Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 2/2024 – Week of Jan. 3-9

Greetings from Project88. We bring you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of Jan. 3-9.

Read in Vietnamese: Project88’s analysis of the case against environmentalist and NGO leader Ngo Thi To Nhien. The English version is available here.


Now that nearly all prominent democracy and environmental activists have been either jailed or driven into exile, the state is turning its attention to “small fish,” such as Tiktokers and Facebookers. Meanwhile, political prisoners continue to be mistreated and their families harassed in different ways. An “unexpected twist” in Vietnam’s renewable energy sector is truly worth a read.


Le Huu Minh Tuan

Le Huu Minh Tuan is seriously ill and needs immediate medical attention. According to his family, Tuan could barely walk out to see them on their visit on Dec. 26. Tuan said he could not eat solid food and had been surviving on milk and liquid congee. In July 2021, Tuan was transferred to Xuyen Moc Prison. Toward the end of 2022, he began having digestive issues. A prison physician diagnosed it as an infection of the large intestine and liver. The family tried to send him medication prescribed by doctors, but prison officials said he could only take medication provided by them. Last November, Tuan was taken to a hospital in Vung Tau for exams. Tuan said doctors there only performed a cursory check then gave him some medication, which only made his conditions worse. Tuan’s family has been desperately appealing to the Xuyen Moc Prison and the Ministry of Public Security to get him proper medical care.

Dang Dinh Bach

On Nov. 28, Dang Dinh Bach received an order to pay 1,367,193,134 dong ($56,000 USD) in taxes that the government alleges he owes. His wife, Tran Phuong Thao, said she talked to Bach on Dec. 25 via phone. Bach told her that he had replied to the authorities in writing. He even made a carbon copy of that letter which he asked to be given to her, but prison officials denied his request. Thao does not know whether or not Bach’s letter has been sent.

Phan Tat Thanh

Phan Tat Thanh has been denied legal representation, according to Tran Dinh Dung, the lawyer retained by his family to defend him. Phan Tat Chi, Thanh’s father, said police told him that his son said he “did not want to have a lawyer,” which Chi said was not true. Dung asked to see Thanh’s written refusal, but said that he has not received any response from officials at Detention Center 4 in Ho Chi Minh City, where Thanh is being held. Chi said he went there to see his son on Nov. 10 and was told that Thanh’s temporary detention had been extended until Feb. 7. A former administrator for the Facebook page Nhat Ky Yeu Nuoc (Patriotic Diary), Thanh is charged with disseminating “anti-state propaganda.”

Nguyen Duc Hung

Project88 has learned more about the case of an activist arrested two years ago. According to Nguyen Duc Hung’s brother, Nguyen Duc Ho, Hung was kidnapped by police while traveling from Ha Tinh province to Binh Thuan province on Jan. 1, 2022. It wasn’t until one month later that the family received an official notice that Hung had been detained. He was tried in July 2022 without a lawyer. The family was not notified of the trial and only learned about it afterwards from state media. Since Hung’s arrest, his family has been allowed to visit him only once, in February 2023. Former political prisoner Nguyen Viet Dung, who saw Hung a few times while they were at Nam Ha Prison together, told Project88 that Hung is a very strong-willed individual who was allegedly often put in solitary confinement for very trivial reasons simply because prison guards wanted to break him. An active human rights defender and outspoken critic of the government, Hung was sentenced in July 2022 to five and a half years in prison for spreading “anti-state propaganda.”


International Advocacy

On Jan. 5, 2024, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) submitted a report to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee (CCPR) on selected civil and political rights in Vietnam. The report raises concerns with regard to: 1) the death penalty; 2) torture; 3) detention conditions; 4) the right to a fair trial; 5) freedom of expression; 6) freedom of peaceful assembly; and 7) freedom of association.

Article 19, Legal Initiatives for Vietnam, and Open Net also submitted a CCPR report, noting that “as a one-party state without a separation of powers or an independent judiciary, Vietnam has been intensively escalating its efforts to limit freedom of expression, access to information, and the right to privacy on the internet.”

According to the latest calendar published on the OHCHR website under Calendar of Reviews for the UPR 4th Cycle, the Universal Periodic Review of Viet Nam is scheduled for May 7, 2024, while the deadline for submission of the State report is Jan. 29, 2024.



Vietnamese authorities now seeking ‘small fish’ in widening crackdown. RFA; 2024-01-04: “With a campaign targeting outspoken critics of the ruling Communist Party largely complete, authorities in Vietnam say they are now turning their attention to the country’s ‘small fish,’ according to political and human rights activists. Over the past six months, authorities have been conducting a dragnet of Vietnam’s activist community, ‘inviting’ people to police stations for warnings, forcing them to meet with security officers at restaurants and cafes, and even arresting them in their homes – as was the case with YouTuber Phan Van Bach on Dec. 29.”

Vietnam fines TikTokker US$300 for video suggesting Cambodia’s Angkor Wat is in Thailand. South China Morning Post; 2024-01-05: “On Wednesday, the Vietnamese government charged Quoc Anh with providing ‘false information’ and ‘insulting the reputation of agencies and organisations, honour and dignity of individuals,’ per Lao Dong. He was fined 7.5 million Vietnamese dong (US$300), per the statement.The Vietnamese government said Quoc Anh was required to ‘strictly comply with relevant legal regulations when using the internet’ and had to use it in a ‘responsible, civilised, progressive’ manner.”


“While much praise has been given to Vietnam’s economic growth and development, we also must not forget about the stories of the victims of urbanization, like the Loc Hung Garden’s tenants.” On this Day in 2019, Ho Chi Minh City Authorities Began to Forcefully Evict Loc Hung Garden Residents. Chi Nguyen, The Vietnamese; 2024-01-04.

“The U.S. and China are courting Hanoi. But the country is trying to chart its own path.” Will Vietnam Get Caught in the Crosshairs of Great-Power Politics Again? Dien Luong, Foreign Policy; 2024-01-09.

“These attractive FITs [feed-in tariffs] sparked fierce competition among local investors to build solar and wind projects but most of them had no track record in the energy sector. They mainly leveraged connections, often involving under-the-table payments, to secure project licenses, then relied heavily on bank financing or corporate bonds to fund project development.” The unexpected twist in Vietnam’s renewable energy saga. Le Hong Hiep, Eco-Business; 2024-01-08.


Ngo Thi To Nhien

In Vietnamese: Project88’s analysis of the case against environmentalist and NGO leader Ngo Thi To Nhien.

On November 28, Project88 released the English version of the issue brief covering the arrest of Ngo Thi To Nhien by Vietnamese authorities and documenting how her arrest is part of Vietnam’s ongoing suppression of climate activists.

After considering the evidence, Project88 finds that the Vietnamese government deliberately and arbitrarily applied criminal law to arrest Nhien in an effort to stop her research and advocacy on energy policy and discourage others from working in this field.

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