Above: Mai Khoi, Source: Oslo Freedom Forum
Greetings from The 88 Project! We are bringing you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of May 28-June 3. Imprisoned blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh was recently on a hunger strike to protest prison treatment, and labor rights activist Tran Thi Nga has been denied phone calls home and family visits. The Catholic community in female political prisoner Tran Thi Xuan’s home province is rallying its support behind the democracy and social activist. Authorities attempted to question Do Cong Duong’s young daughters this week; the citizen journalist is in pre-trial detention. Additionally, activist Nguyen Trung Linh has been detained in Hanoi after calling for peaceful protests last week. On a positive note, Mai Khoi has won a prestigious international human rights prize for her dissenting art. We remember two important events this week. May 30 marked seven years since the mass trial of seven land rights activists; one, Tran Thi Thuy, is still in prison and suffering from health problems. Also, student activist Phan Kim Khanh turned 25 in prison on June 3; he is serving a six-year sentence for his online postings.
In international advocacy, Human Rights Watch has urged Japan to press Vietnam on human rights, and there is a new summary out from the NOW! Campaign on arrests, convictions, and releases of political prisoners in recent months. In the news and analysis section, read about issues of freedom of expression online and in-person, art created by death row prisoners, and an opinion on the potential limits to #MeToo in Vietnam. In case you missed it, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom released its 2018 Annual Report, labeling Vietnam a Tier 1 Country of Particular Concern. Coming up, on June 4, four activists tried in April face an appeal trial of their sentences. Please take action for Mother Mushroom, calling for proper medical care and her immediate release from prison; she was in poor health even before her recent hunger strike.
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HUMAN RIGHTS & CIVIL SOCIETY
Police called this week for the two teenage daughters of Do Cong Duong to come into the local station to discuss their father’s case. The family has faced harassment over the years due to Dong’s land rights and anti-corruption activism. He was arrested in January 2018 after filming a forced eviction. In April, he was charged with “abusing democratic freedoms” and faces up to seven years in prison.
Pro-democracy activist Nguyen Trung Linh has been detained in Hanoi following his attempt to rally peaceful protests in response to maritime sovereignty disputes with China. Linh was previously a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy and has also run for political election. It remains unclear as to whether he will be formally charged.
In a June 1 newsletter from the NOW! Campaign, the group reports that there are 171 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam. They also highlight 11 recent convictions and two new arrests; many of the recent convictions were of Brotherhood for Democracy members. Two prisoners have also been released at the end of their sentences in recent months: Can Thi Theu and Nguyen Dinh Ngoc.
NEWS & ANALYSIS
From #MeToo to ‘Creating Our Own Tables’: How High Is The Glass Ceiling in Vietnam?: “Because the ‘proper’ Vietnamese woman only dresses and speaks in an approved manner, she will not work certain jobs, and above all, she endures her sufferings for the sake of others. She will not bring attention to herself and definitely keeps quiet about her injuries and her pains if they would bring shame to her family. This proper woman thus is a virtuous one who would sacrifice all that she is for the well-being of her loved ones, and for that, she has been idealized, worshipped and expected to be placed on a pedestal throughout Vietnamese history for future generations of girls and young women to follow.”
To Vietnam, Freedom of Expression Is a ‘National Security Offense’: “In addition to lengthy prison sentences, political prisoners of Vietnam are often singled out for physical abuse and solitary confinement. Prison authorities reportedly assault the prisoners to exact ‘confessions.’ Detainees with health problems are compelled to admit to crimes for which they are then convicted if they want necessary medical treatment. To make family visits difficult, political prisoners were often held far away from their homes. Domestic and international communities alike have urged the government to repeal the vaguely defined national security provisions, which are frequently cited to punish people for peacefully exercising their rights.”
Death row art: A rare glimpse inside Vietnam’s secret jails: “Nguyen Truong Chinh proudly holds up intricately crafted animals, flowers and hearts – secret gifts made from plastic bags by a son on Vietnam’s death row…They were once smuggled out by prisoners released after serving their terms but relatives stopped receiving them a few years ago, leading Chinh and other parents to fear guards have cracked down on the forbidden prison pastime. They’re too scared to ask about the practice during brief monthly visits closely monitored by prison staff. But Chinh says the art still drives his decade-long fight to free his son, who he insists was nowhere near the scene of the crime he was convicted of. ‘When I see the animals, I know somehow that my son is stable enough to create these things, that he is mentally strong,’ said Chinh, sitting with a bag full of documents on his son’s case. ‘They motivate our fight for justice.'”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Three Brotherhood for Democracy members – Nguyen Trung Ton (top left), Truong Minh Duc (middle), and Pham Van Troi (right) – as well as religious freedom activist Nguyen Bac Truyen (bottom), will face their appeal trial on June 4. The four were sentenced alongside Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thu Ha on April 5, 2018, and received between 7 and 12 years in prison for their peaceful pro-democracy activities. It is reported that Dai and Ha have not appealed their sentences.
Take Amnesty International’s Urgent Action for Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, who is suffering from poor health in prison, including pain from curled fingers and toes. Take action for Quynh, demanding that Vietnam release her immediately and provide adequate medical care until her release.
© 2018 The 88 Project