In a trial that garnered much international attention, on August 26th, Bui Thi Minh Hang, Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh, and Nguyen Van Minh were charged under Article 245 of Vietnam’s Penal Code for causing “public disorder.” They were sentenced to three, two, and two and a half years, respectively. Amnesty International reports that many people who were attempting to attend the trial were harassed, apprehended, or otherwise prevented from doing so. The same day as the trial, the US Embassy released a statement speaking out against the jailing of the activists.
Only the day before, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention began its work on about thirty confidential cases of “alleged arbitrary deprivation of liberty.” The five-person panel of experts considered these cases from the 25th to the 29th. We will be investigating the findings of their work and will share them when possible.
Despite the trial of Bui Thi Minh Hang and her colleagues, both US and EU trade talks with Vietnam are still on the agenda. Vietnam stands to gain much from the Trans-Pacific Partnership with the US. An article from the Diplomat lays out some of what’s at stake for the country, particularly how the trade agreement would help Vietnam in its relation to China. The TPP, however, is full of uncertainty in both its potential for adoption and its possible benefits and consequences.
A recent article in Foreign Affairs analyzes Vietnam and the US’s changing relationship. Vietnam’s tensions with China, the article argues, have led to Vietnam pursuing a strategic alliance with the US in order to diffuse some of the regional issues, especially in regards to conflicts over the South China Sea.
September 2nd was Vietnam’s National Day, during which prisoners are often granted amnesty. Voice of America notes that most of the prisoners that are freed are not political prisoners; they are usually people who were jailed for minor criminal offenses. So far, no political prisoners have been released under amnesty following National Day.
On National Day, Vietnamese activists posted messages on Facebook stating “I want to know,” asking for answers from the Vietnamese government about information that it has withheld from them, including information about political prisoners and land rights conflicts. Freedom of expression, labor rights, and land rights, amongst others, are all important issues in Vietnam today.
In other news, Radio Free Asia reports that three months after her release from prison, Do Thi Minh Hanh was denied leave of Vietnam to see her ill mother in Austria. Do Thi Minh Hanh and two colleagues were arrested in 2010 for their labor rights activism. Currently, RFA says that around forty Vietnamese activists are unable to leave the country.
RFA also reports that imprisoned writer Dieu Cay says that he will not apply for release from prison. Instead, he calls for his definite freedom and the truth about his arrest. He says that applying for release would mean that he would have to admit guilt, and he is not guilty of anything. He was sentenced to twelve years in prison in September of 2012 for anti-state propaganda; his appeal was denied in December of 2012. His case has been adopted by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
A recent article from globalpost.com highlights Vietnam’s large number of bloggers in prison, second only to China. The article talks with two bloggers about activism in one of the world’ harshest environments for free speech.
Nguyen Xuan Nghia and Pham Viet Dao are two activists who know just how harsh Vietnam’s measures against political dissidence can be. Both have recently been released from prison after serving their sentenced terms.
On September 11th, writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia, was released. In 2009, he was sentenced to six years under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. His appeal was denied in 2010, and in 2012, he was transferred to a labor camp, far away from his family. Read more about Nguyen Xuan Nghia from PEN America.
Additionally, today, September 13th, blogger Pham Viet Dao was released from prison at the end of his 15-month term. He was a former Inspector working on corruption issues under Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture. He was arrested in June 2013 under Article 258 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. Read more about him in this FIDH article.
Today is also Le Quoc Quan’s birthday. He is a very well-known and well-respected lawyer and blogger who is currently serving a 30-month sentence on charges of “tax evasion.” Recently, several groups sent a letter to the Vietnamese President and Prime Minister, US President Obama, and a representative of the EU in Hanoi, calling for Le Quoc Quan’s release. Le Quoc Quan has been adopted by US Representative Loretta Sanchez as part of the Defending Freedoms Project.
Post a message of solidarity for Le Quoc Quan on his birthday or for Nguyen Xuan Nghia and Pham Viet Dao as they return home from prison. You can use hashtags like #HappyBirthdayLeQuocQuan or #WelcomeHomeNguyenXuanNghia/ #WelcomeHomePhamVietDao.
Watch videos from our Freedom of Expression Interview series or watch our documentary, The Repression of Cyber Dissidents, to learn more about Vietnamese activists and their stories.
Amnesty International released a report on prisoners of conscience in Vietnam in late 2013, and not much has changed for prisoners since then. The majority of the prisoners listed in the report remain in prison today. Read the report to find out more: http://bit.ly/1r6QFoe
Contact the Tim Lantos Human Rights Commission and ask them to intervene in the cases of these unjustly imprisoned activists (@TLHumanRights or http://tlhrc.house.gov/contact.asp).
We are currently working on a list of continuous actions that you can take for prisoners in Vietnam, which will be updated constantly.
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