Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 30/2021 – August 2-8

Greetings from The 88 Project! We bring you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of August 2-8. Two events dominate this week’s news. The first is the precarious health situation of Tran Huynh Duy Thuc as he battles through his most recent hunger strike. The other is the upcoming visit by US Vice President Kamala Harris, which has raised hopes that the Biden administration will push Vietnam harder on the human rights front, especially with Thuc’s life hanging in the balance. In other news, the assault on Christian Montagnards by Dak Lak police has been roundly criticized. The latest wave of Covid-19 infections is hitting Vietnam hard as the United States continues to provide more vaccines and other assistance. The investigation into the “Clean News” group has concluded. Last but not least, our own recap of the human rights situation in Vietnam in the first seven months of 2021.


Political Prisoners

Tran Huynh Duy Thuc

Tran Huynh Duy Thuc was allowed to call home last week. His daughters reported that their father was very weak from a prolonged hunger strike. Thuc said he barely came back from “the edge of Death.” He reiterated that unless the Supreme Court takes up his appeal that he’d first sent in 2008, he would go into “extreme mode,” ready to sacrifice his life. He even gave the family specific instructions on what to do if he doesn’t survive. Thuc is serving a 16-year sentence for posting articles online calling for multi-party democracy. We have prepared a more detailed article on Thuc’s situation which you can read and share. 

Truong Chau Huu Danh

Can Tho provincial police have finished their investigation of four members of the group Clean News and have charged them with “abusing democratic freedoms which violate the interests of the state.” The men are: Truong Chau Huu Danh, 39, Nguyen Phuoc Trung Bao, 39, Doan Kien Giang, 36, and Nguyen Thanh Nha, 41. Additionally, before the investigation was completed a fifth man from Hanoi also was similarly charged, but was only placed under house arrest: Le The Thang,39. A trial date has not been set. 

For a quick review of all the arrests of political prisoners since the beginning of this year, please take a look at our story “Vietnam Human Rights Recap: Arrests of Government Critics Continue the First Seven Months of 2021”.

This week we remember the birthdays, arrests, and trial anniversaries of the following political prisoners:

  • Truong Minh Duc

    Journalist Truong Minh Duc, birthday August 10, serving 12 years in prison for “subversion”

  • Religious freedom and legal activist Nguyen Bac Truyen, birthday August 12, and serving 11 years in prison for “subversion”
  • Land rights activist Can Thi Theu, birthday August 14, 1962, sentenced to eight years in prison for “anti-state propaganda” earlier this year in her third arrest
  • Facebooker Vu Tien Chi, birthday August 15, serving 10 years in prison for “anti-state propaganda” 
  • Blogger Huynh Thuc Vy, arrested August 9, 2018, and sentenced to two years and nine months in prison for “offending the national flag” for spray-painting a flag in 2017 as a sign of protest; she will have to serve the prison sentence once her youngest child turns three
  • Montagnard Christian activist Rah Lan Hip, tried on August 9, 2019, and sentenced to seven years in prison for “undermining the unity policy”


Activists at Risk

BP-SOS reported that responses were swift from the international community after police raided Christian Montagnards in Dak Lak on July 16. Pictures and videos were posted on social media the same day. Two days later the UN, US State Department, and foreign embassies in Vietnam were provided with details of the arrests. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has updated its victims list for Vietnam to include the 15 Christians taken into custody, raising the total to 51. Vietnam currently ranks 4th in religious prisoners behind China (549), Russia (184), and Iran (108).


International Advocacy

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke (online) at the Summit for International Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C. on July 25. In his remarks the secretary reaffirmed that religious freedom is a fundamental human right that the Biden administration will continue to support throughout the world. 

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) has written a letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken asking that the Biden administration do more regarding the deteriorating human rights picture in Vietnam: “It is of paramount importance that we hold the Vietnamese government accountable for its responsibility to guarantee human rights, religious freedom, and property security for its citizens. To that end, I ask that you provide an explanation for what the State Department is doing to engage with Vietnam on these issues.”

Ahead of Vice President Harris’ trip to Vietnam later this month, Vietnam Human Rights Network and Defend the Defenders have jointly written a letter asking her to raise human rights issues in her meetings with Vietnamese leaders. Specifically, “the VNHRN and DTD call for the Biden-Harris administration to take a number of specific and meaningful actions, including asking the Vietnamese government to pursue significant human rights reform, to end the arbitrary detention of peaceful dissidents, and to immediately release all prisoners of conscience and political prisoners.”


US Vice President Kamala Harris Set to Visit Vietnam, Radio Free Asia, August 4, 2021: “Harris is scheduled to arrive in Vietnam on Aug. 24 following an Aug. 22 visit to Singapore and departing Vietnam on Aug. 26, with talks expected to focus on regional security in the South China Sea, where China has encroached on territorial waters and maritime resources claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, and other countries in the region. Talks will also cover U.S. assistance to Vietnam in containing the spread of COVID-19 amid a new surge of infections in the country.”

$4.5 mln US aid to boost Vietnam’s Covid fight, Le Nga, VN Express, August 5, 2021: “At a Tuesday meeting with Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said 77 freezers for storing vaccines should arrive in Vietnam by September. These freezers were previously promised to Vietnam during a July visit by the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Vietnam is in much need of more Covid-19 vaccine sources, said Long. While Vietnam has managed to sign contracts to purchase 31 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and is negotiating another 20 million doses, about 47 million doses would only arrive in the country in the fourth quarter, he added.”

Worsening Covid Crisis in Vietnam Is Hitting Food Industry Hard, Mai Ngoc Chau, Bloomberg, August 6, 2021: “Exports of fruits and vegetables will sink 30% in the second half from a year earlier as southern Vietnam, home to most of the production, battles its worst outbreak of the pandemic, according to the farm ministry. Swathes of the country’s southern region, including the commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City, are under an extended lockdown as local virus cases soared to over 166,000 as of Friday from 4,500 cases in late June. The order, which bans residents from leaving home for most reasons, also covers the provinces that make up the Mekong Delta, popularly known as the “Rice Bowl” of Vietnam.”

Vietnam to halve quarantine time for fully vaccinated visitors, Reuters, August 4, 2021: “Foreign visitors who have been fully vaccinated and tested negative for COVID-19 would be permitted to quarantine for seven days, Vietnam’s health ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. The decision comes after calls from European and American business leaders in Vietnam earlier this year to ease the regulations to facilitate the operations of foreign investors and experts. Visitors will be subject to a further 7 days of medical surveillance, the statement said, without indicating when the new policy would take effect.”


We have published an article summarizing Tran Huynh Duy Thuc’s latest conditions based on interviews with his family members. It is clear that Thuc’s life is in danger. Please help raise awareness by sharing “From the Edge of Death” with your colleagues and engage any organization and/or legislators that might be of assistance.


© 2021 The 88 Project