Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for September 23-29, 2019: Lam Dong Arrests Facebooker Vượng Nguyễn on Allegation of “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda”
Defend the Defenders | September 29, 2019
Vietnam’s communist regime continues its suppression against local dissent, targeting Facebookers with less public popularity in provinces in a bid to discourage other citizens in criticizing its government.
On September 23, police in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong detained Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong and searched his parents’ house. Four days later, police said he was arrested and investigated for using his Facebook account Vượng Nguyễn to defame communist leaders and criticize the regime. Accordingly, he will be held incommunicado in the next four months for investigation.
Also on Monday, the Higher Court in Ho Chi Minh City rejected the appeals of two Facebooker Vu Thi Dung and Nguyen Thi Ngoc Suong for disseminating leaftlets to call for public demonstrations to protest the communist regime which fails to address hot issues of the country, including China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea). The two female activists were arrested in October last year and charged with Article 117 of the Penal Code. In their trial in May this year, the People’s Court of Dong Nai sentenced Dung to six years and Suong to five years in prison.
On September 26, anti-corruption reporter Kieu Dinh Lieu of Vietnam Lawyers journal, was brutally beaten by a group of three thugs in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai. The attack was linked to his activities to fight against illegal forest lodging and timber trading. Due to the assault, he fell into inconscious, suffering from cerebral hemorrhage and traumatic brain injury.
Pro-democracy activist and human rights defender Nguyen Van Dien, who is serving his 6.5-year imprisonment in Prison camp No. 5 in the central province of Thanh Hoa, is conducting a hunger strike to protest inhumane treatment by the prison’s authorities.
On Friday, Vietnamese Australians in Sydney held a candlelight vigil in a bid to call for public attention to Mr. Chau Van Kham, who is held in Vietnam on allegation of “attempts to overthrow the government” under Article 109 of Vietnam’s Penal Code with potential imprisonment of between ten and 20 years in jail if is convicted. He was arrested in January this year after meeting with Mr. Nguyen Van Vien, a member of the unregistered group Brotherhood for Democracy. Mr. Kham’s trial is expected in coming weeks.
===== September 23 ======
Higher Court in HCM City Upholds Jail Sentences of Two Female Facebookers Disseminating Leaflets to Call for Street Demonstrations
Defend the Defenders: In the appeal hearing on September 23, the Higher People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City rejected the appeal of two Dong Nai province-based female Facebookers named Vu Thi Dung and Nguyen Thi Ngoc Suong who were convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.
During the appeal hearing which lasted few hours, the Higher People’s Court upheld the prison sentences given to the two activists by the People’s Court of Dong Nai province in the first-instance hearing on May 10. Particularly, 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 2018, 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 two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security, and against hegemonic China on Oct 13, 2018. In addition, 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. The two activists 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.
In the appeal hearing, families of the two activists hired three lawyers, however, they could not help their clients reduce their sentences.
After the first-instance hearing, the European Union Delegation to Vietnam released its statement expressing its concern about imprisoning the two Facebookers. In the statement, the delegation said these cases are part of extensive enforcement of the national security provisions of the 2015 Penal Code and continue the negative trend, of prosecuting and sentencing Vietnamese citizens, including for peacefully expressing their opinions online.
Noting that the two women have peacefully advocated the promotion and protection of human rights as guaranteed by the Vietnamese Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the delegation said their sentences are in direct breach of these international obligations, which Vietnam has itself signed up to, and which the European Union expects full respect for.
The two Facebookers are among 23 activists who have been convicted and sentenced to a total 106 years and six months so far this year, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics. Vietnam is jailing at least 233 prisoners of conscience.
Vietnamese Facebooker Detained, His House Searched amid Increasing Online Crackdown
Defend the Defenders: On September 23, authorities in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Lam Dong detained local citizen (Facebooker Vượng Nguyễn), possible for his posts on his account in a bid to silence him amid increasing online crackdown.
Local activists reported that authorities in Lam Dong deployed dozens of police officers and militia to Hai Duong village, Lac Lam commune, Don Duong district where Mr. Vuong is living with his parents. Police reportedly beat him and searched his house, confiscating some items, including his laptop.
It is unclear whether police had have issued an arrest warrant as his family fell in panic. They took him away, likely to the temporary detention facility under the authority of the Lam Dong province’s police.
So far, the charge(s) against him have been unclear, said activists who concerned about his detention.
Vuong, a 28-year-old citizen, has shared numerous articles and conducted a number of live streams on his Facebook account about Vietnam’s issues, including systemic corruption, serious environmental pollution, human rights violations, bad economic management of the communist government and its weak responses to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).
He was reportedly detained several times by the local police before being arrested.
His friend activist Pham The Luc (Facebooker Phạm Thế Lực) said that the private residence of Vuong’s parents are still under police’s surveillance and he himself is closely monitored by police officers so no details of Vuong’s arrest are open for public.
Vuong’s detention is part of the ongoing crackdown on dissent bloggers and Facebookers amind rising social dissatisfaction. Since the beginning of 2019 when the Cyber Security Law became effective, Vietnam has arrested more than ten Facebookers for their online posts which are considered as anti-state activities.
Vietnam’s communist regime is imprisoning 234 prisoners of conscience, including 23 activists convicted and sentenced this year to a total 106 years and six months in prison, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics.
===== September 26 =====
Anti-corruption Journalist Kieu Dinh Lieu Brutally Beaten by Thugs in Gia Lai
Defend the Defenders: Anti-corruption reporter Kieu Dinh Lieu of Vietnam Lawyers journal, was brutally beaten by a group of three thugs in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai on September 26.
Due to the assault, he fell into inconscious, suffering from cerebral hemorrhage and traumatic brain injury. Currently, he is under special medical treatment.
He was reported to be stopped and beaten by a group of three thugs when he was in Truong Chinh street in Pleiku city, immediately after he informed the Gia Lai province’s Forest Ranger Department about three trucks full of illegal wood from Duc Co district.
The attackers also destroyed his car in a bid to search for videoclips and other documents regarding illegal forest lodging and trade of illegal timber in Gia Lai province. He was sent to the Central Highlands to investigate the illegal forest lodging in recent weeks.
===== September 27 =====
Lam Dong Province Confirms Arrest of Facebooker Vượng Nguyễn Alleged with “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda”
Defend the Defenders: On September 27, 2019, authorities in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Lam Dong confirmed the arrest of a local resident named Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong with the allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the country’s Penal Code.
The confirmation was made by the Don Duong district police on Friday, three days after authorities in Lam Dong deployed dozens of police and militia to detain him from his parents’ private residence in Hai Duong village, Lac Lam commune. The arrest was conducted by the police from the Security Investigation Agency of the Lam Dong province’s Police Department.
Police also conducted a search of his parent’s house and confiscated his personal computer and cell phones.
Police said he will be held incommunicado for at least four months for investigation. He will face imprisonment of between seven and 12 years in prison if is convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.
Local media cited police’s information as saying that Mr. Vuong, 28, has used his Facebook account Vượng Nguyễn in the past two years to produce and disseminate information defaming the communist regime and its late leader Ho Chi Minh.
Vuong reportedly participated in the mass demonstration in Ho Chi Minh City on June 10, 2018 which aimed to protest two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security. He was detained by police from Tan Tao ward, Binh Tan district who imposed a fine of VND750,000 ($32) before releasing him.
Vuong has been among more than a dozen of Facebookers being arrested for their posts on Facebook critical for the communist regime since the beginning of 2018 when Cyber Security Law became effective, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics. Vietnam’s communist regime has targetted Facebookers in provinces instead of other online activists in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and other big cities, noted Defend the Defenders’ Director Vu Quoc Ngu.
So far this year, Vietnam has convicted 23 human rights defenders, online critics, and anti-corruption activists and sentenced them to a total 106 years and six months in prison, said Mr. Vu Quoc Ngu, adding the communist nation is holding at least 234 prisoners of conscience.
Jailed Pro-democracy Activist Nguyen Van Dien Conducting Hunger Strike to Protest Inhumane Treatment
Defend the Defenders: Pro-democracy activist and human rights defender Nguyen Van Dien, who is serving his 6.5-year imprisonment in Prison camp No. 5 in the central province of Thanh Hoa, is conducting a hunger strike to protest inhumane treatment by the prison’s authorities.
Dien, 34, started his fasting on September 22 despite his weak health, according to his father Nguyen Thai Van, who met him during a monthly prison visit on September 24.
This is the second hunger strike of Dien in the last three months. In early, Dien stopped eating for many days to demand for improving imprisonment conditions.
Mr. Dien was sentenced to 6.5 years on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code. In the same case, Mr. Vu Quang Thuan was given to eight years while young activist Tran Hoang Phuc was sentenced to six years in jail.
Vietnam is holding at least 234 prisoners of conscience in hard conditions in prisons across the nation. Numerous prisoners have conducted hunger strikes to request the prisons to improve prison conditions.
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