Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 38/2021 – Week of September 27-October 3

Greetings from The 88 ProjectWe bring you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of September 27-October 3. Lockdown in Vietnam’s biggest city was lifted just as economic pressures caused several foreign companies to move production out of the country. Migrant laborers leaving the city were stopped at checkpoints, causing massive jams. Hanoi defied a UN report on its abuse of indigenous peoples. The crackdown on online postings criticizing government handling of the pandemic continues. Vietnam considered a law to limit livestreaming on social media. Police broke into a woman’s home and forced her to test for Covid. We wrote an article about it, here


Political Prisoners

Tran Thi Tuyet Dieu at her first instance trial on April 23, 2021, Source: via Radio Free Asia

A court of appeals in Danang upheld the eight-year prison sentence for Tran Thi Tuyet Dieu. A former employee at a state-run newspaper, Dieu was charged with “anti-state propaganda” after posting news articles on her Facebook page.

Nguyen Ngoc Anh

Nguyen Thi Chau, wife of political prisoner Nguyen Ngoc Anh, was summoned by Ben Tre police to answer questions about her recent Facebook postings criticizing the government’s handling of the pandemic. She defiantly told the police she only had one hour to spend and promptly walked out once the time was up. She also told them to be careful not to violate the Constitution themselves, and refused to sign any documents. Her husband is serving a six-year prison sentence for “anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code.

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

Pham Van Troi and Tran Thi Xuan

  • Well-known activist Le Van Dung, birthday October 10, currently in pre-trial detention on charges of conducting “anti-state propaganda”
  • Author Pham Van Troi, birthday October 10, serving seven years in prison on charges of “subversion”
  • Catholic social activist Tran Thi Xuan, birthday October 10, serving nine years in prison on charges of “subversion”
  • Writer and civil society leader, Pham Doan Trang, arrested October 6, 2020, and awaiting trial on charges of conducting “anti-state propaganda”
  • Activists Luu Van VinhNguyen Van Duc DoNguyen Quoc HoanThich Nhat Hue, and Tu Cong Nghia, tried on October 5, 2018, and sentenced to between eight and 15 years in prison for “subversion” and/or “abusing democratic freedoms”

International Advocacy

Last week, Hanoi finally responded to a report by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) to the UN in April about the arrest of a Khmer Krom person for distributing copies of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Disturbingly, the government admitted that “Mr. Duong Khai was indeed arrested for possession of copies of the UNDRIP and claimed that the arrest was justified in order to maintain ‘national unity’ because, according to the government of Vietnam, there are no indigenous peoples in the country.”


Crowds at Checkpoints Clash With Police as Vietnam Eases Pandemic Restrictions, Radio Free Asia, October 1, 2021: “Crowds of Vietnamese people rushed checkpoints and clashed with police Friday as the country began lifting months-long coronavirus lockdowns and travel restrictions in Ho Chi Minh City and other large cities, videos obtained by RFA showed. At checkpoints around Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, laborers from rural areas broke barricades and fought with police, while others knelt in the street and pleaded with the police to let them through, saying they had run out of money to stay in the city, the videos showed. Several thousand immigrant laborers in Ho Chi Minh City attempted to leave the city, state media reported, causing heavy congestion in many of the checkpoints.

Government looking to tighten control over social media livestreams, CIVICUS, September 29, 2021: “Vietnam is looking to increase control over livestreaming on popular social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, according to a draft government decree. Under the terms of the decree, any account that operates on a social media platform in Vietnam and has more than 10,000 followers must provide contact information to authorities. Only registered accounts will be allowed to livestream. The proposed decree also says that social media providers must temporarily block or remove content within 24 hours if they receive a ‘justified’ complaint from an individual or organisation affected by the content.”

Covid-19 Factory Closures Prompt Some U.S. Businesses to Rethink Vietnam, John Emont, Wall Street Journal, September 30, 2021: “Nike, which makes around half of its footwear in Vietnam, said last week that it had lost 10 weeks of production there because of factory shutdowns. Those 10 weeks translate to about 100 million pairs of Nike shoes not made, according to BTIG LLC, a U.S. brokerage. Nike now anticipates demand for its products will exceed available supply for the next eight months. … The company said it was maximizing footwear production capacity in other countries and is shifting apparel production out of Vietnam to places such as China. A late August survey of nearly 100 representatives of manufacturing sector companies by the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam found that one fifth had already moved some production to other countries.”

Vietnam abandons zero-Covid strategy after record drop in GDP, John Reed and Pham Hai Chung, Financial Times, September 30, 2021: “Vietnam is loosening a strict, nearly three-month lockdown in Ho Chi Minh City after a stark warning from business and a record quarterly drop in gross domestic product. … The lockdown measures hit hardest in labour-intensive sectors such as clothing and footwear, but electronics producers were hit, too. Companies that suffered problems with their suppliers included Apple, Samsung, Toyota and Nike. Vietnam on Wednesday reported a 6.2 per cent third-quarter plunge in GDP, the sharpest drop reported since it began keeping records.”

Vietnam bids to woo Cambodia, Laos from China, David Hutt, Asia Times, September 27, 2021: “For the first time in many years, Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong held tripartite talks on September 26 with General Secretary of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party Thongloun Sisoulith and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Analysts and observers saw the Hanoi-hosted talks as a significant move as Vietnam attempts to reassert influence over its two historic allies, which have increasingly turned to China in recent years. The Vietnamese Communist Party has long considered itself the benefactor and ‘big brother’ of Cambodia and Laos’ ruling parties, both of which it helped come to power in the 1970s.”

Trans-Pacific Partner Membership And The Love Triangle Of Vietnam – Taiwan – China. Tan Trung Nguyen Quoc, The Vietnamese, September 30, 2021: “One week after China expressed its desire to be a part of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), Taiwan also formally applied for a seat in this organisation. Taiwan has reasons to hasten its membership in this organization. If it fails to secure a seat in time, it would have to go through the consultation process with all the signatories, which would, at this point, include China, and then protect its interests before a CPTPP Council where Beijing would already hold a seat. Taiwan had experienced this kind of stubbornness and tantrum-throwing behaviour of China when it dealt with the WTO. During the 2000s, Beijing had repeatedly refused to attend any dispute resolution proceedings between themselves and Taiwan, justifying this on the grounds that these issues were solely the internal affairs of China.”


A traffic jam in Hanoi on October 1, 2021, after lockdown was lifted, Source: Radio Free Asia

On September 28, police broke into a woman’s home and forced her to test for Covid. We wrote an article about it, here. The widely criticized action, which came as clashes between the authorities and citizens during the lockdown became more frequent and oftentimes violent, has raised questions about civil rights in the pandemic era, and has caused at least one state-run newspaper to remove its report on the incident.


Pham Doan Trang and her books in Vietnam. Source: Pham Doan Trang Facebook

Watch and share this short interview that was filmed prior to her arrest, in which Pham Doan Trang discusses her activism in starkly personal detail and explains her goals and wishes, not just for herself but also for the groups she’s been involved with. Trang has officially been charged with “anti-state propaganda” after being held incommunicado for an entire year.

© 2021 The 88 Project