Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 26/2022 – Week of July 4-10

Greetings from The 88 ProjectWe bring you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of July 4-10. The newsletter will be on a two-week break following this issue and will resume publication on July 31. A descendant of a family of famous Hanoi intellectuals was taken into custody for “anti-state propaganda” even though he had not been very active online for quite some time. An online activist arrested last August will finally be charged after a lengthy investigation. No political prisoners will receive amnesty from the regime this year. The much ballyhooed anti-corruption push is losing steam. Vietnam complains to Facebook that it’s not removing “malicious content” from its platform fast enough. The U.S. Commerce Department places Vietnam on its list of restricted entities for defying the Russia sanctions. Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign minister visits Vietnam on Hanoi’s invitation.

Watch our interview with political prisoner Dang Dinh Bach’s wife, with English subtitles, and here, with Vietnamese subtitles.


Political Prisoners

Nguyen Lan Thang

Nguyen Lan Thang comes from an illustrious family of intellectuals in North Vietnam. He is the grandson of the prominent scholar Nguyen Lan, whose Dictionary of Vietnamese is widely used. Seven of Nguyen Lan’s eight children have doctorate degrees; several teach at universities. One of them was a delegate in the National Assembly.

Thang was arrested on his way to a coffee shop in Hanoi on July 5, the family said. The police later went to search his house and took away laptops, mobile devices, books and other items. Thang is suspected of spreading “anti-state propaganda” under Article 117. Although he has been involved in political activism for at least 10 years and has a Facebook page with over 150,000 followers, Thang has not been very active since the birth of his second child two years ago, and his Facebook account has been administered by other people for many months. It is not clear why the government has decided to arrest Thang now.

Bui Van Thuan

Thanh Hoa provincial police are about to wrap up their investigation of Bui Van Thuan, the online activist who was arrested shortly after Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit to Vietnam last August. Thuan’s wife has been summoned twice by the police who warned her not to post information about her meetings with them on her Facebook page. Investigators said Thuan would be charged with spreading “anti-state propaganda” under Article 117.

This week, we think of the birthdays and arrest anniversaries of the following political prisoners:

  • Human rights activist Huynh Duc Thanh Binh, a student at the time of his arrest, birthday July 14, sentenced to ten years in prison for “subversion”
  • Montagnard Christian activist Y Lao Mlo, arrested July 15, 2015, serving eight years in prison for “undermining the unity policy”


No amnesty for Vietnamese ‘anti-state’ prisoners this year. RFA; July 5, 2022: Vietnam’s annual September 2 National Day amnesty will not include anyone jailed for anti-state charges according to President Nguyen Xuan Phuc. … This year’s amnesties will be granted to those sentenced to long or lifetime terms who will still be serving their sentences on August 31. The long list of charges not to be considered rules political prisoners out of the running. The exclusions include people charged with national treason; activities aimed at toppling the government; spying; trespassing on national security sites; and violence and terrorism against the State. Other cases ruling out release include sabotaging the material and technical foundations of the State of Vietnam; making, storing, disseminating or propagating information, documents and items aimed at opposing the State; disrupting security; attacking or damaging detention facilities; and terrorism.

Viet Leader’s Anti-Corruption Campaign Continues to Fizzle. David Brown, Asia Sentinel; July 5, 2022: Up to the end of 2021, Vietnam’s citizenry seemed to be well-satisfied with their government’s management of the Covid pandemic. Then came the unsettling revelation of two Covid-related schemes to rip off the public for the benefit of well-placed bureaucrats. One is the Việt Á scandal, a far-reaching conspiracy to monopolize the national market for Covid-19 test kits. … By the time someone tipped off the national police, a nationwide chain of kickbacks was well-established, extending from local health center officials up to the most senior level of the Ministries of Health and of Science and Technology. The second scheme targeted tens of thousands of citizens stranded overseas when Vietnam and other nations closed their borders to international air travel. Desperate to get home, many handed over huge sums for seats on Vietnam-bound chartered planes.

Vietnam criticizes Facebook for not removing ‘malicious news’. RFA; July 7, 2022: VietNamNet’s ictnews website said on March 29 that foreign social networking platforms including Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok removed thousands of posts with allegedly malicious content that slandered the Vietnamese Party and State in the first three months of this year. The figures, supplied by Vietnamese authorities, showed that the social media companies took down all but 10% of the posts objected to by the government. The figures also showed that Alphabet’s Google removed 2,679 videos identified as breaking the law on its YouTube platform with a removal/blocking rate of 93%. ByteDance’s short form video site TikTok removed or blocked 71 videos, or 87% of the total. Facebook removed 5% fewer posts than in the same period last year and Google’s removal rate dropped by 3%.

Addition to Commerce Entity List Severely Restricts Access to U.S. Technologies and Items. Bureau of Industry and Security, U.S. Department of Commerce; June 28, 2022: The ERC determined to add the following six entities under ten entries to the Entity List on the basis of § 744.11(b) and under the destinations of China, Lithuania, Russia, the United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam: Connec Electronic Ltd. (added under China and the United Kingdom); King Pai Technology Co., Ltd. (added under China, Russia, and Vietnam); Sinno Electronics Co., Ltd. (added under China and Lithuania); Winninc Electronic (added under China); World Jetta (H.K.) Logistics Limited (added under China); and Promcomplektlogistic Private Company (added under Uzbekistan) for providing support to Russia’s military and/or defense industrial base. Specifically, these entities have previously supplied items to Russian entities of concern before February 24, 2022 and continue to contract to supply Russian entity listed and sanctioned parties after Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine.

Why Vietnam can’t and won’t leave Russia’s side. Nate Fischler, Asia Times; July 7, 2022: Lavrov’s visit was at the invitation of Vietnam’s foreign ministry, per the Vietnamese government, and is the first by a Russian official since hostilities broke out with Ukraine on February 24. Vietnam is Russia’s top Southeast Asian partner and is viewed as a lynchpin for maintaining stable relations in the region. … Cooperation in the energy sector is of top importance, with several Russian oil and gas outfits operating off Vietnam’s coast, providing Hanoi with a certain geopolitical buffer against China’s growing assertiveness in the disputed and resource-rich South China Sea. Lavrov expressed appreciation to Vietnam during his meeting with Son for refusing to join the “illegitimate” international sanctions regime led by the US and, perhaps cynically, called on all nations to respect international law. He also used the occasion to blast the West and the Ukrainian government, saying that Western support for Ukraine is tantamount to sponsoring state terrorism.


Dang Dinh Bach

Dang Dinh Bach is an environmental advocate sentenced to prison for five years for “tax evasion.” Watch our interview with his wife, Tran Phuong Thao, filmed two months after Bach’s trial, to learn more about the family’s story and Bach’s contribution to the environmental movement in Vietnam.

Interview with Dang Dinh Bach’s wife with English subtitles 

Interview with Vietnamese subtitles

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