Greetings from The 88 Project. We bring you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of June 6-12. Yet another online commentator was handed a harsh sentence for his Facebook posts as the state continues its pressure campaign to stifle freedom of speech. Unsurprisingly, Vietnam’s candidacy to the UN Human Rights Council received a really bad scorecard from an independent human rights organization. The big news of the week is the arrests of two high-level party officials in a huge corruption scandal involving Covid vaccines; expect to see more details emerge as this case goes forward. Non-state religious institutions continue to face persecution throughout the country. A new State Department report on religious freedom in Vietnam was released. The suspect involved in the Berlin kidnapping who was extradited to Germany last week has been identified. More EU companies consider doing business in Vietnam while India deepens its military and economic ties with the country.
HUMAN RIGHTS & CIVIL SOCIETY
Nguyen Duy Linh with Ben Tre Province police; Source: Bao Dong Khoi via RFA Vietnamese
Facebooker Nguyen Duy Linh was sentenced to five years in prison and five years of probation after a three-hour trial. Linh was accused of “anti-state propaganda” for posts that the government said offended the Party leaders and were false information about the spread of COVID-19. A resident of Ben Tre Province, Linh has no prior history of activism. According to RFA, his wife, Nguyen Ngoc Tuyet, was allowed to attend his trial, but his friends and other dissidents were barred from the courtroom; RFA also reported that Linh waived his rights to an attorney.
This week, we think of the birthdays of the following political prisoners:
Nguy Thi Khanh and Nguyen Viet Dung
Community at Risk
Police destroy protester tents in Nghe An, Source: Dai Hai Facebook via RFA
Police in Nghe An Province kicked and stomped on villagers protesting a cemetery and crematorium project in Hung Nguyen District, injuring several people. The $21 million project has been opposed for years due to environmental and water concerns.
The U.S. Department of State has issued its country report on Religious Freedom in Vietnam for 2021. An excerpt: “The U.S. Ambassador and other senior embassy and consulate general officials regularly urged authorities to allow members of all religious groups to operate freely. They sought reduced levels of government intervention in the affairs of recognized and registered religious groups and urged an end to restrictions on, and harassment of, groups without recognition or registration. They stressed to government officials that progress on religious freedom and human rights was critical to an improved bilateral relationship.”
NEWS & ANALYSIS
Vietnam arrests 3 disgraced Communist Party officials for corruption. RFA Vietnamese; June 8, 2022: Police at the Ministry of Public Security arrested former Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long, former Hanoi Mayor Chu Ngoc Anh and former Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Pham Cong Tac, all of whom were expelled from the Communist Party and removed from their positions Monday. The three were implicated in a U.S. $172 million scandal in which the Viet A Technologies Company bribed officials to get its test kits made and distributed nationwide at inflated prices. They are the latest casualties of the one-party state’s years-long crackdown on corruption, referred to as “furnace burning” by its architect, Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong.
Vietnam’s religious groups face state persecution, church leaders say. RFA; June 7, 2022: The Redemptorist priest [Dinh Huu Thoai] said the U.S. State Department report is lacking in that it omits to mention the issue of freedom of movement for many religious leaders. “Some religious dignitaries, including myself, are arbitrarily banned from leaving the country. These dignitaries are not protected by the law but are arbitrarily banned by the police from leaving for an indefinite period. I myself have been banned from leaving the country since 2010 until now, which is almost 12 years, without any sign of them returning my passport along with my freedom of movement,” Father Dinh said. Hua Phi, a high-ranking member of the independent religious group Cao Dai Chan Truyen, said his passport was confiscated in 2014 and is yet to be reissued, making it impossible for him to go abroad to attend a religious freedom conference in Southeast Asia.
Kidnapping suspect fled to Vietnam to escape arrest. RFA; June 8, 2022: Journalist Le Trung Khoa told RFA the suspect is Le Anh Tu, a Vietnamese resident of the Czech Republic. Khoa said the German prosecutor’s office issued an indictment against him during the trial of another suspect, Nguyen Hai Long, in 2018. The indictment said that Le Anh Tu drove the minibus used to kidnap Thanh on July 23, 2017 and then sought refuge at the Vietnamese Embassy in Berlin: “Clearly, he was directly involved in the kidnapping because he was the driver of the car that was used during the illegal detention of Trinh Xuan Thanh. He witnessed the entire process from the time the kidnapping team picked up Lieutenant General Duong Minh Hung and other Vietnamese officers at a nearby hotel,” said Khoa.
Why more European firms are choosing Vietnam over China. David Hutt, Deutsche Welles; June 8, 2022: On the geopolitical front, China’s relationship with European governments deteriorated in 2021 when the EU imposed sanctions against China for its treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region. Beijing then issued its own sanctions on EU officials and a previously agreed investment pact was put on ice. In 2022, Beijing’s ongoing “zero-COVID” policy has thrown global supply chains into disarray as production sits still in locked-down cities. This has also shaken the confidence of EU firms in China as a reliable production site. Shanghai has only just recently re-opened after months of intense lockdowns, while parts of Beijing, the capital, have also been closed for months. All of this has dented the economy and warnings have been raised that China could fall well below its GDP growth targets this year.
India-Vietnam Ties Deepen in Dynamic Indo-Pacific. Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, The Diplomat; June 6, 2022: Besides defense and security collaboration, India and Vietnam also enjoy good trade and commercial ties. Bilateral trade between the two has gone up from a mere $200 million in 2000 to $14.14 billion in 2021-2022, growing 27 percent in the last fiscal year alone. India’s exports to Vietnam went up to $6.70 billion (an increase of 34 percent) whereas the Indian imports from Vietnam amounted to $7.44 billion (an increase of 21 percent). Several Indian companies, ranging from those involved in textiles and garments, to IT, real estate, agricultural products, solar technology, education, and healthcare have invested in Vietnam. Indian companies including Tata Coffee, Bank of India, ONGC Videsh, Godrej, HCL Technologies, Wipro, Marico, Tech Mahindra, and more are already working in Vietnam, and two new Indian start-ups – car rental company Zoomcar and online higher education company UpGrad – have also entered Vietnam’s market.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Watch and share a riveting video interview with the mother of death row inmate Ho Duy Hai, with English subtitles, produced by The 88 Project.
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