Department.

The move was made against the teacher of Ton Duc Thang high school in Ninh Hai district after he published three statuses on his Facebook account Đặng Nguyên Triết. In the first one, he shared an article by Mr. Duong Quoc Chinh, which referred to a scandal involving a Party-appointed monk of a Party-approved temple that induced followers to pay big sums of money with the promise to get rid of wandering souls wanting to harm them.

In the second status, Triet shared an article by Dr. Nguyen Ngoc Chu, which was about the well-reported [by both state media and citizen media] shortcomings relating to the China-built Cat Linh – Ha Dong rail line.

In the latest status, the teacher expressed doubt about the government’s funds which have a mission to help the poor. “I really want to [donate to these funds], but I cannot trust them… Because I don’t know for sure where the money goes,” Mr. Triet wrote.

Previously, on April 10, 2019, Mr. Triet posted on Facebook that the Ninh Thuan police had threatened students for daring pick up rubbish on the seashore without permission. Mr. Triet called on the police to stop terrorizing the students, and as he was the person who encouraged the students to clean the environment if the police took issue with that, they should work with him.

===== May 7 =====

Blogger Sent to Mental Hospital after Hanoi Police Temporarily Ends Criminal Investigation

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Hanoi have sent blogger Le Anh Hung to Central Mental Hospital I in Thuong Tin district for forced treatment since May 7 after the city’s police temporarily suspended his case.

Mr. Hung, 46, was arrested on July 5, 2018 and charged with “abusing democratic freedoms” under Article 331 of the 2015 Penal Code.

His family went to visit him and his mother Mrs. Niem, reported that he was thin, weak and lethargic.

He told them that the first time he was forced to undergo psychiatric examination was in October 2018, and he went on a hunger strike to protest. However, his hunger strike failed as the medical staff forced him to eat by pushing food through the nose and mouth causing a lot of bleeding.

The second time, the city’s People’s Procuratoracy requested a reevaluation from April 1 to April 22, and brought Hung back to the hospital to coerce mental treatment on him on May 7. Currently, Le Anh Hung is forced to inject psychiatric drugs.

Le Anh Hung asked his mother to ask everyone to fight and to help stop the state of coercion for mental treatment.

Related article: Jailed Vietnam Blogger is Returned to Mental Hospital, Forcibly Medicated

===== 09/5 =====

Independent Blogger Vo Van Tao Says He Was Abducted by Police in Hanoi

Defend the Defenders: Nha Trang City-based independent journalist Vo Van Tao has accused police officers from the Ministry of Public Security of kidnapping him in Hanoi in the evening of May 4, one day before the release of prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam).

In the late afternoon of last Saturday, Mr. Tao and his friend visited the family of Mr. Vinh. When they returned to his friend’s house, Mr. Tao was abducted by a group of four guys in plain clothes.

Two of them took Mr. Tao to a representative office of the Security Investigation Agency under the Ministry of Public Security located in Nguyen Gia Thieu street in the capital city. Two other guys blocked Tao’s friend to prevent him from following his detained friend.

In police custody, Tao was questioned about his visit to Mr. Vinh’s family and his plan for Sunday when Vinh is released and comes back to the capital city.

Police officers also robbed his cell phones and took him to his friend’s private residence at 10.00 PM. They requested him to come back to collect his phone afternoon of the next day. However, police officers delayed returning and Tao collected his cell phone on the evening of Sunday.

The abduction was made in a bid to discourage him from meeting with blogger Vinh whose blog Anh Ba Sam was very popular among dissidents and social activists.

Mr. Tao is a well-known dissident in Vietnam’s central region. He has participated in peaceful demonstrations to protest Vietnam’s human rights abuse and China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).

He told Defend the Defenders that plainclothes agents were following him right after he landed in Noi Bai International Airport.

===== May 10 =====

Two Female Facebookers Imprisoned for Disseminating Leaflets to Call for Street Demonstrations

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s southern province of Dong Nai have imprisoned two female Facebookers Vu Thi Dung and Nguyen Thi Suong on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.

According to the decision of the provincial People’s Court on the trial on May 10, 54-year-old Dung was sentenced to six years in jail while 51-year-old Suong was given five years in prison for “create, store, disseminate or propagandize anti-state information and materials.”

According to their indictment, from August to October last year, both used Facebook with the names Salem Trần, Hoa Hong Ha Ngoc, Ma Ma Ma Ma to interact with other Facebook accounts named Tân Thái and Benny Trương to view, listen to anti-state materials. They then called on people to join street protests against the Special Economic Zones and cybersecurity bills, and against hegemonic China on Oct 13, 2018.

Dung was said to make hand-written leaflets calling for peaceful demonstrations, and give them to Suong who disseminated in Dinh Quan district.

Police in Dong Nai arrested them on October 13, 2018 and held them incommunicado until late April when the case investigation ended.

Mrs. Dung’s family told Defend the Defenders that the two activists will appeal the court’s decision.

They also said that the local police cheat them by sending a lawyer to represent as the two women’ attorney in their first-instance hearing but he did nothing for them. Instead, the lawyer named Dung advised them to make the wrong confession and accept the court’s decision.

Ms. Chi, a daughter of Mrs. Dung, said her family will hire another lawyer for her mother and Mrs. Suong.

===== May 11-12 =====

Anti- tollbooth fraud (ATF) Protestors Brutally Beaten, Arrested in Hanoi

Defend the Defenders: At 1.30 PM of May 11, police in the capital city of Hanoi violently suppressed a peaceful demonstration of around 20 drivers who protest the illegal collection of fee by the investor of the Thang Long- Noi Bai BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) project.

Police brutally beat male drivers including Lien Chan Pham, Dung Bui Tien, Bui Tien, Bui Trung and Nguyen Van and took them into custody, together with other female activists.

Due to the police’s brutality, many activists suffered severe injuries. Faces of many activists were covered with blood, said activist Nguyen Thi Thuy (Facebooker Nguyễn Trần Công).

A man named Hoa was bashed to the point that his mouth was bleeding, Thuy noted, adding police also towed away 11 cars belonging to activists.

Videos provided by Tran Vu Tuan from Hanoi, well-known activist Nguyen Lan Thang, Hoa Nguyen showed several dozen members of law enforcement authorities, including riot police carrying truncheons, plainclothes police, the police (in yellow uniform), the army (in green uniform) reportedly positioned themselves at or on their way to BOT Thang Long – Noi Bai tollbooth – which is claimed by activists as a dirty tollbooth, ie it collects tolls illegally. Mr. Nguyen Lan Thang reported that the protestors were bashed.

Thuy said police released five activists after five hours, and seven remaining after holding them one day in the temporary detention facility under the authority of the Soc Son district police. Police took Mr. Bui Tien to a remote area and released him after robbing his cell phone, said Thuy. His car was towed although he parked the vehicle far from the scence.