Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for October 21-27, 2019: Social Activists Kidnapped, Questioned and Robbed by Police Officers


Defend the Defenders | October 27, 2019


Vietnam’s communist regime continues its efforts to halt activities of independent civil groups amid increasing social dissatisfaction, and its victims in the second half of October include members of the two unsanctioned group Liberal Publishing House and Cây Xanh (Green Trees).

In mid-October, police kidnapped Saigon-based long-term activist Vu Huy Hoang, a member of the Liberal Publishing House during his attempt to deliver copies of two books printed by the publisher. The kidnappers took him to a police station where they beat him and interrogated for hours. Police officers from District 3, the Police Department of Ho Chi Minh City, and the Ministry of Public Security involved in the interrogation. Hoang was released and told that police would summon him for further questioning. For his safety, he was forced to leave the city to live in a shelter.

On October 25, police officers from the ministry’s Security Investigation Agency kidnapped independent Hanoi-based filmmaker Nguyen Truong Thinh (penname Thinh Nguyen), robbing his valuable professional equipment and questioning for hours for his environmental activism, particularly his role in the production of Cây Xanh’s film named Đừng Sợ (Don’t Be Afraid), the first film about civil activism in Vietnam. He was released but also told that they will interrogate him in the coming weeks.

Jailed pro-democracy activist Nguyen Ngoc Anh, who has been convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code, will go appeal on November 7. The appeal will be carried out by the Higher People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh in its headquarters in Saigon. Weeks before his appeal, the authorities in Ben Tre province tortured him physically and mentally in a bid to prevent him from appealing. His wife, who is taking care of their seven-year-old boy, is also a subject of torture.

The British authorities found a truck container with 39 bodies of Asian people dying from oxygen shortage and coldness in Essex and the corpses are likely from trafficked Vietnamese coming from the central provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh on their way from Belgium to the UK where hundreds of smuggled Vietnamese work as nail makers and cannabis growers. Authorities from the UK, in collaboration with their Vietnamese counterparts, are working to identify the victims. It is worth noting that China and Vietnam are the world’s leading human trafficking nations, according to international reports.

===== October 21=====

Vietnamese Activist Interrogated, Beaten for Delivering Books Printed by Unregistered Publisher

Defend the Defenders: Saigon-based pro-democracy activist Vu Huy Hoang has been interrogated and beaten by police in Ho Chi Minh City for his attempt to deliver books that were printed by an unregistered publisher called Liberal Publishing House.

Speaking to Defend the Defenders, the 46-year-old activist said he received an order to supply 10 copies of Đại Nghịch Bất Đạo and five copies of Ký Đinh Quang Anh Thái to a retired state official Kha Luong Ngai on October 15. When Hoang arrived at a private resident of the recipient in the morning of last Tuesday by his motorbike, plainclothes agents detained him and took him to a police station in Ward 6, District 3 for interrogation.

Hoang said that in the beginning, plainclothes agents beat him brutally on his head and body in police custody, but they stopped physical torture against him after they had more information about his social activities from the city police’s record.

Hoang was interrogated from 11 AM until 9 PM of the same day by security police officers from District 3, the city’s Police Department and the Ministry of Public Security about the contents of the ordered books and their origin: who and where have printed them.

The experienced activist said he remained silent in most times before police officers escorted him to his house. However, his house was under surveillance during the night and the police said they would summon him for further interrogation in the coming days.

In the early morning of October 16, when the surveillance was loosened, Hoang took his opportunity to leave his house and went into hiding. Now he was forced to stay inside in a secret place far from his family. He said he may have to stay away from his wife and two kids for months although he can communicate with them via secret chat applications such as Whatsapp, Telegram or Signal.

Hoang started his social activities in 2012 when he joined other activists in HCM City, Hanoi and other locations on various issues, including China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and Hanoi’s weak response, human rights violations, serious environmental pollution, and charity programs. He is a member of the unregistered groups named the Vietnam Pathway Movement and the Liberal Publishing House.

In May 2016, local blogger and political writer Pham Doan Trang was invited by the US Embassy in Vietnam to participate in a meeting between local activists and then-President Barack Obama on the sidelines of his official visit to the communist nation. Hoang escorted Trang from HCM City to Hanoi but they were traced and detained by security forces in their midway. Police kept them for several days in a remote motel in the central province of Ninh Binh so Trang was not able to take part in the meeting.


Meanwhile, the Liberal Publishing House is trying to produce unique books of political dissidents and writers considered as harmful for the communist regime. The communist regime is unhappy with the house’s products and strives to halt the house’s works and suppress its staff.

Dozens of unofficial books have been printed by the Liberal  Publishing House and their authors include political writers Pham Doan Trang, Pham Thanh and others from foreign countries.

Ký Đinh Quang Anh Thái is a book of the US-based veteran writer Dinh Quang Anh Thai, who is the incumbent editor-in-chief of the Nguoi Viet Daily News (or Người Việt). In this book, he wrote about prominent Vietnamese political dissidents and their activities which aim to promote human rights and multi-party democracy in Vietnam.

On the other hand, Đại Nghịch Bất Đạo is a book of Hanoi-based veteran journalist Pham Thanh about Vietnamese President Nguyen Phu Trong, who is also the general secretary of the ruling Communist of Vietnam. In his book, Thanh described Trong as the biggest traitor of the Vietnamese nation.

Vietnam’s security forces are striving to demolish the Independent Publishing House and persecute its staff.


US Deports Vietnamese Asylum Seeker Victim of Formosa Environmental Disaster

Defend the Defenders: On October 21, the US’s government deported Vietnamese Ha Van Thanh, who arrived in the US to seek for political asylum after his native province suffered badly from the environmental disaster caused from the Taiwanese chemical group Formosa’s steel plant in 2016.

Thanh, 37, left Vietnam in 2018 and went to Thailand then Cuba and sought political asylum in Panama. Later, he went to the US and applied for political asylum there. However, his plea for asylum was rejected by U.S. authorities.

In 2016, Thanh participated in the mass demonstration against Formosa, and he had reportedly been suppressed by Vietnam’s authorities.

He was held in different prisons in the US before being sent back to Vietnam.

For further reading: Vietnamese Activist Loses Bid for Asylum, is Sent Home by US

===== October 20 =====

Dozens of Vietnamese Found Dead while Being Smuggled into UK

Defend the Defenders: On October 19, the British police found 39 bodies in a container from a truck coming from Bulgaria, and it seems all the victims are people from Vietnam’s central provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh.

Many sources claim that they were part of a group of 110 Vietnamese whom traffickers took from Belgium to the UK into three trucks. As many as 71 others were lucky as their trucks passed the border’s security check while the remaining one died from oxygen lack and coldness as the driver reportedly reduced the container temperature to minus 25 Celsius degrees in a bid to cheat the border police surveillance.

Before arriving in Europe, these Vietnamese reportedly went to China where they traveled to Eastern Europe with Chinese passports which were destroyed in the first stop in Europe. From this point, they were led by human trafickers.

Trafficked Vietnamese reportedly paid around $40,000 each for human traffickers for a route from Vietnam to the UK where they would work in nail shops or cannabis farms run by Vietnamese crime gangs. They were promised to earn high incomes in the UK to pay for the trafficking fees and support their families in Vietnam.

Many Vietnamese migrants have been granted political asylum status by the UK’s government without involving in social activism, observers said. Most of them come from Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces which are most affected by the environmental disaster caused by the Taiwanese Formosa Chemical Group’s steel plant in Ha Tinh province. The plant discharged its industrial waste into the central coastal waters, making the 200-kilometer coastline improper for fishing.

The Vietnamese government has encouraged people to go abroad to work as modern slaves without providing financial assistance for them. Some local banks take the opportunity to give their families loans at extremely high interest rates. One of the victims in Essex was a girl who worked in Japan for several years but her earning was just sufficient for interest payment of black credits, said her relatives.

For related articles: Essex lorry deaths: Three bailed as work to identify 39 victims goes on

Essex lorry deaths: Vietnamese families fear for missing loved ones

Three more arrested after 39 victims found in Essex truck container

===== October 21 =====

Convicted Pro-democracy Activist Nguyen Ngoc Anh to Go Appeal on November 7

Defend the Defenders: Jailed pro-democracy activist Nguyen Ngoc Anh, who has been convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code, will go appeal on November 7, according to his lawyer Dang Dinh Manh.

According to the Saigon-based attorney, the appeal will be carried out by the Higher People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City in the headquarters of the People’s Court of Ben Tre province, which sentenced him to six years in prison and five years of probation in the first-instance hearing on June 6 this year.

The appeal was finally fixed after authorities in Ben Tre province failed to ask him to deny his right of challenging the decision of the province-level court to the higher court. However, it would be very difficult for him and his lawyers to have positive results, that for his immediate release or get the sentence reduced given the fact that the ruling communist regime tightly controls the court system.

In recent days, the local authorities are increasing pressure on his wife who is taking care of their child. The local police are summoning her to the communal police station for questioning but she refused to obey by.

Mr. Anh, 39, is a shrimp grower in Binh Dai district, Ben Tre province. He was arrested on August 30 last year. He was accused of posting numerous articles and live streams on his Facebook account Nguyễn Ngọc Ánh in which he speaks out about human rights violations, systemic environmental pollution, bad economic management of Vietnam’s communist government, China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and Vietnam’s weak response.

In late September, he was beaten by a criminal inmate who was likely acting on behalf of the authorities of Ben Tre province. Due to the assault, Mr. Anh suffered serious injuries in his right leg, left arm and head, and he feels difficulty in moving. Later, he was placed in an isolated cell where he has no support from other prisoners but serves himself.

===== October 25 =====

Filmmaker Thinh Nguyen Detained, Questioned and Robbed by Security Officers

Defend the Defenders: On October 25, security officers from Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security kidnapped Hanoi-based filmmaker Nguyen Truong Thinh (penname Thinh Nguyen), robbing his items and questioning him for hours about his social activities.

According to video footage circulated on social media, a group of plainclothes and uniformed policemen kidnapped Mr. Thinh at around 10 AM on Friday when he went out of his private residence in Nghi Tam street, Tay Ho district in the capital city of Hanoi.

They forced him to a car and took him away. About an hour later, they took him back to his house and searched the house, taking his personal items, including professional cameras, smartphones, laptops Macbook and loudspeakers. He was reportedly beaten by police officers during the search.

Thinh was taken to the headquarters of the ministry’s Security Investigation Agency in Nguyen Gia Thieu street where he was questioned by many police officers from noon until 6.30 PM. The interrogation was focused on his social engagement, especially his role in the environmental film made by his group Cây Xanh (Green Trees) named Đừng Sợ (Don’t Be Afraid) which was released in March.

Speaking with his friends in the evening, Thinh said he kept silent during the interrogation, insisting to have his lawyer during the questioning. Police released him without returning his items, saying they would summon him next week for interrogation.

Thinh is an independent artist and filmmaker. Along engaging in activities of Cây Xanh to advocate environmental protection, he has produced a number of films about prisoners of conscience and their families as well as victims of miscarriages of justice and land petitioners whose land was taken by local authorities without having proper compensation.

He has been the fourth member of Cây Xanh group having been kidnapped, questioned and robbed by Vietnam’s security forces since the release of Đừng Sợ. Other victims are Cao Vinh Thinh, Dang Vu Luong, and Pham Doan Trang.

Related article: Vietnamese Environmental Activist Detained in Hanoi For Films Critical of Government