Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for May 18-24, 2020: Two Elderly Activists Pham Thanh and Nguyen Tuong Thuy Arrested on Allegation of “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda”
Defend the Defenders | May 24, 2020
Vietnam’s communist regime has intensified its crackdown on the local dissent ahead of its 13th National Congress slated in early January next year, arresting two elderly activists Pham Thanh and Nguyen Tuong Thuy with the accusation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the country’s Criminal Code.
On May 21, security forces from the Hanoi Police Department detained Mr. Thanh, 68, in his private residence in Hanoi’s center. They conducted a house search and confiscated two sets of computers and a printer, cell phones, and a number of books. Police announced that he will be held incommunicado for at least four months for investigation which focuses on his latest book titled “Nguyễn Phú Trọng: Thế thiên hành đạo hay Đại nghịch bất đạo” (Nguyen Phu Trong: The holder of the mandate of heaven or a great immoral traitor).
Two days later, police officers from Ho Chi Minh City’s Police Department came to Mr. Thuy’s house in Hanoi to arrest him. They also confiscated his personal items such as a laptop and cell phones as well as some written documents. Mr. Thuy, 70, is the acting president of the unsanctioned Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) and his arrest is related to the detention of Dr. Pham Chi Dung, the co-founder and president of the association. Dr. Dung was arrested in November last year and also charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda.”
On May 22, police officers from the Ministry of Public Security detained young activist Nguyen Anh Tuan and interrogated him for many hours regarding his legal comments about the land dispute in Dong Tam commune and the brutal attack of thousands of policemen in its Hoanh village on January 9 in which police barbarically killed 84-year-old land petitioner Le Dinh Kinh and arrested around 30 local citizens. Tuan was released in the late afternoon of the same day.
The ruling Communist Party of Vietnam is preparing for its 13th National Congress. Along with internal fighting, the regime is tightening social control and implementing hard measures to deal with its critics.
With the two new arrests, Vietnam is holding at least 249 prisoners of conscience. Hanoi is denying holding prisoners of conscience but only law violators.
===== May 21 =====
Dissident Blogger Pham Thanh Arrested on Allegation of “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda”
Defend the Defenders: On the morning of May 21, police officers from the Hanoi Police Department arrested local dissident blogger Pham Thanh and took him to Hoa Lo temporary detention facility under the authority of the city’s police.
His family said he is accused of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the country’s Criminal Code with imprisonment of between seven and 12 years if he is convicted. Police also announced that he will be held incommunicado for at least four months, according to the common practice Vietnam’s police implement in political cases.
After announcing the arrest, Hanoi police also conducted a search of his house in Hanoi, confiscating two sets of computers and a printer as well as a number of his books. Police officers said his allegation was focused on his newly publicized book titled book “Nguyễn Phú Trọng: Thế thiên hành đạo hay Đại nghịch bất đạo” (Nguyen Phu Trong: the holder of the mandate of heaven or a great immoral traitor) in which he strongly criticizes incumbent communist leader Nguyen Phu Trong, who is also the country’s president.
Mr. Thanh, 68, is a retired reporter and editor of the state-controlled Voice of Vietnam Radio (VOV). He has written a number of books in many of which he criticized the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and its leaders, including late President Ho Chi Minh and incumbent General Secretary cum President Nguyen Phu Trong. His posts on his blog Bà Đầm Xoè are mainly critical of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and its leader Trong.
He had a blog named Bà Đầm Xoè on which he has posted his writings on politics and social issues, including China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and the weak response of the Vietnamese Communist regime, systemic corruption, widespread environmental pollution, human rights violations, etc.
The arrest of Mr. Thanh is part of Vietnam’s intensified crackdown on the local dissent as the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam is preparing for its 13th National Congress slated in early January next year.
So far this year, Vietnam’s communist regime has arrested eight activists and sentenced five dissidents with a total imprisonment of 12 years and three years of probation. Currently, the regime is holding at least 248 prisoners of conscience, according to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics.
===== May 22 =====
Young Activist Nguyen Anh Tuan Detained, Interrogated about Dong Tam Issues
Police officers from the Ministry of Public Security detained young activist Nguyen Anh Tuan on Friday when he was in a cafeteria in Hanoi.
Police took him to a police station and questioned about his legal writing about the land dispute in Dong Tam commune, Hoai Duc district, Hanoi and the brutal assault by thousands of riot policemen in Hoanh village on January 9 in which police barbarically killed 84-year-old Le Dinh Kinh and arrested around 30 local residents.
Mr. Tuan was released in the late afternoon of the same day.
Mr. Tuan, born in 1990 from the central city of Danang, is a talented young man. He has just completed a master degree in Public Policy at the Vietnam-Japan University of Hanoi National University. He also attended many overseas-based training sessions about campaigning for democracy and human rights. He actively supported victims of the Formosa environmental disaster. He has been illegally detained many times, having a passport confiscated for many months before being returned thanks to pressure from the EU.
After the Dong Tam massacre, Tuan and many individuals as well as independent civil society groups have provided support and legal guidance to Dong Tam villagers, and helped them draft letters to foreign governments and international rights organizations.
===== May 23 =====
Acting President of Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam Arrested, Charged with “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda”
Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s security forces have arrested blogger Nguyen Tuong Thuy, the acting president of the unsanctioned Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), charging him with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the country’s Criminal Code.
According to his family, a group of security officers stumped in his private residence in Hanoi, confiscating cell phones of all members of the family, and started to search their house. They took his computers and other personal items and took him away.
The arrest was likely carried out by police officers from Ho Chi Minh City’s Police Department so Mr. Thuy, 58, will be deported to Chi Hoa temporary detention facility under the authority of the city’s police where they are holding Dr. Pham Chi Dung, president of the association who was arrested on November 21, 2019 on the same allegation.
According to the unofficial practice in political cases, Mr. Thuy will be held incommunicado for the next four months for interrogation.
The arrest of Mr. Thuy, as well as the detention of Mr. Dung, aims to target the IJAVN which includes political dissidents and activists in the country and abroad who have strongly criticized the communist regime regarding failures in protecting the country from China’s expansionism, systemic corruption, widespread environmental pollution, human rights violations, social moral degrading and other issues in their articles posted on the IJAVN’s website vietnamthoibao.org.
Mr. Thuy is a retired army officer. He started his activism in 2011 when he joined other activists in anti-China protests in Hanoi. He has become a vice president of the IJAVN which was established in 2014, and acted as its leader after the arrest of President Dung in November last year. He has been the editor-in-chief of the organization’s website for years.
After the arrest of Mr. Dung, security forces have intensified harassment against IJAVN’s key members. Mr. Thuy had been summoned many times to police stations for interrogation many times in the past months. Like many other activists, he has been placed de facto under house arrest on numerous occasions in recent years.
Vietnam’s communist regime has increased its persecution against the local dissent when the ruling Communist Party is preparing its 13th National Congress slated in January next year.
In recent weeks, security forces have arrested a number of activists, including Mr. Tran Duc Thach on allegation of subversion and Mr. Pham Thanh on the accusation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” for their peaceful activities.
Vietnam is holding at least 249 prisoners of conscience, according to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics.
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