Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for August 26-September 1, 2019: Blogger Duong Thi Lanh Sentenced to Eight Years in Jail for Online Posts
Defend the Defenders| September 1, 2019
Vietnam’s communist regime continues its persecution against online bloggers, convicting the second Facebooker named Duong Thi Lanh with a lengthy sentence after imprisoning blogger Huynh Dac Tuy with the same allegation called “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code two days earlier.
On the first-instance hearing on August 23, the People’s Court of Dak Nong province sentenced Mrs. Duong Thi Lanh to eight years in prison and two years of probation for posting and sharing 380 statuses on Facebook on the country’s hot issues, including systemic corruption, widespread environmental pollution and China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) as well as the Vietnamese communist government insufficient response to China’s expansionism in the resource-rich sea. Her family was not informed about the trial but learned it from the local media after that.
Meanwhile, former prisoner of conscience Truong Duy Nhat is proposed to be prosecuted of “Abuse of power or position in performance of official duties” under Article 356 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code. Nhat, who was kidnapped in Thailand in late January and taken back to Vietnam, is facing imprisonment of between five and ten years if he is convicted.
Vietnam’s authoritarian regime is likely to prosecute Australian citizen Chau Van Kham on allegation of subversion under Article 109 of the Penal Code with the maximum punishment of life imprisonment or even death penalty.
During the official visit of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to Hanoi on August 22-24 and on the occasion of the 16th annual Human Rights Dialogue between Australia and Vietnam held in Canberra on August 29, Human Rights Watch Australia urges the Australian government to urge Vietnam to improve its rights record and release all 133 political prisoners.
Prominent blogger and leading dissident Pham Doan Trang, together with eight other bloggers and three groups in 12 countries is shortlisted for three prizes of the Reporters Without Borders (RSF)’s Press Freedom Awards 2019. Ms. Trang, co-founders of the online magazine Luat Khoa, helps her fellow citizens defend their civil rights. Because of her work, she was beaten and arbitrarily imprisoned several times.
Amid increasing China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea, Vietnam’s security forces have been holding numerous exercises in a bid to be prepared to deal with mass public protests as the communist regime prioritizes its leadership instead of taking measures to deal with the country’s hot issues.
===== August 26 =====
Blogger Duong Thi Lanh Sentenced to 8 Years in Jail for “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda”
Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Dak Nong have convicted local blogger Duong Thi Lanh (Facebooker Ngoc Lan SG) of “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State” under Article 117 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code for her online posts.
During the first-instance hearing on August 23, the People’s Court of Dak Nong province sentenced her to eight years of jail and two years of probation as the judge concluded that she used 13 Facebook accounts to post and share 380 statuses from June 2017 until her detention on January 30, 2019 to defame the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam, its leaders and its government.
She was also accused of distorting information on social media, triggering peaceful demonstrations about social issues such as corruption, China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and Vietnam’s weak responses to China’s expansionism in the resource-rich sea.
According to Dak Nong’s online newspaper, the Dak Nong police arrested the 36-year-old female activist on January 28, 2019 after receiving reports from the province’s Department of Information and Communication about her online posts.
It was reported that her family has not been informed about the trial and learned the news from the local media.
Lanh, 36, is among more than 20 activists being arrested in 2019 and one of 13 activists being charged with allegations in the national security provisions of the Penal Code for their online activities since the beginning of this year when the controversial Law on Cyber Security became effective.
So far this year, Vietnam’s communist regime has convicted 20 activists and sentenced them to a total 94 years and six months in jail. It is still holding 29 activists in pre-trial detention.
According to Defend the Defenders’ statistics, Vietnam is imprisoning 243 prisoners of conscience as of August 29, 2019.
===== August 27 =====
Australia Urged to Press Vietnam on Human Rights Issues
Defend the Defenders: On the occasion of the 16th Australia-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue held in Canberra on August 29, Human Rights Watch Australia calls on the Australian government should press the Vietnam government to respect human rights.
In its statement released on August 27, Human Rights Watch Australia says during his visit to Hanoi on August 22-24, Prime Minister Scott Morrison failed to address human rights concerns.
Vietnam’s communist regime is practicing the systematic suppression of freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and religion, it said.
Australia should use the dialogue to improve Vietnam’s poor human rights record and immediately release all political prisoners as well as revise its problematic cybersecurity law.
“Australia’s close ties with Vietnam mean the Australian government has a responsibility to speak out publicly on Vietnam’s abysmal human rights record,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch. “The crackdown on basic rights in Vietnam is escalating, with more political prisoners being unjustly detained for longer terms.”
For detail: Australia: Press Vietnam to Respect Rights
===== August 28 =====
Investigation against Former POC Truong Duy Nhat Completed, His Case Transferred to Procuracy
Defend the Defenders: The Police Investigation Agency of Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security has completed the investigation against former prisoner of conscience blogger Truong Duy Nhat, transferring his case to the Supreme People’s Procuracy with a proposal to prosecute on charge of “Abuse of power or position in performance of official duties” under Article 356 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.
Particularly, he is accused of using documents of Dai Doan Ket (Great Unity) newspaper to sell its property to former security officer Phan Van Anh Vu, who was convicted of series of charges on economic violations and sentenced to dozens of years in prison in recent years.
Nhat, who spent two years in jail in 2012-2014 for his online posts critical to the communist regime, was allowed to meet with his lawyer for the first time on August 28 since his detention in late January this year. His lawyer Ngo Anh Tuan told the Radio Free Asia (RFA) that his client has not been tortured physically and his health is good although he has not been permitted to receiving food supply from his family.
According to UN’s experts, Mr. Nhat was reportedly to be kidnapped by Thai police officers in Bangkok on January 26 this year, one day after he submitted his request for political asylum to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR)’s Office in the city. Later, he was handed over to Vietnam’s secret agents who took him back to Vietnam. According to Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, he was held in its T16 temporary detention in Hanoi from January 28, however, the ministry has not unveiled how he was arrested and taken from Thailand.
Initially, he was charged with “Abuse of power or position for appropriation of property” but police changed the allegation against him after failed to prove the first charge.
The 55-year-old blogger is facing imprisonment of between five and ten years if he is convicted.
===== August 30 =====
Prominent Blogger Pham Doan Trang Nominated for RSF Press Freedom Awards 2019
Defend the Defenders: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has included Vietnamese prominent dissident and blogger Pham Doan Trang into its short list of contenders for its prizes named Press Freedom Awards 2019.
Particularly, Ms. Trang is among four nominees for RSF’s Prize for Impact. Other three are the reporter collective Bihus.info from Ukraine, the Sudanese Journalists Network from Sudan and Lu Guang from China.
In its press release, RSF said Ms. Trang is co-founders of the online magazine Luat Khoa lives in one of the most repressive states in the world. With her articles, she helps her fellow citizens to defend their civil rights. She is also a strong advocate for LGBT rights. Because of her work, she was beaten and arbitrarily imprisoned several times.
For further reading: RSF Announces Nominees for Press Freedom Awards 2019 ahead of ceremony in Berlin
Security Forces Hold Large-scale Exercises Ready to Deal With Public Protests
Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s security forces are holding large-scale exercises for at least ten days in Hanoi in a bid to prepare for mass public demonstrations amid China’s increasing expansionism in the East Sea (South China Sea), Defend the Defenders has learned.
Thousands of riot police and other forces have been deployed in areas near the My Dinh national stadium in the capital city, a local resident told Defend the Defenders.
Security forces in Vietnam’s localities have been warned of a possibility of mass protests regarding China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the resource-rich sea which is also very important for international navigation.
Vietnam’s communist regime does not welcome spontaneous public demonstrations because it is fearing that uncontrolled protests may turn into anti-government demonstrations due to its failure to have adequate responses to China’s expansionism in the East Sea.
Vietnam’s leaders have not made public statements against China’s violations in the sea while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made oral denunciations and sent diplomatic protests to China’s Embassy in Vietnam only.
Vietnamese Australian Chau Van Kham Proposed to Be Prosecuted of Subversion
Defend the Defenders: Vietnamese Australian Chau Van Kham is likely to be tried for “attempts to overthrow the government” with the maximum punishment of life imprisonment or death sentence, according to ABC News.
Citing the information from Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ABC News said the Vietnamese police completed investigation in his case and transferred the investigation results to the Supreme People’s Procuracy, proposing to prosecute him of subversion under Article 109 of the 2015 Penal Code.
Mr. Kham, 60, was arrested on January 13 during a meeting with pro-democracy activist Nguyen Van Vien in Saigon. The first is a member of the Vietnam Reform Party (Viet Tan) which is labeled as a terrorist group while Mr. Vien is a member of the unregistered group Brotherhood for Democracy. Vien, 48, is the 9th member of the group being imprisoned for subversion.
During the visit of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to Hanoi on August 22-24 and the 16th annual Australia-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue on August 29, Human Rights Watch Australia urged the Australian government to address Vietnam’s human rights issues.
For related articles: Australia: Press Vietnam to Respect Rights
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