Freedom of Expression Recap: July 2015

On July 1, Le Thanh Tung, 46, was freed early from a four year sentence that he was serving under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. Tung is a journalist and former soldier and has been associated with Bloc 8406. Radio Free Asia reports that he has been detained 13 times since becoming an activist.

Some speculated that Tung’s release could be tied to the arrival of General Secretary Trong, head of Vietnam’s Communist Party, in the United States to meet with U.S. President Obama earlier this month. Tung’s release also followed the release of human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan in late June.

Many called on President Obama during his visit with Trong to address human right issues in Vietnam. The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission released the “TLHRC Co-Chairs Statement on Human Rights in Vietnam.”  

Trong did mention human rights during the visit to the U.S., stating that they are a priority, but also said that human rights shouldn’t impede growing US-Vietnamese relations. 

Vietnam’s human rights abuses, though, should not be brushed off so lightly. Harassment, detentions, beatings, and restriction of movement are far too common, and countless activists remain in prison. In an interview this month, Ta Minh Tu, Ta Phong Tan’s sister, pressed for Tan’s release and reported that Tan continues to be in ill health.

Injustice in Vietnam also extends far beyond issues of freedom of expression.

On July 13th, a 54-year-old woman in Vietnam obtained serious bulldozer injuries after partaking in a protest against a land grab in Vietnam. Also in July, many activists were beaten at a hunger strike protest that called for the release of political prisoners.

On July 20th, a 45-year-old Vietnamese man died while in a detention center, allegedly beaten to death. He was in prison for stealing a cell phone.

Additionally, gender equality is still far from realized in Vietnam as well.  Find out what a UN committee said about the situation for women.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Democracy, and Labor, Tom Malinowksi, are currently in Vietnam.

As we look towards the rest of August and beyond, many are anticipating what Vietnam might do on September 2nd, National Day, a day when some prisoners have traditionally been granted amnesty.

Take Action

Check out our Take Action page for ways that you can get involved.

Urge Secretary Kerry and Assistant Secretary Malinowski to bring up human rights in their discussions with officials in Vietnam. Tweet @JohnKerry or @Malinowksi. Suggested message: “I urge you to press for the release of political prisoners and call for improvements on #humanrights issues in #Vietnam.” You can also write a message focusing on a specific prisoner of conscience, like Ta Phong Tan. For example, “Please remember Ta Phong Tan, serving 10 years In #Vietnam for peaceful activism.”

Support the Press Uncuffed campaign, which features Ta Phong Tan. Buy a bracelet, and support Tan and other imprisoned journalists.

Thank the members of Congress who have urged Vietnam to release it’s political prisoners. Learn more about how to contact the members of Congress, here.