Human rights abuses continue in Vietnam, despite growing international attention surrounding potential trade agreements between Vietnam and the EU and Vietnam and the US.
The trial of blogger Bui Thi Minh Hang is set for Tuesday, August 26th. According to Radio Free Asia, she was taken into custody on February 11th for “disturbing the public order” and for “obstructing traffic.” Many activists in Vietnam are arrested on these kinds of trumped up charges, like the infamous case of Le Quoc Quan, who was arrested and sentenced under charges of tax evasion. Like with many imprisoned dissidents, it is believed that Bui Thi Minh Hang’s fate is already determined, with her guilt declared long before trial. Her son, Tran Bui Trung, shares this fear, and he is currently campaigning in the US for his mother’s release. He sent a message to those fighting for their family members’ justice in Vietnam:
“If you believe that what you are doing is correct—if you believe that what your loved one has done is completely reasonable and completely right—then you must keep fighting until the end, because justice will always prevail.” (Source: Radio Free Asia)
Additionally, Radio Free Asia reports that an unofficial Cao Dai religious group was targeted on August 13th, doused with waste by police-hired operatives. The attackers also chained the wheels of many members’ cars. The Cao Dai group was practicing a ritual during the attack. Many believe that the attack was carried out in order to intimidate the group after they were told not to hold the ritual. Vietnam recognizes many religions, but it often punishes unsanctioned or unofficial religious organizations.
This attack is particularly disturbing following the visit of Heiner Bielefeldt, a UN expert on religious freedom, who was sent to observe the state of religious freedom in Vietnam at the end of July. Several groups and individuals were unable to meet with Mr. Bielefeldt during his visit, due to police surveillance and harassment.
In light of these recent events and the continued repression of civil society and freedom of expression in Vietnam, FIDH and VCHR sent a complaint to the EU ombudsperson in order to voice its concerns over a lack of human rights discourse in EU-Vietnam trade agreement dialogues.
Possible trade deals with Vietnam have also expanded to include the possible expansion of the arms trade. General Martin Dempsey, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently visited Vietnam, as did Senator John McCain. McCain supports easing the weapons ban against Vietnam, although he also claims that human rights must be a tenant of any weapons agreement. Many, however, are worried about what sending weapons to Vietnam could do to increase Vietnam-China tensions, as well as what would happen if the weapons were used against Vietnamese citizens.
It is hard to tell whether Vietnam’s new police regulations, Circular 28, are the result of increased international pressure for democratic change, as a stipulation of these prospective trade deals, or whether they are merely a front. Police abuse is rampant in Vietnam. Human Rights Watch states that Circular 28, “Regulating the Conduct of Criminal Investigations by the People’s Public Security,” goes into effect on August 25th, and it includes principles for better conducting investigations (including stopping the coercion of statements), a prohibition on kickbacks for officers from victims, their families, and etc, and a way to resolve complaints against officers, amongst other things.
Circular 28 claims to help police officers take more responsibility for their actions, but it is unclear exactly how these new provisions will be implemented or evaluated, if they are at all. Human Rights Watch notes that Circular 28 is problematic in that it focuses on commune police, which are the officers with the least resources/training and are often the most abusive. Moreover, Circular 28 further diminishes the role of lawyers in Vietnam’s criminal system, placing superiority in the hands of the authorities.
Post messages of solidarity for Bui Thi Minh Hang during her August 26th trial. You can use #FreeBuiThiMinhHang or share her story with your friends. You can even post a photo or video message.
Contact the Tim Lantos Human Rights Commission and ask them to intervene in the case of Bui Thi Minh Hang (@TLHumanRights or http://tlhrc.house.gov/contact.asp).
Encourage your representatives to speak up for human rights in Vietnam.
A list of House Representatives– search by state.
A list of Senators– search by state.
Sign Reporters Without Border’s petition to free Vietnam’s imprisoned bloggers. Sign here!
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Help us build our timeline of events regarding human rights abuses in Vietnam during the past 5-7 years. Send the date of the event and a brief description to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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