Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for October 14-20, 2019: Facebooker Nguyen Thi Hue Convicted, Trial against Pro-democracy Nguyen Nang Tinh Postponed

Defend the Defenders, October 20, 2019


Vietnam’s communist regime continues its persecution against local political dissidents, social activists and Facebookers in a bid to silence them amid increasing social dissatisfaction.

On October 17, the People’s Court of Ia Grai in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai convicted local Facebooker Nguyen Thi Hue on allegation of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the country’s 2015 Criminal Code. The court sentenced her to two years in prison, saying her posts on Facebook untrue and harmful for the ruling communist party and its senior leaders. She was arrested in early February this year after years of appealing the local authorities’ decision to revoke her family’s land.

On the same day, the People’s Court of Nghe An province announced the postponing the first-instance hearing of college lecturer and pro-democracy activist Nguyen Nang Tinh. The reason was the absence of witnesses. One week before, authorities in Nghe An unexpectedly informed the activist’ lawyers and family that the trial is scheduled on October 17. The activist was arrested on May 29 and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code.

One day later, the People’s Court of Bac Ninh rejected the appeal of anti-corruption activist Ha Van Nam, who was sentenced to 30 months in prison on allegation of “causing public disorders” for his peaceful activities to protest BOT’s tollbooths by the People’s Court of Que Vo district on July 30.

On October 16, police from Soc Son district, Hanoi, arrested Nam’s fellow named Dang Thi Hue, charging her with “causing public disorders” and conducting her house’s searching in Thai Binh province. After beating her to birth miscarriage on May 20, Soc Son district police still hold her car.

A number of prisoners of conscience in Z30A Prison camp in Xuan Loc town, Dong Nai province is conducting hunger strikes to protest inhumane treatment in the prison. Among them are Huynh Truong Ca, Nguyen Van Duc Do, and Nguyen Hoang Nam, several fellows are joining the fasting to support them.

===== October 14 =====

Jailed Activists Nguyen Hoang Nam, Nguyen Van Duc Do on Hunger Strike in Xuan Loc Prison

Defend the Defenders: Jailed pro-democracy activist Nguyen Van Duc Do and religious freedom activist Nguyen Hoang Nam have gone on a hunger strike in Prison camp Z30A in Xuan Loc town, Dong Nai province to protest the harsh conditions in the prison, Defend the Defenders has learned.

Mr. Do, 44, who is serving his 11-year imprisonment, began his hunger strick on October 13 to request the prison’s authorities to allow prisoners’ families to supply more additional food and other stuff. Currently, the prison permits prisoners’ relatives to supply food and stuff up to five kilograms a month for every prison, forcing the prisoners to buy more food from the prison’s canteen at prices four or five times higher than the market prices. It is worth noting that prison’s food supply for prisoners is not enough for their survival.

Meanwhile, Mr. Nam, a 37-year-old follower of Hoa Hao Buddhism who was sentenced to four years in 2017 for his religious practices, started his fasting on October 11 after the prison’s authorities placed him in the same cell with a convicted criminal who is a drug addict.

One week earlier, on October 4, Mr. Huynh Truong Ca, 48, started his fasting to demand for proper medical treatment for his serious diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol level in blood and lymph nodes. According to his daughter who met him during a monthly visit to the prison on October 12, he and some other fellows started fasting after the prison’s authorities denied his request for medical check-up and treatment for his diseases.

Several prisoners of conscience held at the prison have reportedly joined them in their strike in support.

===== October 17 =====

Trial against Pro-democracy Activist Nguyen Nang Tinh Unexpectedly Postponed

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s central province of Nghe An have suddenly postponed the first-instance hearing to try 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 Criminal Code, like the way they scheduled the trial on October 17.

The reason for postponing is the absence of witnesses, according to the announcement of the People’s Court of Nghe An province, said Mr. Tinh’s family.

Few days before, Mr. Tinh’s lawyers asked the court to postpone the trial as they complained that they have a very short time for his defense preparation. One week before the scheduled trial, his lawyers were allowed to meet with him in police custody and got access to his case’s documents, however, they had not permitted to make copies of the indictment and other documentats, making their preparation impossible for the serious charge against him.

Just eight days ago, the People’s Court of Nghe An announced that they will hold the trial today in its headquarters in Vinh City.

Mr. Tinh 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.

According to his family, his indictment was based on the information on the Facebook account Nguyễn Năng Tĩnh, however, he reportedly denied to have this account.

Local activists said Mr. Tinh, who is a college lecturer, 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 23 activists on trumped-up allegations with a total 106.5 years in prison and 20 years of probation.

The communist regime is holding at least 234 prisoners of conscience as of  October 15, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics.

===== October 17 =====

Vietnamese Facebooker Nguyen Thi Hue Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison for Online Posting

 Defend the Defenders: On October 17, the People’s Court of Ia Grai district, Gia Lai province, convicted local Facebooker Nguyen Thi Hue on the charge of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the country’s Criminal Code for her online posting.

Ms. Hue, 51, was arrested in early March this year. She was accused of using Facebook accounts named “Nguyễn Thị Huệ,” “Công Lý Về Tôi,” “Nguyễn Huệ,” “Vũ Quỳnh Hương,” and “Den Quang” to disseminate “wrong information” in the period between July 2017 and March 2019 to distort state leaders and local state officials who were dealing with her case.

She was also alleged of insulting local police officers and prosecutors when she came to their offices to file petitions for her case. However, the state media did not disclose what she had petitioned for.

The state media also reported that Ms. Hue was warned of causing public disorders in the Gia Lai province’s Office of Citizens’ handling” in late December 2016. On January 20, 2017, she was fined VND200,000 ($9) for the same accusation.

Meanwhile, Facebooker Duong Thi Lanh, who was sentenced to eight years in jail earlier this year on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code, has refused to appeal the decision of the Dak Nong province’s People’s Court since she feels there are no fair hearings as the court system is controlled by the ruling communists.

There is an increasing tendency in which authorities in many Vietnamese localities are using allegations in the National Security provisions in the Criminal Code such as subversion, “conducting anti-state propaganda” and “abusing democratic freedom” to silence local activists and Facebookers.

So far this year, Vietnam’s communist regime has arrested 25 activists and Facebookers, and convicted 24 for online activists with imprisonment between one and 12 years in prison.

Vietnam is holding 234 prisoners of conscience, according to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics. Hanoi always denies of holding prisoners of conscience but only law violators.

===== October 18 =====

Sentence of Anti-tollbooth Fraud Activist Ha Van Nam Upheld

Defend the Defenders: On October 18, the People’s Court of Bac Ninh denied the appeal of anti-tollbooth fraud (ATF) activist Ha Van Nam, upholding the sentence of 30 months given by the People’s Court of Que Vo district in the first-instance hearing on July 30.

In the appeal hearing, the judge reportedly rejected all evidence for his innocence presented by his lawyers.

Mr. Nam, 38, and six other anti-tollbooth fraud activists named Nguyen Quynh Phong, Le Van Khien, Nguyen Tuan Quan, Vu Van Ha, Ngo Quang Hung and Tran Quang Ha are leading figures carrying out numerous peaceful activities to protest tollbooths which were intentionally placed at wrong locations across the nation by interest groups in a bid 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.

Nam and his fellows were arrested in early March on allegation of “causing public disorders” under Article 318 of the Criminal Code for blocking Pha Lai tollbooth station in February. In the first-instance hearing on July 30, they were convicted and sentenced to between 18 months and three years in prison. Six activists did not appeal as they think there is no fair trial in Vietnam and they have no hope of getting lighter sentences if they appeal.

Two days before Nam’s appeal, police from Soc Son district, Hanoi, detained his fellow, Ms. Dang Thi Hue when she was at a cafeteria near the district police’s headquarters. They announced that she is charged with the same allegation and conducted her house’s search in Thai Binh province. Hue was detained several times by Soc Son district police in recent months.

In the first time on May 20, Ms. Hue was arrested by several police officers of Soc Son district also in the toll booth who kicked her at her stomach despite her warning that she was in her 5th week of pregnancy. In next days, she felt severe pain in her belly and after a medical examination, doctors told her that she suffered a miscarriage. She was forced to abort in order to save her life. She is a 38-year-old single mother with two small children.

Vietnam has about hundreds of BOT toll booths across the nation. Many of them were placed wrongly or are allowed to operate after the expiration time. This makes many people voice against them. ATF activists are not against the authorities per se, they simply fight for equality, transparency and against interest groups with the backing of corrupt officials or former officials, who rort the national coffer, siphoning thousands of billions dong of public money into their pockets.

However, local authorities and BOT project investors cooperate with each other to suppress ATF protestors. Around ten ATF’s activists have been jailed for their peaceful works in recent years.