Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 9/2024 – Week of Feb 23-29

We bring you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of Feb. 23-29.

On Friday, March 1, Project88 released the report, “Vietnam’s communist party declares war on human rights as a matter of official policy,” which reveals the contents of a secret national security directive issued by Vietnam’s top leaders. Directive 24 takeand articulates a disturbing plan to deal with these perceived threats by systematically violating the rights of the country’s 100 million citizens.

Directive 24 aims to subvert democratic control over public policy and the economy, while shoring up one-party rule. If implemented as intended, the directive will lead to systematic and widespread human rights violations, including impermissible restrictions on assembly, association, speech, the media, and movement. It will also result in violations of the right to participate in public affairs, and the right of workers to form independent trade unions and syndicates.

Read the report here.



Two high profile arrests this week: Nguyen Chi Tuyen and Nguyen Vu Binh

Long time democracy activist and well known human rights defender Nguyen Chi Tuyen (pictured above), better known as Anh Chi, has been arrested in HanoiWatch a brief and powerful video from him, here.

A co-founder of the anti-China group No-U, he participated in many protests over the years for causes such as Hanoi Green Trees, the Formosa disaster, land grab victims, and the Dong Tam police raid. Although he has been staying low key, Chi was “invited” by the police for questioning many times in the past year; the last notice came one day before his sudden arrest on Feb. 29. Chi had called the police station to tell them he was sick and could not come. About 10 men, only two of whom were in uniform, entered his home on Feb. 29 and took him away after confiscating his electronic devices. He is charged with “making, storing or distributing information, documents and items aimed against the state of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117.

Journalist Nguyen Vu Binh was also arrested by Hanoi Police on Feb 29. His family says the police did not show any warrant or give a reason. A former party member and journalist at Tap Chi Cong San (Communism Magazine), Binh was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2003 for calling for democratic changes. Nguyen Vu Binh was awarded the Hellman-Hammett prize twice, in 2002 and 2007, and is a member of PEN International.
Other political prisoner updates

Nguyen Thuy Hanh in her first public photo since her 2021 arrest

An update on Nguyen Thuy Hanh’s medical treatment from her husband, Huynh Ngoc Chenh:

Hanh has been getting five sessions of radiation therapy and one session of chemotherapy a week, which restarted on Feb. 19 after the Tet holiday. Every weekday afternoon, Hanh is transported by ambulance from the Central Psychiatric Center in Hanoi, where she’s being held in pretrial detention, to Hospital K for radiation therapy. On days that she also has chemotherapy, the session starts in the morning. Chenh, who lives in Quang Nam Province in Central Vietnam, is renting a room near the hospital so he can come see her when she gets to the hospital and after the session finishes. This allows them to have brief conversations as he walks with her to and from the ambulance.

Hanh has gone through 10 radiation and two chemo sessions, which have caused her extreme pain and discomfort when she gets back to the detention center, where she often throws up her food. Several family members of imprisoned activists have also traveled to Hanoi to see her at the hospital. Hanh said she was aware that many people and organizations are following her case and that this has given her the motivation and energy to fight on.

A petition signed by dozens of prominent citizens and organizations has been sent to President Vo Van Thuong, asking for Nguyen Thuy Hanh to be released from pre-trial detention so that her family can be with her and take better care of her during these excruciating therapy sessions. See the full text of the petition at the end of the newsletter.

Nguyen Thi Lieu, the wife of Phan Van Bach, was called to the police station on Feb. 6 to pick up a letter from her husband. The letter mentioned just a few family matters and a request for a copy of the Bible. While there, Lieu was told not to post anything more about Bach or to communicate with “reactionary groups.” She was warned that if she continued to do these things that her job and her children’s schooling might be affected. Bach was charged with “anti-state propaganda” in January and is awaiting trial.

On Feb. 16, Phan Tat Chi got a surprise when he went to the detention center on Phan Dang Luu St. in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) to bring his son, Phan Tat Thanh, some supplies. Without being notified ahead of time, Chi was told that he would be allowed to speak with Thanh for 30 minutes. However, they had to shout to each other across a glass separator under the supervision of prison guards and security cameras. Thanh appeared to have lost a lot of weight; Chi estimated that he had gone from 70 kg down to 50 kg. Despite being closely watched, Thanh managed to tell his father that he was beaten several times when he was arrested, and a few more times earlier at the detention center. But since then, he has not been beaten again. Chi was able to confirm that Thanh did refuse to have a lawyer because he didn’t trust Dang Dinh Dung, who had been retained by his father without his knowledge. Thanh has now agreed to have Dung represent him. A former admin of the Facebook fanpage “A Patriotic Diary”, Thanh was charged with “anti-state propaganda” in July of last year and is being held in pre-trial detention.

Nguyen Ngoc Anh

Nguyen Thi Chau told Project88 that she was able to talk to her husband, Nguyen Ngoc Anh, on Feb. 21, and got confirmation that he did receive the package of food she sent him that had been missing for more than a month (it was sent on Jan. 13). As the box took a long time to reach him, the food inside was spoiled by the time he received the package. Chau said she will file a complaint with the warden at Detention K 2 in Dong Nai, demanding to know why they kept the package from Anh for so long that the food inside, which she had to scrimp and save to make for him, had gone bad.



Vietnam has announced its intentions to run for reelection to the UN Human Rights Council, touting initial successes as a Council member. Activists and international organizations are pushing back on that claim.

In other news and analysis this week –

FM meets UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, foreign officials in Geneva. Vietnamplus; 2024-02-27. Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son had separate meetings in Geneva on February 27 with United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, Minister of the People’s Power for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela Yvan Gil Pinto, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Pam Damoff on the sidelines of the 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Vietnam plans union reform to avert trade woes, risking foreign firms’ unease. Reuters; 2024-02-27.Communist-ruled Vietnam is expected to ratify this year the UN convention for the free establishment of trade unions, UN officials and diplomats said, in a move meant to cut risks of trade disputes but likely leaving some foreign companies uneasy. The long-delayed measure would be a major formal step in the tightly controlled one-party nation where the only existing national trade union operates within the Communist Party structure, although it is unclear how and when the convention, once ratified, would be actually applied.

Why Vietnam’s Escalating Anti-Corruption Campaign Might Backfire. The Diplomat; 2024-02-26. Sustained economic growth has bolstered public support and trust in Communist Party rule. However, corruption, while not new to Vietnam’s one-party system, poses a significant threat to the contemporary CPV regime. This is because widespread corruption can lead to inefficiency in the economy, placing the Party’s performance-based legitimacy under pressure.

Petroleum has flowed through Vietnam to Myanmar, violating an international ban. BBC Vietnamese; 2024-02-28. A Vietnamese company is accused of participating in transporting petroleum to the Myanmar military government, according to a report published by Amnesty International on January 31. Faced with international sanctions following the 2021 military coup, Myanmar’s military junta has used new tactics to import fuel. There have been at least seven shipments of petroleum from Vietnam to Myanmard by the Hai Linh Company, according to data collected by Amnesty International.

Exclusive: SpaceX’s talks with Vietnam over Starlink on hold. Reuters; 2024-02-29. SpaceX had been seeking an exception to Vietnamese rules limiting foreign ownership to a non-controlling 50% stake of telecommunication companies with network infrastructure, the industry source said.But a revision of the country’s telecommunications law approved by parliament in November did not soften the limits. In a draft decree released in February, meant to implement the revised law, authorities added requirements for satellite service providers regarding local presence and data traffic controls.



To: Mr. Võ Văn Thưởng, President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Mrs. Nguyễn Thuý Hạnh, born on May 25, 1963, is a human rights activist and the initiator of the 50K Fund, supporting prisoners of conscience and their families. On April 7, 2021, she was detained by Hanoi police for “producing, storing, distributing, or disseminating information, documents, and items against the State,” as per Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code.

Despite the investigation period expiring in late April 2022, Mrs. Nguyễn Thúy Hạnh was transferred to the compulsory treatment department of the Central Institute of Forensic Psychiatry.

Nearly three years post-arrest, including more than 22 months in hospital, Mrs. Nguyễn Thúy Hạnh has not been sentenced, indicating she is not officially a convict.

Mrs Nguyễn Thuý Hạnh was diagnosed with mid-stage cervical cancer on January 15, 2024. Continuing to detain Mrs. Hạnh post-investigation, especially given her severe illness at over 60 years of age, is both illegal and inhumane.

We, the organizations and individuals listed below, urgently request you direct the relevant authorities to immediately free Mrs. Nguyễn Thuý Hạnh for proper medical treatment.


Civil Society Forum. Representative: Dr. Nguyễn Quang A

Bauxite Vietnam Forum. Representative: Professor Nguyễn Huệ Chi

Lê Hiếu Đằng Club. Representative: Artist Nguyễn Thị Kim Chi


Nguyễn Quang A, PhD in Computer Science, Hanoi

Hoàng Hưng, poet and book translator, Saigon

Nguyễn Huệ Chi, Professor of Literature, Hanoi

Nguyễn Đình Nguyên, PhD in Medicine, Australia

Phan Hoàng Oanh, PhD in Chemistry, Saigon

Nguyễn Mai Oanh, Master of Development Economics, Saigon

Hoàng Dũng, Associate Professor, PhD in Literature, HCMC

André Menras Hồ Cương Quyết, former educator, Paris, France

Hà Sĩ Phu, PhD in Biology, Đà Lạt, Lâm Đồng

Nguyễn Nguyên Bình, writer, Hanoi

Nguyễn Thị Kim Chi, artist, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Mạc Văn Trang, Associate Professor, PhD in Psychology, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Lê Thân, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club, Đà Nẵng

Phan Đắc Lữ, poet, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Lê Phú Khải, journalist, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Đỗ Như Ly, engineer, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Võ Văn Thôn, former Director of the Department of Justice of HCMC, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Daniel Thiều Thị Tân, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Vũ Trọng Khải, Associate Professor, PhD in Agricultural Policy

Bùi Nghệ, engineer, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Lại Thị Ánh Hồng, artist, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Kha Lương Ngãi, former deputy editor-in-chief of SGGP Newspaper, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Bùi Minh Quốc, poet, journalist, Đà Lạt, Lâm Đồng

Nguyễn Khắc Mai, cultural researcher, Hanoi

Nguyễn Thị Khánh Trâm, retired, HCMC

Ngô Kim Hoa, HCMC

Vũ Huy Linh, medical doctor, USA

Đào Tiến Thi, Hanoi

Hà Dương Tường, educator, France

Nguyên Ngọc, writer, Hội An, Quảng Nam

Trần Minh Thảo, writer, Phan Tây Hồ Club, Lâm Đồng

Nguyễn Viện, writer, HCMC

Phạm Nguyên Trường, engineer, Vũng Tàu

Hoàng Thị Hà, Thanh Xuân, Hanoi

Đặng Bích Phượng, Hanoi

Đinh Hoàng Thắng, former Ambassador of Vietnam to Netherland, Hanoi

Nguyễn Ngọc Giao, educator, France

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