Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 16/2024 – Week of April 15-21

Greetings from Project88. We bring you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of April 15-21.

  • Project88’s work exposing the secret government document Directive 24 continues to shape international discourse. 

Experts from the Human Rights Committee tasked with preparing a list of issues to be addressed during the review of Vietnam’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) obligations have listed Directive 24 as priority #1. See the full list of issues here. The formal dialogue has not yet been scheduled.

Several key documents are now available ahead of the review, including: Vietnam’s report, the UN’s summary report, and the summary of stakeholder submissions. Both of Project88’s joint submissions informed the stakeholder summary report, including our call to “review and revise Decree 80/2020/ND-CP on the management and use of grant aid.”

  • Interest and investment in green initiatives in Vietnam continues unabated even as environmental activists there face severe restrictions on their work and even prison time, excluding their critical voices from the energy transition. 

Apple has signaled its intentions to expand investment in Vietnam – yet, despite promising to focus on equitable green solutions – the company has yet to condemn Vietnam’s jailing of its own key climate leadersUSAID also announced a new financial partnership in Vietnam this week. And a planned sale of US-owned coal assets in the country is raising more questions about whether Vietnam can actually reduce emissions to goal levels.

Dang Dinh Bach, a lawyer with a focus on sustainable development, is serving five years in prison on spurious charges of tax evasion.


Political Prisoners

Nguyen Thai Hung and Vu Thi Kim Hoang

Nguyen Thai Hung, arrested in January 2022, is still in “temporary detention” at Huy Khiem Detention Center in Binh Thuan Province, even though he has been sentenced to four years in prison. His wife, Vu Thi Kim Hoang, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms,” but was allowed to remain free on bail while awaiting trial. She has begun her prison sentence at Z30D Prison in Ham Tan District, Binh Thuan Province.

Kim Hoang’s sister, Vu Giang Tien, told Project88 that the last time the family was allowed to see Hung was many months ago, when he looked very thin and weak. Since then, they have only been allowed to send him 5 kg of supplies a month in accordance with prison regulations.

Three people convicted as part of the Dong Tam police attack have been released nine months ahead of their release date. Le Dinh Uy, Le Dinh Quan, members of the Le Dinh Kinh’s clan, and Nguyen Van Quan, returned home on April 9. To date, five of the eight men convicted for “resisting the police” have been freed. Two are still on death row – Le Dinh Cong and Le Dinh Chuc.  Du Thi Thanh, the widow of Le Dinh Kinh, who was shot and killed by police during the raid, said she still visits her two sons once a month. Thanh reports that Chuc is very weak.

Nguyen Thi Tam

Nguyen Thi Tam, imprisoned for supporting those involved in the Dong Tam incident, told her daughter Nguyen Thanh Mai that for five months she was not allowed to receive the herbal medicines sent to help with her uterine fibroids; that ban only was recently lifted. Some of her belongings were also allegedly taken away when she was transferred from Gia Trung to Prison No. 5 in Thanh Hoa. The paintings she made at Gia Trung for her children were not allowed to be sent home. Tam reports that she is not permitted to go outside to the large courtyard while other prisoners can, and even though her cell is next to Can Thi Theu’s, they are not allowed to see or talk to each other. Tam’s letters home have reportedly been severely censored; two of her poems were confiscated, and writing materials have been restricted.

Nguyen Thi Bach Hue, a 60-year-old woman from Can Tho province, has been given a 12-year prison sentence for “activities intended to overthrow the government.” Prosecutors claim that in 2022 Hue joined the California-based Overseas Provisional Government of Vietnam, led by its self-appointed leader Dao Minh Quan. Hue is alleged to have used at least seven different Facebook and email accounts to communicate with representatives of the group, and received about $400 a month from them. She was arrested in April 2023. According to RFA, at least 60 people have been arrested and/or convicted for participating in Quan’s organization.

Truong Minh Duc

Jailed journalist Truong Minh Duc’s wife, Nguyen Kim Thanh, said the phone call with her husband on April 15 was abruptly cut short after she accidentally told him that she’d heard that Bui Van Thuan had been transferred to K1 Prison.

Nguyen Thi Anh Tuyet, the wife of Do Nam Trung, told Project88 that both of her Facebook accounts – Anh Tuyet and Bong Tuyet – have been hacked. She’s asking the community to ignore any kind of request or solicitation made from these accounts.

Dang Dang Phuoc’s wife, Le Thi Ha, reported that her husband’s health appeared to have deteriorated a bit when she visited him on April 13. Phuoc was not told that his wife was there to see him. Instead, he was told to go to the front office for some prison business.

Bui Tuan Lam was able to send a long letter to his three daughters. In it, he encouraged them to take it easy in school and have fun, help their mother take care of the family, and be studious in their religious studies and have faith in God. The last time Lam saw his three daughters was when he was still held in pretrial detention in Danang, before he was transferred last September to Xuan Loc Prison in Dong Nai Province, hundreds of miles south of their home. These transfers can be a form of psychological and economic pressure applied against political prisoners and their families.


Religious leader faces new charge in case that brought 5-year sentence. RFA; 2024-04-19. The provincial Security Investigation Agency said it launched the new case after receiving reports of Van’s alleged incestuous behavior, according to the Vietnam News Agency. The new charge also comes a week after two of his defense lawyers were stripped of their membership in the Ho Chi Minh Bar Association – a decision they warned could precede new action against Van.

Is Vietnam’s corruption fight going too far? DW; 2024-04-16. Brussels ‘strongly opposes the death penalty at all times and in all circumstances,’ EU spokesperson Peter Stano told DW. Vietnam ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1982, which strictly limits the application of the death penalty to ‘the most serious crimes,’ Stano said. He added that the EU has called on Vietnam ‘to introduce a moratorium on any imposition of capital punishment, with a view to its abolition.’

US ponders trade status upgrade for Vietnam despite some opposition. VOA; 2024-04-20. Under the Trump administration, the Department of Treasury also put Vietnam on a list of currency manipulators, which can lead to being excluded from U.S. government procurement contracts or other remedial actions. The Treasury, under the Biden administration, removed Vietnam from this list. On the eve of President Joe Biden’s September visit to Hanoi, where he and Vietnamese Secretary-General Nguyen Phu Trong elevated the U.S.-Vietnam relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

Vietnam police arrest National Assembly chairman’s assistant. Reuters; 2024-04-22. Police in Vietnam have arrested Pham Thai Ha, an assistant of the country’s National Assembly chairman, on an accusation of power abuse, the Ministry of Public Security said on Monday, amid a long-running campaign to stamp out graft.

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