Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly for August 17-23, 2020: Activist Tran Thi Tuyet Dieu Arrested on “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda” Charge
Defend the Defenders | August 23, 2020
On August 21, authorities in the central province of Phu Yen arrested local activist Tran Thi Tuyet Dieu on charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code for her peaceful online activities.
According to the state-controlled media, Ms. Dieu, a former journalist of the province’s official newspaper Phu Yen, was accused of disseminating hundreds of articles and video clips on Facebook and Youtube with content accused of defaming the communist leadership and the party’s policies.
Her arrest is part of the ongoing crackdown prior to the 13th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam scheduled for January next year. The regime wants to silence all dissident voices to ensure “social order” for the party’s preparation for the congress.
Dieu, 32, is the 12th activist being arrested and charged with the controversial accusation under Article 117 in the national provision of the Criminal Code so far this year. Others are Mr. Nguyen Tuong Thuy, acting president of the unregistered professional group Independent Journalist Association of Vietnam and its member Le Huu Minh Tuan, and well-known blogger Pham Chi Thanh (penname Pham Thanh).
Dieu was arrested one week after the US, the EU and the UK made statements over the conviction of eight members of the unregistered group Constitution of “disruption of security” for their participation in peaceful demonstrations and sentenced them to more than 40 years in prison. In their statements, Washington, Brussels, and London urged Hanoi to ensure its actions are consistent with the human rights provisions of Vietnam’s Constitution and its international obligations and commitments and allow all individuals in Vietnam to express their views freely, without fear of retaliation.
Also on August 21, the police in Phu Yen arrested Mr. Pham Ho, 71 for alleged affiliation with the US-based Vietnam Provisional Government headed by Vietnamese American Dao Minh Quan, who advocates using all means including violence to overthrow the Vietnamese government. Like dozens of other cases related to Quan’s exile government, Mr. Ho was charged with subversion and faces up to life imprisonment or the death penalty.
In mid-August, the authorities in the southern province of Hau Giang extended the investigation period against local human rights defender Dinh Thi Thu Thuy for a further four months. The single mother was arrested on April 18 this year on the allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” for her peaceful activities including posting and sharing articles regarding the country’s issues on her Facebook account. Thuy will be held incommunicado for four more months.
Due to the reoccurrence of the Covid-19 pandemic across the nation, the families of the prisoners of conscience have been informed that they cannot conduct prison visits nor send food and additional stuff for their loved ones but only deposit money to allow them to purchase basic goods at prisons’ canteens at the prices much higher than the market’s prices.
US Representative Glenn Grothman and Commissioner on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) James W. Carr have announced that they are advocating for the release of religious activist A Dao, who was arrested in 2016 and later sentenced to five years in prison by Vietnam’s regime for his participation in a religious freedom conference in East Timor.
Through the Defending Freedoms Project of the US Congress’s Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and the Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a number of Vietnamese activists, including Nguyen Bac Truyen, Nguyen Van Hoa, Nguyen Tien Trung, and Le Cong Dinh have been adopted by American politicians. While Mr. Dinh and Mr. Trung were freed, others are still imprisoned.
===== August 18 ======
Hau Giang Police Extend Investigation Period against Local Activist Dinh Thi Thu Thuy
Defend the Defenders: The police in Vietnam’s southern province of Hau Giang have extended the investigation period against local human rights defender Dinh Thi Thu Thuy by four more months, Defend the Defenders has learned.
Talking to Defend the Defenders, her younger sister Dinh Thi Hien said her family has received the notice about the detention of the activist from the province police recently. They also informed the family that due to the reoccurence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the family will not be allowed to send additional food and stuffs for her in order to prevent the Coronavirus infection in the detention facility.
Ms. Thuy was arrested on April 18 on allegation of “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the country’s Criminal Code. She has been held incommunicado in the past four months and faces imprisonment of between seven and 12 years in prison or up to 20 years if she is convicted, according to the current Vietnamese law.
Citing information from police, the state-controlled media reported that Ms. Thuy has created a number of Facebook accounts to disseminate numerous articles to distort the communist regime’s policies and defame its leadership. She was also accused of criticizing the communist regime’s measures in dealing with COVID-19.
Thuy is an activist participating in the mass peaceful demonstration in Ho Chi Minh City on June 10, 2018 which aimed to protest two bills on Special Economic Zone and Cyber Security. The first seeks to favor Chinese investors while the two countries are disputing over the East Sea (South China Sea) while the second bill which became law from 2019 strives to silence online government critics. She was detained, beaten and interrogated, and fined before being released.
In recent years, she has been under constant persecution by the local police who often summoned her to their station for interrogation about her posts on Facebook.
Thuy’s family also informed Defend the Defenders that her father was also fined VND2.5 million ($110) for a poem in which he mentioned former deputy minister Chu Hao and police general Truong Gia Long. The first advocates for multi-party democracy and civil rights while the second once stated that a number of senior state officials of the communist regime are working as Chinese agents.
Thuy is among 50 activists being arrested so far this year, 16 of them were charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 or “Abusing democratic freedom under Article 331 of the Criminal Code.
===== August 21 =====
One More Vietnamese Facebooker Arrested and Charged with “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda” As Ruling Communist Party Prepares Its 13th National Congress
Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s communist regime continues its crackdown on local dissent prior to the 13th National Congress of the ruling party, arresting freelance journalist Tran Thi Tuyet Dieu and on allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code.
According to the state-controlled media, the police in the central province of Phu Yen carried out the arrest on August 21. They also conducted a search of the house of Ms. Dieu’s parents in Tay Hoa district where she lives with them. She will be held incommunicado for at least four months during the investigation period, a common practice Vietnam’s security forces apply in most political cases.
Ms. Dieu graduated journalism from the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City). Later, she worked for Phu Yen newspaper, the official voice of the province’s Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV)’s Committee. However, she left the newspaper and focused on criticizing the communist regime’s socio-economic issues such as systemic corruption, widespread environmental pollution, human rights violations, and weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).
Phu Yen province’s police have accused her of using Facebook accounts “Tuyết Diệu Babel” and “Trần Thị Tuyết Diệu Journalist” as well as Youtube channel named Tuyết Diệu Trần to disseminate hundreds of articles and videoclips to defame communist leaders, including late President Ho Chi Minh, and distort the party’s policies.
In recent years, she has been harassed many times by the police forces. Once she was kidnapped by police in the central province of Nghe An who tortured her.
Ms. Dieu is the 12th Facebooker being arrested and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” so far this year. She is facing imprisonment of between seven and 12 years or even up to 20 years if she is convicted.
Her arrest was made one week after the US, the EU and the UK urged Hanoi to ensure its actions are consistent with the human rights provisions of Vietnam’s Constitution and its international obligations and commitments and allow all individuals in Vietnam to express their views freely, without fear of retaliation. The call was made after Vietnam convicted eight members of the unregistered group Constitution of “disruption of security” for their participation in peaceful demonstrations and sentenced them to more than 40 years in prison.
Vietnam is holding at least 275 prisoners of conscience, according to Defend the Defenders. As many as 50 of them were arrested this year, and 55 of them are held in pre-trial detention.
Since the beginning of this year, Vietnam has convicted 15 activists and sentenced them to 66 years and three months and 26 years of probation.
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