Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for September 16-22, 2019: UN Says Vietnam among World’s Top Ten Countries Harassing Rights Abuse Reporters

Defend the Defenders | September 22, 2019


In their annual report to the 42th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in September 9-27, the UN Secret General and the UN High Commissionerfor Human Rights said Vietnam is among the world’s top ten countries applying intimidation and reprisals against these who have been seeking  to  cooperate  or  having  cooperated  with  the  United  Nations,  its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights. The report detailed six cases in which victims were interrogated, have passports confiscated or blocked from going abroad as well as face arrest threat.

This week, two Facebookers Nguyen Van Cong Em from Ben Tre province and Tran Dinh Sang from Yen Bai were convicted and jailed. The first was sentenced to five years in prison and five years of probation on charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Penal Code for his online posts criticizing the regime and its officials while the second was given two years in prison for his effort to combat corruption among traffic policemen. They are among eight Facebookers being imprisoned for their peaceful activities since the beginning of this year when the Cyber Security Law became effective.

Police in the central province of Nghe An said they completed the investigation against local pro-democracy activist Nguyen Nang Tinh who was arrested on May 29 and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda.” They proposed the province’s People’s Procuracy to prosecute him of this allegation and his trial is expected to be held soon.

Police in Hanoi also completed their investigation against former prisoner of conscience Truong Duy Nhat on allegation of power abuse. Nhat, who was kidnapped by the Thai Royal Police and taken to Vietnam in late January, will face imprisonment of up to seven years if is convicted.

Jailed blogger Nguyen Van Hoa, who is serving his seven-year-imprisonment in An Diem Prison camp, completed his solitary confinement as a punishment for his refusal of making confession. Meanwhile, Mr. Le Dinh Luong was barred from meeting with his family on September 17 during a regular visit in Ba Sao Prison camp where he is serving his 20-year-imprisonment for his peaceful activities which aim to promote multi-party democracy and human rights as well as against corruption among Nghe An province’s government officers.

===== September 16 =====

Vietnam Listed by UN as World’s Top Ten Countries Harassing Rights Abuse Reporters

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s communist regime is among world’s most aggresive countries against these who have been seeking  to  cooperate  or  having  cooperated  with  the  United  Nations,  its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights, according to the annual report of the UN Secret General and the UN High Commissionerfor Human Rights.

In the report for the period between June 1, 2018 and May 31, 2019 which was prepared by the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in its 42nd session in Geneva in September, Vietnam was said to apply different measures of intimidation and reprisal against local activists in six cases.

The victims include wives of prisoners of conscience Truong Minh Duc and Nguyen Bac Truyen, as well as human rights defender Nguyen Van An. The intimidations and reprisals include interrogations, blockage of travel abroad and passport confiscation and arrest threat.

Vietnam has systemically applied this policy against human rights abuse reporters and it was listed by the UN’s reports in previous years.


Jailed Blogger’s Solitary Confinement Punishmen Ends after Four Months

Defend the Defenders: Prisoner of conscience Nguyen Van Hoa, who is serving his seven-year imprisonment in An Diem Prison camp, was reportedly seen last week after being placed in solitary confinement as a punishment from the prison’s authorities in early May.

During a regular meeting with his family on September 14, jailed human rights defender and labour activist Hoang Duc Binh said that he saw Hoa in recent day for the first time after four months. Hoa seems losing his weight, Binh added.

Hoa was disciplined by the prison’s authorities after refusing to make confession. He was beaten by police officers, according to Binh.

As the prison’s authorities placed Hoa in solitary confinement without informing Binh and other fellows, Binh and other prisoners of conscience, including human rights defender and religious activist Nguyen Bac Truyen conducted hunger strike for several weeks to protest.

Hoa, 24, was kidnapped by Ha Tinh province’s security forces on November  27, 2017 after filming protests outside the Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics Group steel plant, whose spill in 2016 killed an estimated 115 tons of fish and left fishermen and tourism industry workers jobless in four central provinces.

In 2018, he was convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda” and sentenced to seven years in prison.

More details: Detained Vietnamese Activist Comes out of Solitary Confinement after Four Months

===== September 17 =====

Nghe An Police Say Investigation against Pro-democracy Activist Nguyen Nang Tinh Completed, Proposing to Prosecute Him for “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda”

Defend the Defenders: The Nghe An province’s Police Department said they have completed the investigtion against local pro-democracy activist Nguyen Nang Tinh on allegation of “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.

The Police Department said it handed over the case to the province’s People’s Procuracy and propose to prosecute him of the charge with the maximum imprisonment of 12 years in prison.

It has also informed his lawyer that the attorney can meet him to prepare for his defense in the first-instance hearing if the procuracy is approved the police’s proposal.

Mr. Tinh, 43, was arrested by Nghe An province’s security forces on May 29 who later charged him with “conducting anti-state propaganda.”

Authorities in Nghe AN said 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 videoclips 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.

Vietnam continues its political crackdown on local dissent, arresting more than two dozens of human rights defenders, bloggers and social activists so far this year with different allegations, from “disturbing public orders” to subversion. Hanoi has also convicted 21 activists in trumped-up allegations with lengthy imprisonment up to 20 years in prison, like in the case of democracy campaigner Le Dinh Luong.

The communist regime is holding at least 239 prisoners of conscience as of September 15, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics.

===== September 18 =====

Jailed Pro-democracy Activist Le Dinh Luong Not Permitted to Meet with Family

Defend the Defenders: Police officers in Ba Sao Prison camp have blocked jailed pro-democracy activist Le Dinh Luong from meeting with his family during regular prison visits on September 17 without giving specific reasons, his daughter-in-law has informed Defend the Defenders.

Mrs. Nguyen Xoan said that she and other family’s members passed hundreds of kilometers from the central province of Nghe An to visit her father-in-law who is serving his 20-year imprisonment in the camp, however, police officers did not allow him to meet them.

When the family insisted police officers to explain their move, they denied, said Xoan, who lives in Ho Chi Minh City with her husband, more than 1,600 km from the northern province of Ha Nam where the camp is located.

Police officers also sent a thug to threaten the family, Xoan noted. She is concerned about her father-in-law’s situation as he may be disciplined by the prison’s authorities.

This is the second time her family was denied from meeting with him, Xoan said, adding her family has submitted a petition to the Ministry of Public Security to appeal the decision of the prison, however, her family has yet received a reply from the ministry.

Mr. Luong, 54, is among 233 prisoners of conscience. The pro-democracy activist and anti-corruption fighter was arrested on July 24, 2017 and charged with subversion for his relations with the Vietnam Reform Party, the California-based group labeled as a terrorist group by the communist regime in Hanoi. Last year, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison, the highest sentence given to an activist for many years.

Jailed Vietnamese activists are subjects to torture and inhumane treatment by the communist regime who want to destroy their physically and mentally. They are often placed in solitary cells for weeks.

Meanwhile, jailed independent journalist Nguyen Van Hoa, who is serving his seven-year imprisonment in An Diem Prison camp in the central province of Quang Nam, is reportedly returned to his cell after being held in a solitary cell for months as a disciplinary measure.


Facebooker Nguyen Van Cong Em Convicted of Anti-state Posts, Second Blogger Sentenced within Two Weeks amid Increasing Online Crackdown

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s communist regime convicted Facebooker Nguyen Van Cong Em of “conducting anti-state propaganda,” imprisoning the second blogger within the last two weeks for their online posts which are critical for the regime.

State media has reported that on September 17, the People’s Court of Ben Tre sentenced local 48-year-old Facebooker Nguyen Van Cong Em to five years in prison and five years of probation for his posting in the period between October 27, 2017 until late February 2019.

Mr. Em, a resident of My Thanh commune, Giong Trom district, was accused of using seven Facebook accounts such as “Vệ Quốc Đoàn,” “Tấn Lê,” “Tân Nguyên,” và “Lê Thành Bạc” to post 199 statuses and five live streams as well as share 72 articles with “distorted content” about the regime and state officials.

Em was also alleged of calling for public protests during the US-North Korea Summit which was held in Hanoi in late February this year. He was arrested on February 28.

He is the seond Facebooker being imprisoned in the past two weeks, On September 5, the People’s Court of Ninh Binh convicted 54-year-old Le Van Sinh of “abusing democratic freedom” and sentenced him  to five years in jail for online posts which are critical for the regime.

Since the beginning of 2019 when the Cyber Security Law became effective, Vietnam has arrested 13 Facebookers for their online activists, sentencing eight of them to between five and eight years in prison. Five others are held in pre-trial detention, and among these is female pro-democracy activist Huynh Thi To Nga, whose allegation is not publicized, and her older brother Huynh Minh Tam.

Vietnam is holding at least 233 prisoners of conscience, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics.


Blogger Truong Duy Nhat Formally Indicted for “Abuse of Power’

 Defend the Defenders: Former prisoner of conscience and well-known blogger Truong Duy Nhat has been formally indicted on a charge of taking advantage of his position and powers during the performance of his official duties, nearly eight months after being kidnapped in Bangkok and taken to Vietnam in late January.

Nhat, a weekly contributor to Radio Free Asia, was indicted by the Supreme People’s Procuracy in a case in which he and other state officials allegedly sold public land and caused an eventual  loss to the state of over VND $13 billion ($550,000) in 2004. At that time, Nhat was a representative of the Dai Doan Ket newspaper’s office in the central city of Da Nang.

Nhat, who had earlier been jailed in Vietnam in 2013-2015 for his writings criticizing the Vietnamese communist government, was reportedly kidnapped on January 26 this year by Thai police officers who later handed him over to Vietnamese agents. He was taken to Hanoi on January 28.

For details: RFA Blogger Formally Indicted in Vietnam for ‘Abuse of Power’

===== September 18 =====

Anti-corruption Activist Tran Dinh Sang Convicted, Sentenced to Two Years in Prison

 Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s northern province of Yen Bai have convicted a local anti-corruption activist named Tran Dinh Sang of “Resisting a law enforcement officer in performance of his/her official duties” under Article 330 in the country’s 2015 Penal Code in a trumped-up case, state media has reported.

In the first-instance hearing on September 18, the People’s Court of Yen Bai City found the 39-year-old anti-corruption fighter guilty and sentenced him to two years in jail for his attempt to unveil local traffic police’s bribery case.

Mr. Sang was arrested in his private residence in Yen Bai city in early morning of April 9. Police also conducted search of his house. Three weeks earlier, in the evening of March 23, when a patrol unit of the Yen Bai city’s Mobile police was carrying out regular traffic check and imposing administrative fine on traffic violators, Sang stopped his car and filmed the police’s activities because he suspected that the police team took bribery from traffic violators. The two sides held quarrel as the policemen requested Sang to stop filming while Sang insisted that he has a right to observe and witness the police’s activities as a citizen.

The police patrol unit reported that Sang tried to attack one of police officers, however, no solid evidence was shown by the police side.

According to Sang’s post on his Facebook, he wanted to supervise the activities of the mobile police’s unit as a citizen. The policemen tried to take his camera and he resisted. Later, police took him to a police station where he was beaten brutally by police officers. He was left to go home in mid night with broken ribs and other severe injuries on his body.

Mr. Sang is one of Facebookers covering bribery of traffic police and activities against corruption related to the arbitrary placement of toll booths on national highways on his account “Tran Dinh Sang and his friends.”

A number of his fellows have been harassed and persecuted in recent months amid increasing public disatisfaction on systemic corruption, especially in traffic police forces, and the arbitrary placement of tens of toll booths on national highways across the nation.

In early March, Ha Van Nam, one of the most active figures against the fee collection of wrongly-placed toll booths, was arrested and charged with “causing public disorders,” two weeks after being kidnapped and brutally beaten by undercove policemen. In July, he and six others fellows were sentenced to between 18 months and 36 months in prison.

Vietnam’s communist regime verbally encourages citizens to take part in anti-corruption campaign, however, numerous activists have been imprisoned or intimidated after denouncing state officials of taking bribery or stealing state properties.

Sang has been the 8th Vietnamese Facebooker being arrested and charged with criminal offenses so far this year, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics.

Since the beginning of this year, Vietnam’s communist regime has jailed 23 activists with a total 106 years and six months. Currently, the regime is holding 233 prisoners of conscience, said Defend the Defenders.


Vietnam Criticized at UN Meeting in Geneva Over Rights Violations 

RFA: Human rights groups hit out at Vietnam this week over the country’s suppression of religious freedoms and civil society, accusing the one-party communist state of multiple violations and continuing refusals to engage in sincere dialogue with foreign governments and NGOs.

Addressing a meeting of the 42nd session of the U.N. Human Rights Council on Wednesday in Geneva, Switzerland, Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) president Vo Van Ai said that Vietnam under communist rule has never cared about human rights.

“On the contrary, they are perceived as a threat to the regime’s survival,” Ai said. “What is new today is that the Vietnamese government no longer hesitates to openly reject fundamental freedoms, democracy and pluralism.”

In a joint statement issued on Sept. 18 with Acting Together for Human Rights (AEDH), VCHR noted what it called an alarming increase in repression in Vietnam against “all forms of independent expression” over the last three years, with at least 130 prisoners of conscience now held in the country’s prisons.

“In recent years, the Vietnamese authorities have [also] kidnapped several dissidents in neighboring countries, with or without the connivance of the local authorities,” the rights groups added, pointing for example to the January 2019 abduction in Thailand of RFA blogger Truong Duy Nhat, now jailed in Vietnam.

Vietnam’s government has also blocked international NGO leaders from attending conferences in Vietnam and has outlawed and criminalized the activities of religious believers worshipping outside of state-approved groups, the rights groups said.

“Independent religious movements are dynamic and vibrant actors of civil society, and they have remained strong and unwavering in face of wars, revolutions, repression and societal crises,” the joint statement said.

“Yet today, they suffer harassments, intimidation, surveillance, confiscation of property, arrest and imprisonment on account of their beliefs,” the rights groups said.

Strengthened monitoring

Meanwhile, representatives of the independent Interfaith Council of Vietnam met on Wednesday with delegates of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City, where they called for strengthened U.S. monitoring of rights violations in Vietnam.

Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service following the meeting, Hua Phi—a representative of the Cao Dai faith, one of five churches represented on the Council—said that Council delegates had offered comments “on the issue of religious freedom in Vietnam.”

“We also raised the issue of human rights in Vietnam and asked the U.S. and foreign governments to freely intervene to demand that communist Vietnam release prisoners of conscience and political prisoners,” he said.

Along with recommendations that the United States tie its relations with Vietnam to improvements in the country’s rights record, the Council proposed that the U.S. State Department re-list Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) in its annual ranking of the world’s worst abusers of religious freedoms.

Continuing persecution

In an April 2019 report, USCIRF noted that though Vietnam’s CPC designation had been lifted in 2006 amid improving diplomatic relations, “the government of Vietnam has continued to persecute religious individuals and organizations.”

“Local authorities continued to seize property from Catholic churches, Buddhist temples, and other religious groups for economic development projects without providing just compensation,” USCIRF said in its report.

Meanwhile, Vietnamese police had harassed religious leaders of different faiths for attending religious conferences overseas or for meeting with foreign diplomats, USCIRF said.

In a news release on Thursday, the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights noted an increase in such reprisals by almost 50 states around the world, including cases where Vietnamese citizens seeking to testify at meetings held this year in Geneva had been detained and questioned by security forces either on their return or before leaving the country, and had been barred from further travel.

Vietnam Criticized at UN Meeting in Geneva Over Rights Violations