Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for August 19-25, 2019: Pro-democracy Activist Huynh Dac Tuy Convicted of Conducting Anti-state Propaganda, Receiving Lengthy Sentence
Defend the Defenders | August 25, 2019
Vietnam’s communist regime continues its online persecution, convicting pro-democracy activist Huynh Dac Tuy of “conducting anti-state propaganda” for his posts on Facebook.
On August 21, the People’s Court of the central province of Quang Ngai sentenced the local businessman to six years in prison and three years of probation for posting and sharing articles criticizing the communist regime. The trial was made six months after his detention on February 22.
One day later, police officers from the Security Investigation Agency of the Ministry of Public Security kidnapped environmentalist Dang Vu Luong, a member of the unregistered group Cây Xanh (Green Trees), from a private residence in Tay Ho district. Police took him to the agency’s office in Nguyen Gia Thieu street where they interrogated him for more than ten hours about the group and its newly-released film named Đừng Sợ (Don’t Be Afraid) about environmental issues as well as its members, including prominent dissident Pham Doan Trang. Police also detained activists Trinh Hoai Thanh and Nguyen Van Phuong, who came to the office to question about Mr. Luong. Phuong was reportedly taken to a closed room where he was brutally beaten by three police officers. The trio were released at 10.30 PM of the same day.
Seven anti-tollbooth fraud (ATF) activists who were convicted of “disturbing public orders” and sentenced to to a total 15 years and six months in prison in late July reportedly refused their rights to appeal their sentences because they have no hope of getting lighter sentences if they appeal since there are no fair trials in the communist-ruled nation. Nguyen Quynh Phong, Ha Van Nam, Le Van Khien, Nguyen Tuan Quan, Vu Van Ha, Ngo Quang Hung and Tran Quang Hai were arrested in early March for blocking Pha Lai tollbooth station in February, and charged with “disturbing public orders” under Article 318 of the 2015 Penal Code.
Exiled Vietnamese activists in Thailand are concerned about deepening ties between the police forces of the two nations. According to Vietnam’s state media, a delegation of the Thai Royal Police visited Vietnam thisweek and met with their counterparts and the two sides pledged to boost bilateral security cooperation todeal with transnational crimes. Hundreds of Vietnamese activists staying in Thailand would be targets of the police forces from the two countries.
Human Rights Watch Australia has urged Australian Prime MinisterScott Morrisonto address human rights issues with Vietnam’s authorities during his visit to the Southeast Asian nation on August 22-24, saying activists in the coutry are subjects of the ongoing crackdown. According to the New York-based rights group, the communist regime is holding at least 133 political prisoners under severe living conditions.
===== August 19 =====
Exiled Vietnamese Activists Concerned about Bilateral Cooperation between Police of Vietnam and Thailand
Defend the Defenders: Many Vietnamese activists who fled to Thailand to avoid the Vietnamese communist government’s crackdown on the local dissent are concerned about the tightening bilateral cooperation between the police forces from the two Asian countries.
According to Vietnam’s state media, a delegation of the Thai Royal Police is visiting Vietnam in a bid to boost bilateral security cooperation with the local police forces. During their visit in Vietnam, the Thai delegation, led by General Torsak Saardpark, have conducted talks with high-profile officers from Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security and the Hanoi Police Department.
The content of bilateral cooperation includes combat against transnational crimes, according to local newspapers.
This is a serious warning for hundreds of Vietnamese activists who mostly reside in Bangkok and surrounding areas. Many of them have been granted political asylum status by the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) in Bangkok.
As Thailand has yet signed the UN Convention on Refugees, all exiled foreign activists including those who have been granted with political asylum status but do not have legal visa may face being arrested and jailed in the Bangkok-based Immigration Detention Center or even in worse case, being deported to their home countries where they will face persecution.
Hundreds of exiled Vietnamese and from other countries have been detained during regular raids of the Thai police in recent years, and few of them have been released. Only mothers having babies can be released with bails of THB50,000 ($1,613) each.
The number of Vietnamese activists living in exile in Thailand has risen significantly in the past few years since the Vietnamese authoritarian government intensified political crackdown in late 2015.
Vietnam and Thailand signed a strategic partnership in 2013 and the security forces from the two nations have pledged to maintain close ties.
In late January this year, one day after registering as a political asylum seeker to the UNHCR in Bangkok, former prisoner of conscience Truong Duy Nhat was detained by Thai police officers who later handed him over to Vietnamese secret agents, according to UN’s experts. Mr. Nhat is currently being held in Vietnam and investigated for a criminal charge.
===== August 21 =====
Enterpreuner Huynh Dac Tuy Convicted of Negative Posting on Facebook
Defend the Defenders: On August 21, the People’s Court of the central province of Quang Ngai convicted local enterpreuner Huynh Dac Tuy of criticizing the communist regime on his Facebook page.
The one-day court found him guilty of “making, storing, and distributing information and documents opposing the government” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code, particularly for posting and sharing “negative articles” about the Communist Party of Vietnam and its government, and encouraging his followers and friends online to resist state authorities.
The court sentenced him to six years in prison followed by three years of probation.
Mr. Tuy, 43, is owner of Tuy Nguyet Construction Company based in Quang Ngai city. He was arrested on February 22 and held incommunicado until recently, few weeks prior to his trial.
Since beginning of this year, when the Law on Cyber Security became effective, at least 11 Facebookers have also been arrested and dozens of others questioned for posting politically sensitive content online.
These arrested and charged with criminal offences are: Duong Thi Lanh from Dak Nong province, Trinh Viet Bang from Bac Ninh province, Nguyen Thi Hue from Dong Nai, Huynh Minh Tam and his younger sister Huynh Thi To Nga, Nguyen Van Cong Em, Nguyen Ba Manh, Vu Thi Dung and Nguyen Thi Ngoc Suong.
Vietnam, with a population of 92 million people, of which 55 million are estimated to be users of Facebook, has been consistently rated “not free” in the areas of internet and press freedom by Freedom House, a U.S.-based watchdog group.
Dissent is not tolerated in the communist nation, and authorities routinely use a set of vague articles of the National Security provisions in the Penal Code to suppress bloggers and human rights defenders.
===== August 22 =====
Security Forces Detain Environmentalist Dang Vu Luong, Beating Pro-democracy Campaigner Nguyen Van Phuong
Defend the Defenders: On August 22, Vietnam’s security forces detained environmentalist Dang Vu Luong for more than ten hours, and beat pro-democracy campaigner Nguyen Van Phuong when he and others came to question about the detention, Defend the Defenders has learned.
According to the unregistered independent civil organization Cây Xanh (Green Trees) in which Mr. Luong is a member, police officers from the Hanoi Police Department and the Security Investigation Agency of the Ministry of Public Security kidnapped him at a private residence in Tay Ho district at around 9.30 AM. Police took him to the Quang An ward police station for shortly and later to the agency’s Office in Nguyen Gia Thieu district.
In the office, police officers reportedly questioned Mr. Luong about the film named Đừng Sợ (Don’t Be Afraid) produced by Cây Xanh, and members of the group and its leaders, including prominent political dissident Pham Doan Trang.
Informed about the abduction, many members of Cay Xanh and other activists in Hanoi came to the police office to ask about Luong. In response, police detained two other activists named Trinh Hoang Thanh and Nguyen Van Phuong. The latter’s was taken to a closed room where he was brutally beaten by three officers.
At around 10.30 PM, police released the three activists without further explanation.
Luong, a 48-year-old activist in Hanoi, is the second member of Cây Xanh being detained and questioned about Don’t Be Afraid by Vietnam’s security forces. On June 13, police also arrested female environmentalist Cao Vinh Thinh when she was going to leave to Thailand.
Vietnam’s security forces are reportedly chasing Ms. Trang, who is one of the key members of the group which was established in 2015 in response to the plan of Hanoi’s leadership to chop down thousands of aged trees in the capital city’s main streets. The group played key roles in the mass protest in Hanoi that year which forced the city’s leadership to stop its plan.
The group also involved in a campaign in 2016 which protests the Taiwanese Formosa Steel plant in the central province of Ha Tinh after hundreds of tons of fish died in the central coastal region due to Formosa’s discharge a huge volume of industrial waste into the sea. In October of 2016, the group released its comprehensive report about the environmental disaster caused by Formosa.
In March, the group launched a film named Đừng Sợ (Don’t Be Afraid about Vietnam’s independent civil society organizations. The film is expected to be projected across Vietnam in early April to mark the 3rd anniversary of Formosa’s environmental disaster.
In Vietnam, the ruling Communist Party is striving to control all organizations and does not welcome the formation of independent ones. All activities of Green Trees are considered as anti-government.
Australian PM Urged to Address Human Rights Issue During Vietnam’s Visit
Defend the Defenders: Human Rights Watch (HRW) Australia has urged Australian Prime MinisterScott Morrisonto raise concerns of “dire”human rights recordduring his visit to Vietnam on August 22-24, according to The Guardians Australia.
Speakingwith The Guardians, Human Rights Watch Australia Director Elaine Pearson said most Vietnamese were not “free” and urged Morrison to use his official visit toaddresshuman rights issues.
Shesaid Vietnam isan independent sovereign nation, but thereis no freedom. The nation is controlled by the Communist Party and there are no fair elections. The government critics are routinely thrown into prisonwhile is no freedom of the pressandreligion.
“It is not a free country for most of the Vietnamese citizens who are living there, and I think the Morrison government needs to be clear-eyed about that.”
Shealso mentioned the case of Australian citizen Chau Van Kham who has been detained since Januaryand chared with subversion, with the maximum punishment of life imprisonment or death penalty.
For further reading: Morrison urged to address human rights on Vietnam visit after calling nation ‘free’
===== August 23 =====
Convicted Anti-tollbooth Fraud Activists In Late July Refuse Right to Appeal
Defend the Defenders: Seven anti-tollbooth fraud (ATF) activists who were convicted of “disturbing public orders” in late July have said they will not appeal their sentences because they have no hope of getting lighter sentences if they appeal.
There are no fair trials in the communist nation so it will be useless for them to appeal the sentences given by the first-stance hearing on July 30, Ha Van Nam, one of the convicted activists, explained their decision during their family visits recently.
Mr. Nam and his six fellows named Nguyen Quynh Phong, Le Van Khien, Nguyen Tuan Quan, Vu Van Ha, Ngo Quang Hung and Tran Quang Hai were arrested in early March for blocking Pha Lai tollbooth station in February, and charged with “disturbing public orders” under Article 318 of the 2015 Penal Code.
In the trial, Mr. Nguyen Quynh Phong was sentenced to three years while Messrs Le Van Khien and Ha Van Nam were given 30 months each; Messrs Nguyen Tuan Quan,Vu Van Ha and Ngo Quang Hung- two years. Mr. Tran Quang Hai received the lightest sentence of 18 months. The court ruled that the convicted also had to pay VND23 million ($980) in compensation to Pha Lai BOT tollbooth operating company.
Authorities in Bac Ninh deployed large numbers of police and militia including dozens of riot police to the court area at Dao Viet village hall to block the defendants’ families and friends from entering the courtroom where the supposedly open trial was held.
The convicted ones and their fellows were against tollbooths placed at wrong locations across the nation to collect tolls illegally from drivers. Investors of these illegal tollbooths are backed by senior officials and local authorities who sent out the police to suppress, beat and arrest activists.
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