Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for November 25-December 1, 2019: Nine Activists Convicted of Vague Allegations in Unfair Trials
Defend the Defenders | December 1, 2019
After arresting prominent dissident journalist Dr. Pham Chi Dung on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda,” Vietnam’s communist regime convicted nine dissidents and sentenced them to a total 48 years in prison and seven years of probation in one of the worst week for the local dissent for many years.
On November 26, the People’s Court of Thanh Hoa province found Facebookers Pham Van Diep guilty of “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under the country’s 2015 Criminal Code, sentencing him to nine years in prison and five years of probation for his online posts and activities aiming to demand the Vietnamese communist regime to respect human rights and carry out multi-party democracy reform.
On the same day, the People’s Court of Bac Lieu province convicted local Facebooker Nguyen Chi Vung of the same allegation for his online critical postings on his Facebook account. The court gave him six-year imprisonment and two-year probation.
Also on Tuesday, the People’s Court of Dong Nai sentenced four local residents named Vo Hoang Trung, Doan Viet Hoan, Ngo Xuan Thanh, and Nguyen Dinh Khue to a total 11 years in jail on allegation of “disrupting security” for their intention to participate in a peaceful demonstration in late April. The first two were sentenced to three years in prison and the remaining two were given 30 months in jail.
One day later, the People’s Court of An Giang convicted local Hoa Hao Buddhist activist Tran Thanh Giang to eight years in jail of “conducting anti-state propaganda” for his online posts.
On November 28, the People’s Court of Dong Nai province took Mr. Huynh Minh Tam and his younger sister Huynh Thi To Nga to a court where they were found guilty of “conducting anti-state propaganda” again after keeping them incommunicado from late January this year. Mr. Tam was sentenced to nine years in jail and his sister was given five years of imprisonment.
So far this year, Vietnam has arrested 32 activists and sentenced 40 to 207.5 years in prison and 47 years of probation, according to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics. The communist regime is holding at least 240 prisoners of conscience, the group’s data shows.
On November 24, security forces in the capital city of Hanoi blocked dozens of local dissents from going out from early morning until late evening. They forcibly took environmentalist Cao Vinh Thinh out of Big Opera House’s music concert on an environmental theme.
On November 27, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued a joint statement calling on Vietnam’s regime to stop the crackdown on the staff of the unregistered Liberal Publishing House and individuals connected with it. The call was made after police harassed and intimidated dozens of people across Vietnam and at least one person has reported torture and other ill-treatment in detention.
===== November 24 =====
Hanoi Police Block Activists from Access to Concert With Environmental Theme
On November 24, police in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi blocked access to a piano recital held in the city’s Opera House, roughing up a group of environmental activists who had hoped to attend and preventing them from entering, sources said.
The concert, titled “Awake” and performed by pianist Pho An My, featured an environmental theme, the civil society group Green Trees said in a Facebook posting after its members were turned away.
“A large crowd of security forces had gathered outside, just as if they were preparing to disperse a protest, and scores of people were roughed up,” the environmental advocacy group said, adding that paintings about the environment were forbidden from display in the concert hall.
“Security men were stationed every five meters surrounding the theater and were stopping people from live-streaming or taking pictures. Only the security people were allowed cameras, and they pointed them at concertgoers like they were monitoring criminals,” Green Trees said.
A group of police officers in plainclothes detained Cao Vinh Thinh, one of the key members of the group, forcibly taking her to their car and drove out of the area. They released her later.
Other plainclothes agents requested Mr. Dang Vu Luong to leave the area. However, he denied it.
Dozens of other activists in Hanoi said they were blocked from going out as the local authorities sent plainclothes agents to station near their private residences from the early morning of Sunday.
===== November 26 =====
Facebooker Pham Van Diep Sentenced to Nine Years, Four Citizens Jailed Totally 11 Years for Intention to Participate in Peaceful Demonstration
Defend the Defenders: On November 26, Vietnam’s communist regime convicted five political dissidents and sentenced them to a total 20 years in prison and five years of probation in two separate trials which failed to meet international standards for a fair trial.
In the central province of Thanh Hoa, the provincial People’s Court found local Facebooker Pham Van Diep guilty of “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under the country’s 2015 Criminal Code. The court sentenced him to nine years in jail and five years of probation for online postings which were considered as “distortion of the communist regime” and “defamation of communist leaders” which led to social dissatisfaction.
Mr. Diep, 54, was arrested on June 29 this year. He has voiced against the communist regime for its socio-political policies and human rights abuse in the last 17 years.
Meanwhile, the People’s Court of Dong Nai convicted Vo Hoang Trung, Doan Viet Hoan, Ngo Xuan Thanh and Nguyen Dinh Khue of “disruption of security” under Article 118 of the Criminal Code. The first two were sentenced to three years in prison and the remaining two were given 30 months in jail.
The four convicted were arrested on April 25, 2019 for their intention to participate in a peaceful demonstration scheduled on April 30 to mark the 34th anniversary of the fall of the US-backed Saigon regime to the communist side in Northern Vietnam.
Six days before the trial against Mr. Pham Van Diep, Human Rights Watch issued a press release calling on Vietnam’s communist regime to drop all charges against him and release him immediately and unconditionally. “All Pham Van Diep has done in the last 17 years is voice his opinions about important social and political issues and protest his persecution for speaking out,” said John Sifton, HRW Asia Advocacy director. “There is no good reason for Vietnam to treat him as a criminal,” he added.
In order to silence the local political dissidents, social activists, human rights defenders and Facebookers amid growing social dissatisfaction, Vietnam’s communist regime has intensified crackdown on them, arresting at least 33 activists since beginning of 2019 and charging them mostly with controversial articles in the National Security provisions of the Criminal Code such as subversion, “conducting anti-state propaganda” or “disruption of security.”
So far this year, the regime has convicted 36 activists and sentenced to a total 179.5 years in jail and 45 years of probation, raising the number of prisoners of conscience to at least 240, according to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics.
Facebooker Nguyen Chi Vung Sentenced to Six Years in Prison for “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda” Allegation
Defend the Defenders: Amid the intensifying crackdown on local dissent, Vietnam’s communist regime has convicted Facebooker Nguyen Chi Vung of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the country’s Criminal Code.
In the one-day trial on November 26, the People’s Court of Bac Lieu province sentenced Mr. Vung, 38, to six years in prison and two years of probation. The man, arrested on April 23 this year, is accused of using two Facebook accounts named Nguyễn Chí Vững and “Viên Gạch Nhỏ” to share articles and videoclips with the content harmful for the communist regime and its leaders.
Police said his articles and live streams posted on his Facebook accounts have untrue contents distorting the ruling communist party’s policies and defaming its leaders as well as calling on people to uprise against the authoritarian regime.
Mr. Vung is the second Facebooker being convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda” on Tuesday. In the central province of Thanh Hoa, Facebooker Pham Van Diep was sentenced to nine years in jail and five years of probation.
Also on November 26, the People’s Court in the southern province of Dong Nai sentenced four local residents to a total 11 years in prison for their intention to participate in a peaceful demonstration in late April. They were arrested on April 25 and charged with “disruption of security” under Article 118 of the Criminal Code.
Five days earlier, security forces also arrested prominent dissident journalist Pham Chi Dung and charged him with the accusation under Article 117.
Since the beginning of 2019, Vietnam has arrested 33 political dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and Facebookers, mostly with allegations in the National Security provisions of the Criminal Code.
So far this year, the communist regime has sentenced 37 activists to a total 185.5 years in prison and 47 years of probation, according to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics. The organization’s data shows that the authoritarian state is holding 240 prisoners of conscience although Hanoi always denies of holding prisoners of conscience but only law violators.
Vietnam is still holding 22 activists in pre-trial detention, most of them have been in police custody for more than one year.
===== November 27 =====
Vietnam: Stop Intimidation and Harassment of Independent Publishing House
Amnesty International: Vietnamese authorities must immediately end the escalating crackdown on an independent publishing house, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said today. As part of the crackdown, dozens of people have been harassed and intimidated by police across the country, and at least one person has reported torture and other ill-treatment in detention. The crackdown sends a disturbing message to people who want to freely exercise their right to freedom of expression and access information and ideas and is yet another sign of the authorities’ intolerance of peaceful dissent.
Since early October, police have harassed and intimidated dozens of people connected to the Liberal Publishing House — a local independent publisher that has produced books on public policy and political thought in Viet Nam –- in what appears to be a targeted campaign. The harassment has taken place in at least three major cities, including Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hue, in addition to the provinces of Binh Duong, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Phu Yen. The individuals who have been targeted are believed to have either bought or read books printed by the publisher or to have worked for the publishing house.
According to information received by Amnesty International, individuals in those locations have been summoned to local police stations where they have been interrogated about books they bought from the publishing house. After questioning, most were pressured to sign statements promising that they would not buy books from the Liberal Publishing House again.
In one case, police detained and allegedly tortured a man in custody on October 15 in Ho Chi Minh City, allegedly to force him to confess to working for the publisher. Police detained him for more than 12 hours, during which time he was repeatedly beaten until his nose bled. Since being released he has gone into hiding, fearful of re-arrest.
In addition, on October 23-24, a man in Phu Yen province received two letters from the police summoning him to the local station for questioning about his receipt of “banned” books. After interrogating the man, police searched his house and confiscated books printed by the Liberal Publishing House. In early November, a man who occasionally works with the Liberal Publishing House went into hiding, fearing arrest, after police instructed his regular employer to inform them when he next came to the office.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have recently received further reports of house searches and book confiscations.
This crackdown has further exacerbated the prevailing climate of fear in Viet Nam, where the authorities severely restrict the right to freedom of expression, and where people face arrest and imprisonment simply for voicing their opinions.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch call on the Vietnamese authorities to immediately stop this campaign of intimidation and harassment and allow the Liberal Publishing House and those associated with it to exercise their right to freedom of expression. The authorities should further initiate a prompt, impartial, thorough independent and effective investigation into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by the Ho Chi Minh City police. Suspected perpetrators should be brought to justice and the victims provided with reparation. Individuals who report police abuse — and their families – should be protected from reprisals.
The Liberal Publishing House, which was established on 14 February 2019, publishes a range of non-fiction books written by Vietnamese authors on topics such as political science, public policy and other social issues, such as Politics of a Police State, Non-Violent Resistance, Politics for the Common People, Life Behind Iron Bars, and A Handbook for Families of Prisoners. Many of these books are considered sensitive by the government and their publication is effectively banned. The Vietnamese authorities generally censor publications that are perceived to conflict with government policy.
The Liberal Publishing House has been targeted in the past. Since the publishing house began operations, the police have launched several sting operations to try to arrest people working for it. The publishing house has also been subjected to online harassment. In February, its Facebook page was subjected to a cyber-troop attack which led to the closure of the account. In July, three different banks informed the publishing house that its bank accounts would be closed. No justification was given. Police forced shipping companies to provide names and addresses of buyers. Those who refuse to comply face frequent intimidation, harassment, and intrusive surveillance. In November, the publishing house’s newly launched website (https://nhaxuatbantudo.com/) was targeted by multiple cyberattacks.
Both Viet Nam’s Constitution and international human rights law guarantee the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to receive and impart information and ideas. This includes accessing and reading the information contained in books such as those printed by the Liberal Publishing House. Freely accessing such information and ideas is also an important aspect of the right to education.
So far in 2019, at least 16 individuals have been arrested solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and some have already been tried and sentenced to terms of imprisonment.
===== November 28 =====
Brother and Sister Sentenced to 14 Years in Jail for Online Critical Postings
Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s communist regime has convicted Mr. Huynh Minh Tam, 41, and his younger sister Huynh Thi To Nga, 36, of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the country’s Criminal Code for their online postings critical to the regime, Defend the Defenders has learned.
In the first-instance hearing on November 28, the People’s Court of Dong Nai found Mr. Tam and Ms. Nga guilty of “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” sentencing him to nine years and giving her to five years in prison.
According to their relatives, both Tam and Nga had no their own lawyers.
The indictment said they were posting numerous articles on their Facebook accounts criticizing the communist government for failing to deal with the country’s problems such as human rights abuse, systemic corruption, widespread environmental pollution, and weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).
Ms. Nga, a technician in the Saigon-based Nguyen Tri Phuong Hospital, reportedly to participate in the mass demonstration in Ho Chi Minh City on June 10, 2018 to protest two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security.
Mr. Tam was arrested on February 28 this year while his younger sister was kidnapped in her working place two days later. Police had not informed their families about the allegations against them and kept them incommunicado until their trial. Police also threatened their families, not allowing their relatives to contact with other activists.
Mr. Tam and Ms. Nga are among 21 activists being arrested this year for online activities, 14 of them were charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” and five were alleged with “abusing democratic freedom” in the National Security provisions of the Criminal Code.
Vietnam’s communist regime has arrested 33 political dissidents, social activists and Facebookers so far this year, including prominent dissident journalist Pham Chi Dung. Hanoi has also convicted 39 activists, mostly on controversial allegations in the National Security provisions of the Criminal Code, sentencing them to a total 199.5 years in jail and 47 years of probation.
Vietnam is holding at least 240 prisoners of conscience, according to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics. Hanoi always denies of holding any prisoners of conscience, saying it imprisons only law violators.
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