Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 35/2021 – Week of September 5-12

Greetings from The 88 Project We bring you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of September 6-12. Now that Vice-president Kamala Harris’s visit is in the rearview mirror, Vietnam has resumed its regular crackdown on dissent. Five new charges of “anti-state propaganda” were issued this week. The date is set for an appeals trial for a mother-and-son whose outcome is expected to be unchanged. The pandemic has created even more room for police abuse and spurious charges, and even jail terms for some. The government struggles to contain the virus while hunger and joblessness continue to plague the poor. Meanwhile, a senior Chinese official paid a visit to Vietnam and warned Hanoi not to get too cozy with Washington.


Political Prisoners

Can Tho’s Procuracy has charged five men who belonged to the group Báo Sạch (Clean News) with “abusing democratic freedoms” according to Article 331 of the Criminal Code. The men are: Truong Chau Huu Danh (39), Nguyen Phuoc Trung Bao (39), Doan Kien Giang (36), Nguyen Thanh Nha (41), and Le The Thang (39).

Truong Minh Duc

Political prisoner Truong Minh Duc was finally able to call home for 10 minutes as allowed by the law. He told his wife that prisoners had not received any vaccines and he did not know if or when he would be inoculated. Duc said he was running low on medication for his heart condition and asked her to send him more once the lockdown is lifted. He said further that he has not received any of the letters that his wife sent to him, and she said that she has not received any of the letters he sent home.

Can Thi  Theu and Trinh Ba Tu at the first instance trial, Source:   State Media via Radio Free Asia

The appeals hearing for mother and son land rights activists Can Thi Theu and Trinh Ba Tu has been scheduled for September 17, 2021. They were convicted of “anti-state propaganda” in May and were sentenced to eight years each. Tu’s sister, Trinh Thi Thao, said that investigators were told her brother if he admitted guilt that he could have his sentence reduced to six years. It is not clear if family members will be allowed into the alleged open trial.

Nguyen Tuong Thuy

Petitions calling for an investigation into the legal proceedings against jailed journalist Nguyen Tuong Thuy were denied by the authorities on the grounds that as a convicted prisoner, he does not enjoy the rights given to regular citizens. In November of last year, Thuy was sentenced to 11 years in prison for “anti-state propaganda.”

Popular blogger Bui Van Thuan, whose Facebook account has more than 25,000 followers, was arrested on August 30. Here, his wife describes how police disguised themselves as healthcare workers to enter her house illegally and tricked her by asking to use the bathroom in order to grab her husband.

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

  • Land rights activist Le Van Hai, arrested on September 19, 2020, and sentenced to four years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms”
  • Blogger Do Cong Duong, tried on September 17, 2018, and sentenced to four years in prison for “causing public disorder;” he is serving an additional four years on an another charge
  • Online commentator Nguyen Van Cong Em, tried on September 17, 2019, and sentenced to five years in prison for “anti-state propaganda”
  • Catholic activist Nguyen Van Oai, tried on September 18, 2017, and sentenced to five years in prison for “failing to execute judgments” and “resisting officers” shortly after having been released from a prior imprisonment


Vietnamese man jailed for five years for spreading coronavirus, CNN, September 6, 2021: “Le Van Tri, 28, was convicted of ‘spreading dangerous infectious diseases’ at a one-day trial at the People’s Court of the southern province of Ca Mau, according to the state-run Vietnam News Agency (VNA). ‘Tung traveled back to Ca Mau from Ho Chi Minh City … and breached the 21-day quarantine regulations,’ the news agency said. ‘Tung infected eight people, one of whom died due to the virus after one month of treatment,’ it added.… The country has sentenced two other people to 18-month and two-year suspended jail terms on the same charges.”

Vietnam gasps for air as Delta deals a lethal blow, David Hutt, Asia Times, September 8, 2021: “Commentators are divided on who’s chiefly to blame. Some have claimed it was the government, which was slow to procure vaccines in early 2021 due to its previous success in containing the pandemic. Others assert it has been a combination of nationalistic resistance to accept Chinese-made vaccines and the government’s desire to develop its own locally-made vaccines. While acknowledging certain mistakes, the Vietnamese government has sought to blame the latest spike on events beyond its control. ‘The Delta variant is destroying all anti-pandemic achievements,’ Vietnam’s health minister, Nguyen Thanh Long, said according to local reports.”

Hunger was something we read about’: lockdown leaves Vietnam’s poor without food, Sarah Johnson and Nhung Nguyen, The Guardian. September 8, 2021: “As tighter restrictions have been gradually introduced since the beginning of June, it is the poor who have been hit the hardest. Factories and markets were ordered to close, and with them went thousands of jobs. Taxi drivers, street food vendors, factory and construction workers who were already near the poverty line have been unable to make money for months and are trapped in precarious and crowded housing in Covid hotspots. Official statistics state that 3-4 million people in Ho Chi Minh City alone have plunged into financial difficulty due to the pandemic.”

China warns Vietnam to watch out for outside interference in South China Sea, Kinling Lo and Bac Pham, South China Morning Post, September 11, 2021: “Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned of interference from regional outsiders, as he urged Vietnam not to ‘magnify conflicts’ in the disputed South China Sea. Wang’s remarks, made during talks with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh in Hanoi on Friday, came around two weeks after visiting US Vice-President Kamala Harris called on Vietnam to join the US in challenging China’s ‘bullying’.… Wang announced an additional 3 million Chinese vaccine doses for Vietnam by the end of the year, bringing the total doses promised to 5.7 million.”


This month is the last chance to take our content survey; the survey closes on September 31. Let us know what content you find most helpful, how we can improve our work, and what you’d like to see in the future. Fill it out here.


Can Thi Theu

Ahead of Can Thi Theu and her son Trinh Ba Tu’s appeal trial next week, please share this video clip (with English subtitles) and urgent action from Front Line Defenders about Theu and her heroic family, who have tried to help land grab victims seek justice in years past. You can also watch and share our 2019 interview with Theu.

© 2021 The 88 Project