Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 44/2023 – Week of Nov. 15-22

Greetings from Project88. We bring you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of Nov. 15-22. There will be no newsletter next week; we will resume publication the week of Dec. 4.

“The Resident Coordinator seemingly did not adequately address the risk posed by the arrests of climate activists in Vietnam to advisors working for UNOPS. As such, the RC appears to have shirked their responsibility to take measures to protect Ngo Thi To Nhien and Nguy Thi Khanh.”

— Project88 letter to the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) regarding the failure to protect and respond to arbitrary detention of UNOPS advisors in Vietnam


Chieu Anh

Poet Nguyen Thi Phuong, pen name Chieu Anh, reported to Project88 that she has twice been “invited” by Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) police to answer questions about her active support for political prisoners. At the first session on June 21, 2023, Phuong was asked about her middleman role of receiving money and then forwarding it to the families of prisoners. They also questioned her about a motorcycle she donated to the wife of political prisoner Huynh Truong Ca. Phuong told Project88 the police tried to frame her action as receiving funds sent from abroad as “support for terrorism.”

At the second meeting on October 5, she was once again grilled regarding what the police called “terrorism support funds.” Additionally, they asked about her sharing articles by RFA and former political prisoner Pham Thanh Nghien, who emigrated to the United States earlier this year. The police wanted Chieu Anh to sign a note promising not to repost content that has not been cleared by state censors, but she refused. Phuong was fined 7.5M dong ($300) for unspecified “violations of the cybersecurity law,” but she refused to pay, saying she did not violate any regulations. Watch our short interview with Chieu Anh from 2019 here.

Le Trong Hung

The Vietnam Human Rights Network has named three winners for their 2023 Human Rights Award. They are political prisoners Tran Van BangY Wo Nie, and Le Trong Hung. Do Le Na, Hung’s wife, told Project88: “This award is the best news for my husband and me on this Teachers’ Day. I’d like to share this happiness with everyone who’s been by our side throughout this journey. I especially want to share this honor with the hundreds of brothers and sisters who have contributed physically and intellectually to help our people but who are being wrongly persecuted and imprisoned. Your sacrifices surely will be acknowledged and honored by history.”


International Advocacy

Ngo Thi To Nhien

In a letter sent to UN staff, Project88 shares concerns regarding the apparent lack of action by the United Nations in response to the arrests of two advisors for the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in Vietnam, Ngo Thi To Nhien and Nguy Thi Khanh. By arresting climate activists on spurious charges and forcing environmental organizations to shut down, the Vietnamese government has violated key civil and political rights, including the rights to liberty and security of person and the right to a fair trial, as well as the rights to freedom of expression and association. By continuing to work with Vietnam on their climate transition without protesting its violations of international law, UNOPS is failing to promote and protect human rights in Vietnam. Moreover, by remaining silent about violations of the rights of its own advisors, UNOPS is failing in its duty to ensure that Vietnam upholds its human rights commitments with regards to the country’s energy transition.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk calls for human rights to guide action to stop climate crisis as COP28 is set to open in Dubai: “We must act now, in solidarity, collectively and boldly – with human rights at the core – to remedy the deep damage that has already been done,” he added. Noting that this year’s COP comes as the world marks 75 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted, the High Commissioner called on delegates to “put human rights – consciously and explicitly – at the center of all climate decision-making at COP28 and beyond”.



Three injured in Vietnam land development protest. RFA; Nov. 16, 2023: “About 200 people living in Phong Yen had to face around 300 police and about 50 young men wearing red hats, many of whom seemed to be students because they looked very young.” Videos seen by RFA Vietnamese showed police with shields and batons and plainclothes people wearing red helmets dragging protesters out of the construction area. Another local resident said the people wearing red hats came by bus and punched and kicked people, while the police only pushed them.

Vietnam alleges $12bn embezzlement by property firm and bank. Nikkei Asia; Nov. 20, 2023: Vietnam has accused a property developer of bribery and embezzlement totaling 304 trillion dong ($12.5 billion), using “ghost companies” and an affiliate bank, in one of the largest cases in a national corruption crackdown that has rippled across the economy. Police have recommended prosecuting 86 people involved in the alleged schemes at developer Van Thinh Phat and SCB bank, including the developer’s chairwoman, as well as a state bank official, according to a Saturday post on the central government website. The case, which triggered a bank run in 2022 that prompted central bank intervention, included the creation of 1,000 shell companies, false bank loans and foreign tax shelters, the post said.


In Vietnamese

At the conclusion of Vietnam’s second conference on the Convention Against Torture (CAT), held in Hung Yen Province on Nov. 20, Gen. Nguyen Van Ky reported that since becoming a signatory of the covenant in 2015, the government had implemented 56 new laws and regulations against torture, issued hundreds of guidelines and held over a hundred seminars and workshops for government agencies and National Assembly members on CAT. Vietnam has been working diligently, he said, toward making sure the state conforms to the CAT while meeting its internal political requirements by engaging a broad section of society in the process. The article does not say, however, whether any civil society groups or non-state affiliated rights organizations were invited to or involved in the conference.


“Vietnam, one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia, needs clearer regulation and policy to support a clean-energy boom that would sustain its manufacturing ambitions.” Green Energy Bets In Vietnam Need Clearer Rules. John Boudreau, Bloomberg, Nov. 20, 2023.

“According to news reports published in state media, the number of detainees who mysteriously died or suffered significant injuries while being investigated for their alleged crimes has remained consistent over the years. As of Nov. 15, 2023, at least 13 cases of police brutality have been reported in Vietnam, according to data collected by The Vietnamese Magazine. This year, at least six people have died in Vietnamese police stations after being detained for the investigation of alleged crimes, while seven other individuals either endured minor or significant injuries inflicted by law enforcement officers on duty.” Deaths in Police Custody Remain Persistent in Vietnam. Jason Nguyen, The Vietnamese, Nov. 22, 2023.

© 2023 The 88 Project