Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for May 27-June 2, 2019: Human Rights Campaigner Nguyen Nang Tinh Arrested, Charged with “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda”



Defend the Defenders | June 2, 2019 

On May 29, security forces in Nghe An province kidnapped local human rights activist and democracy campaigner Nguyen Nang Tinh when he took his two kids to get breakfast near his father’s house in Quynh Hung commune, Quynh Luu district. Next day, the local media reported that Mr. Tinh was arrested and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.

Mr. Tinh, a music teacher at a local college, is well-known with his assistance for Formosa-affected fishermen and teaching children with patriotic songs. He will be held incommunicado in the next four months at least during the investigation, and face imprisonment of between five and 12 years if is convicted.

The trial against human rights advocate and democracy activist Nguyen Ngoc Anh is scheduled on June 6. Mr. Anh, 39, was arrested on August 30, 2018 on allegation under Article 117 of the Penal Code for his activities which aimed to promote multi-party democracy and demand for halting human rights abuse as well as more effective measures to deal with the country’s problems, especially widespread environmental pollution and systemic corruption among state officials.

After more than two years remained unknown for the public, the fate of blogger Nguyen Danh Dung became clear. He was arrested on December 16, 2016 on allegation of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 258 of the Vietnamese 1999 Penal Code. Later, he was sentenced to 30 months in prison and completed his imprisonment in mid-March this year.

On May 27, a delegation of seven people, including four former prisoners of conscience named Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong, Nguyen Thi Truc Anh, Ho Cong Di and Vo Nhu Huynh were detained by the security officers at the Moc Bai International Gate in Tay Ninh province after they came back from Cambodia. Police confiscated their cell phones and other communication tools, interrogating them in hours before releasing them in the late afternoon of next day without returning their properties. Among detainees was independent journalist Le Thi Thu, who was detained several times by Vietnam’s security forces in the past few years.

Prisoners of conscience Nguyen Van Hoa and Nguyen Viet Dung have been disciplined by authorities in An Diem and Ba Sao Prison camps, respectively, for unknown reasons. They are held in isolated cells with limited rights to receive family’s supplies and face-to-face meetings.

Meanwhile, prisoners of conscience Hoang Duc Binh and Nguyen Bac Truyen continue their hunger strike campaign which started on May 12 in An Diem Prison camp to support their fellow Nguyen Van Hoa.

About 100 Vietnamese activists signed in a joint letter calling for end of restriction of movement. Hundreds of Vietnamese human rights defenders, democracy campaigners, bloggers, religious and social activists have been placed de facto under house arrest in many occasions or barred from going abroad in the past few years and this is a serious violation of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights in which Vietnam is a signatory party.

===== May 27 =====

Vietnamese Activists Call for End to Travel Restrictions

UCA News: Priests, pastors and activists launch national campaign over violations of human rights Vietnamese activists call for end to travel restrictions.

Religious leaders and activists in Vietnam have launched a national campaign to demand the government lift unlawful restrictions on their freedom of movement.

They said the right to travel of many citizens has been rampantly violated for a long time across the country.

“We, Vietnamese citizens, are regularly and violently prevented from traveling freely by strangers,” they said in a statement.

They said secret agents are stationed in front of their houses and try to keep them at home, while strangers throw stones at people’s houses and shout threats.

In April, Ho Chi Minh City’s Communist Party chief Nguyen Thien Nhan was quoted by a state-run newspaper as saying that the city government had listed some 600 people as leading and organizing protests and had made plans to monitor and deal with their actions.

On May 12, Hua Phi, a Cao Dai leader in Lam Dong province, said many secret agents wearing face masks blocked paths, took videos and stopped him from going to meet a U.S. diplomatic delegation at a pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City. Many other rights activists were banned from meeting the U.S. delegation.

Nguyen Quang A., a well-known democracy activist based in Hanoi, said he has been kept at his home, kidnapped or detained while traveling for work 26 times during the past three years.

He is one of 100 priests, pastors and activists who launched the campaign against restrictions on their mobility on May 24.

“In many cases, strangers use foul language to destroy our honor and dignity and even use physical force to damage our bodies and threaten our life,” they said in their statement.

“We are citizens with full human and civil rights by law, so all behavior that violates our rights to travel and hurts our bodies, honor and dignity is unlawful.

“If strangers continue violating our rights to travel, we will act in self-defense by law. The government must be responsible for possible bad results.

“We demand the government immediately end violations of civilians’ freedom of movement to show that all civilians are equal before the law.”


Trial against Democracy Activist Nguyen Ngoc Anh Scheduled on June 6

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s southern province of Ben Tre will hold the first-instance hearing to try local democracy activist Nguyen Ngoc Anh on June 6, Defend the Defenders has learned.

The trial, open for the public, will be carried out by the province’s People’s Court in its headquarters in Ben Tre city, Mrs. Nguyen Thi Chau, the wife of the activist, informed Defend the Defenders. She received a summoning letter from the court which requests her to participate in the trial as a witness, Chau noted.

Mr. Anh was arrested on August 30, 2018 on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code. The 39-year-old activist

is facing imprisonment up to 12 years if is convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.

Few months after his arrest, his wife signed a legal contract with Saigon-based attorney Dang Dinh Manh, however, Anh has not been allowed to meet with his lawyer so far.

Mrs. Chau, who met her husband in prison for the first time in April, said Anh will not use counsel assistance in his trial, adding his decision may be made under the Ben Tre province’s police.

Anh graduated from Nha Trang University’s Aquaculture and had a shrimp farm in Binh Dai commune, Binh Dai district. The shrimp grower posted many articles and conducted a number of live streams on his Facebook account Nguyễn Ngọc Ánh to promote human rights and multi-party democracy. He also participated in peaceful demonstrations in issues of environment and the country’s sovereignty.

His arrest is a part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on the local dissent, which started in late 2015 with the detention of prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai and has been intensified after the Law on Cyber Security became effective in January 2019.

Anh is listed as a prisoner of conscience by NOW! Campaign, a coalition of 15 domestic and international civil rights organizations, including Civil Rights Defenders (CRD), Front Line Defenders (FLD), Defend the Defenders (DTD), and Boat People SOS (BPSOS).

==== May 28 =====

Four Former Prisoners of Conscience Detained in Bordergate after Touring Cambodia

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s security forces have detained four former prisoners of conscience named Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong, Nguyen Thi Truc Anh, Ho Cong Di and Vo Nhu Huynh after they returned from a tour in the neighboring country of Cambodia, Defend the Defenders has learned.

According to Ms. Nguyen Thi Vui, the older sister of sisters Phuong and Anh, the security officers held the group of four activists, Huynh’s mother and 5-year-old child after they entered Vietnam from Cambodia via the Moc Bai International Bordergate in the southern province of Tay Ninh in early morning of May 27.

During the detention which lasted around 36 hours, security officers questioned the group, asking where they had been and which activities they had done in Cambodia. It seems that the Vietnamese security forces suspect they may have attended some training programs which are considered by security forces as harmful for the regime.

On the same day, security forces also detained independent journalist Le Thuwhen she was walking near the border gate, taking her in custody for questioning. Police officers accused her of illegal travel to Cambodia but she denied, requesting the security forces to prove solid evidence for the allegation.

Police confiscated all cell phones of the detainees, not allowing them to contact with their families to inform them about their situation.

After one night and many hours of interrogation, police released all of them in the late afternoon of May 27 after confiscating an Iphone 6plus cell phone and a laptop of Ms. Thu and two laptops of others.

Phuong, Anh, Di and Huynh were arrested on June 10, 2018 while participating in the peaceful demonstration in Bien Hoa city, Dong Nai province to protest two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security. The first one seems to favor Chinese investors and ignore the country’s sovereignty while the second bill aims to silence online critics. In a trial on July 30, they were convicted of “disturbing public disorders” and the first three were sentenced to ten months while the last was given eight months in prison. They were released in February and April this year.

The four, together with 18 others in their case, were listed as prisoners of conscience by NOW! Campaign, a coalition of 15 domestic and international rights groups working for the release of all prisoners of conscience in Vietnam.


Blogger Nguyen Danh Dung Completes His 30-month Imprisonment in March

Defend the Defenders: Blogger Nguyen Danh Dung, who was arrested on December 16, 2016 on allegation of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 258 of the Vietnamese 1999 Penal Code, completed his 30-month imprisonment in mid-March this year, Defend the Defenders has learned.

Via phone call, Mr. Dung said he was sentenced in a trial carried out by the People’s Court of Thanh Hoa city, several months after his detention. He was sent to Thanh Lam Prison camp in Nhu Thanh district, and due to his “good behaviors,” his sentence was reduced by three months.

After being released on March 16, 2019, he has been worked for his sister’s company in Thai Nguyen province, he told Defend the Defenders.

The fate of online blogger Dung remained unknown for public after his detention in mid-December 2016 until now. State media actively reported his detention, saying he was accused of posting articles to criticize the Vietnamese government and the authorities in Thanh Hoa province on systemic corruption and failure to deal with the country’s serious problems such as widespread environmental pollution, China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea, and nationwide human rights violations.

He was accused of operating ThienAnTV with anti-government content. However, the police of Thanh Hoa have never publicized their investigation results in the case so no one knows his situation.

The news about Dung’s trial was not publicized while his family remained silent. Due to the limited information about him and his family, many activists failed in their attempts to get access to his case.

Many international rights groups have expressed their concerns about the case, fearing that he may be subject of torture and inhumane treatment of Vietnam’s police.

Dung was listed as a prisoner of conscience by NOW! Campaign, a coalition of 15 domestic and international rights groups working for the release of all prisoners of conscience in Vietnam.


Prisoner of Conscience Nguyen Van Hoa Still Disciplined, Isolated from Others

Defend the Defenders: Prisoner of conscience Nguyen Van Hoa is still disciplined after being placed in a solitary cell, according to his older sister Nguyen Thi Hue.

On May 28, Ms. Hue went to An Diem prison to visit him. Hoa’s health has been temporarily stabilized, even though he was beaten and his feet had been “shackled” for 10 days, and was finally released.

However, Hoa still has to be confined in K1 camp, and continue to be in isolation for the next 6 months. In June the family will be restricted from visiting, limited in supplying food and limited in sending money to Hoa. Hoa will be locked up, isolated in a separate room.

One person stopped the hunger strike but there Mr. Hoang Duc Binh, Nguyen Bac Truyen and another person are still on hunger strike.

Meanwhile, the family of prisoner of conscience Nguyen Viet Dung said he is disciplined for unknown reasons. On May 28, his father Nguyen Viet Hung went to Ba Sao Prison camp where Dung is serving his six-year imprisonment to visit him. However, the father was told by the prison’s authorities that the activist is disciplined and not allowed to meet with his relatives.

The prison’s authorities also deny Dung’s rights to receive food and other stuff supplies from his family. They have rejected to inform the father about the disciplined measures against his son and for how long.

===== May 29 =====

Authorities in Nghe An Arrest Local Democracy Activist, Charging Him with “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda”

Defend the Defenders: On May 29, security forces in Vietnam’s central province of Nghe An arrested Mr. Nguyen Nang Tinh, a lecturer of the Nghe An College for Culture and Art, and charged him with “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Clause 1, Article 117 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.

According to local activists, security forces detained Mr. Tinh and his two children in their private residence in Quynh Hung commune, Quynh Luu district shortly after they came back from Dong Thap province where his wife works as a teacher. Their sons, students of primary school, live with his wife in the Mekong Delta.

After taking the father and his two sons to the communal police station, police conducted a search of his house and confiscated some items, including a computer and cell phones. His rent room near the college was also said to be searched by police.

Two hours later, police requested Mr. Tinh’s father to go to the police station to collect his grandchildren. They took him away without issuing an arrest warrant, probably to Nghi Kim temporary detention facility under the authority of the Nghe An province’s Police Department.

On May 30, the Nghe An newspaper, the outlet of the province’s government, announced that Mr. Tinh, 43, was charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” with the maximum imprisonment of 12 years if is convicted.

Accordingly, Mr. Tinh has used his Facebook account Nguyễn Năng Tĩnh to post and share articles and videos as well as images with content defaming state leaders and distort the ruling communist party’s policies.

Activists said Mr. Tinh is very active in promoting human rights and multi-party democracy, and speak out about the country’s issues such as systemic corruption, human rights abuse, widespread environmental pollution and China’s violations to Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and the weak response of the communist government in Hanoi.

There are some video clips on Youtube in which Mr. Tinh tough students to sing a number of patriotic songs composed by dissidents in which the government is criticized for suppressing anti-China activists.

His wife said he is suffering from severe kidney stones. He was planning to seek medical treatment for the problem.

Vietnam continues its political crackdown on local dissent, arresting at least 17 human rights defenders, bloggers and social activists so far this year with different allegations, from “disturbing public orders” to subversion. Hanoi has also convicted numerous activists of trumped-up allegations with lengthy imprisonment up to 20 years in prison, like in the case of democracy campaigner Le Dinh Luong.

===== 31/5 =====

Land Dispute in Dong Tam not Settled: Lawmaker Duong Trung Quoc

Defend the Defenders: The land dispute in Dong Tam commune, My Duc district, Hanoi has not been settled, said lawmaker Duong Trung Quoc during the session of Vietnam’s highest legislative body National Assembly in May 31’s morning.

Vietnam’s authorities have yet to resolved the issues related to the land dispute in the commune and related developments in recent years, including the detention of retired official Le Dinh Kinh.

Legislator Quoc questioned the arrest of Mr. Kinh and police’s torture against him during his detention. He recalled that My Duc district’s police cheated Mr. Kinh, summoning to the disputed field and detain him.

If the arrest was legal, why the police did not make it in a transparent way, he questioned.

The arrests of Mr. Kinh and several other residents in the commune triggered the anger of Dong Tam’s citizens, leading to their taking hostages of around 40 state officials and riot policemen for nearly two weeks.

Vietnam’s authorities should be more transparent in the case, said Mr. Quoc, one of few outspoken lawmakers in the country’s rubber-stamp parliament.

Earlier this year, the government’s Inspectorate issued a statement saying the complaints of Dong Tam commune’s residents on the land disputes are groundless.