Profile

Nguyen Lan Thang

Current Status: Sentenced to prison

Photo of Nguyen Lan Thang

Other Names: Nguyễn Lân Thắng, Nguyễn Lân Ké

Date of Birth: December 18, 1975

Gender: M

Ethnicity: Kinh

Occupation: Journalist

Last Known Prison: Prison No. 5, Thanh Hoa province

Areas of Activism:

  • Democracy
  • Human rights
  • Sovereignty

Known Affiliations:

Highlighted Human Rights Concerns:

  • Prolonged Incommunicado Detention
  • Harsh Physical and Administrative Conditions
  • Denial of Family Visit/Punitive Prison Transfer
  • Infliction of Physical and Psychological Pain

December 2023:

Political prisoner Nguyen Lan Thang is allegedly being psychologically abused, according to his wife. Le Bich Vuong told RFA, “Since his arrival at Prison No. 5, he has been held in cell block K1. It’s not a solitary confinement area, but he has had to share the cell with two or sometimes three inmates, some of whom showed signs of mental illness.” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at New York-based Human Rights Watch, told RFA, “Guards’ use of so-called trustee prisoners to terrorize political prisoners is particularly common since the prison officials will then claim they are not responsible.”

June 2023:

Nguyen Lan Thang has chosen to not appeal his conviction for “anti-state propaganda” and has begun serving his five-year sentence, according to his wife. Le Bich Vuong went to visit her husband at the pre-trial detention center on June 15 only to learn that he had been transferred to Thanh Hoa Prison No. 5 earlier that morning. She said Thang decided not to appeal in order to “lessen the pressure on the family” and because “appeals never change the result but only lengthen the time he has to suffer the terrible conditions” at the detention center. Thang also told her that he viewed his prison term as “a long trip away from home about equal to the time he spent in college.”

April 2023:

In a secret trial that lasted only a few hours, a court in Hanoi convicted Nguyen Lan Thang of distributing “anti-state propaganda” and sentenced the engineer-turned-activist to six years of imprisonment plus two years of supervised release. It is not known whether Thang’s wife, Le Thi Bich Vuong, was allowed to attend the trial.

Just before then US Secretary of State Blinken’s arrival in Vietnam, the U.S. State Department condemned the verdict against Thang, saying: “We urge the Vietnamese government to immediately release and drop all charges against Nguyen Lan Thang and other individuals who remain in detention for peacefully exercising and promoting human rights.”

Luan Le, one of Thang’s lawyers, said his client’s indictment is based on 12 interviews with BBC Vietnamese between 2017 and 2020, during one of which Thang commented that the revolutionary heroine Vo Thi Sau “was suspected by many of suffering from mental illness.” This was the only evidence that was admissible in court to accuse Thang of violating Article 117, according to a Facebook posting by Luan Le.

Earlier update:

Lawyers for Nguyen Lan Thang had been notified on March 30 that his “closed trial” would take place on April 12, giving them only 13 days to prepare. His wife, Le Bich Vuong, did not receive any notification. By rule of closed trials, she would not be allowed to attend the hearing; however, after writing the courts to make a request, Vuong received a letter telling her to “be present near the courthouse area” on the morning of April 12.

Since Thang’s arrest in July 2022, the family has not been allowed to see him. His wife is still trying to recover some of her personal belongings that were taken by the police when they arrested him. Thang’s lawyers only saw their client for the first time on Feb. 16, nearly one month after his indictment was announced on Jan. 17. Thang told his lawyers he had not received the indictment and was advised to file a complaint, which he tried to do. However, prison officials refused to give him any pen or paper. When Thang met his lawyers for the second time a few weeks later, he told them about this. At their third meeting on March 30, Thang’s lawyers were finally able to show him the indictment.

Healthwise, Thang has gained 7-8kg, which is unusual and alarming, according to his wife. Le Bich Vuong told Project 88 that she had been writing and calling multiple agencies the past few months to inquire about her husband and the trial but she was never given a straight answer. Some of her inquiries were not even answered. It remains to be seen if she will actually be allowed inside the courtroom where Nguyen Lan Thang will be tried in secret. By law, his lawyers won’t be allowed to discuss the proceedings in public.

Details

Immediate Concerns

December 2023:

Political prisoner Nguyen Lan Thang is allegedly being psychologically abused, according to his wife. Le Bich Vuong told RFA, “Since his arrival at Prison No. 5, he has been held in cell block K1. It’s not a solitary confinement area, but he has had to share the cell with two or sometimes three inmates, some of whom showed signs of mental illness.” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at New York-based Human Rights Watch, told RFA, “Guards’ use of so-called trustee prisoners to terrorize political prisoners is particularly common since the prison officials will then claim they are not responsible.”

June 2023:

Nguyen Lan Thang has chosen to not appeal his conviction for “anti-state propaganda” and has begun serving his five-year sentence, according to his wife. Le Bich Vuong went to visit her husband at the pre-trial detention center on June 15 only to learn that he had been transferred to Thanh Hoa Prison No. 5 earlier that morning. She said Thang decided not to appeal in order to “lessen the pressure on the family” and because “appeals never change the result but only lengthen the time he has to suffer the terrible conditions” at the detention center. Thang also told her that he viewed his prison term as “a long trip away from home about equal to the time he spent in college.”

April 2023:

In a secret trial that lasted only a few hours, a court in Hanoi convicted Nguyen Lan Thang of distributing “anti-state propaganda” and sentenced the engineer-turned-activist to six years of imprisonment plus two years of supervised release. It is not known whether Thang’s wife, Le Thi Bich Vuong, was allowed to attend the trial.

Just before then US Secretary of State Blinken’s arrival in Vietnam, the U.S. State Department condemned the verdict against Thang, saying: “We urge the Vietnamese government to immediately release and drop all charges against Nguyen Lan Thang and other individuals who remain in detention for peacefully exercising and promoting human rights.”

Luan Le, one of Thang’s lawyers, said his client’s indictment is based on 12 interviews with BBC Vietnamese between 2017 and 2020, during one of which Thang commented that the revolutionary heroine Vo Thi Sau “was suspected by many of suffering from mental illness.” This was the only evidence that was admissible in court to accuse Thang of violating Article 117, according to a Facebook posting by Luan Le.

Earlier update:

Lawyers for Nguyen Lan Thang had been notified on March 30 that his “closed trial” would take place on April 12, giving them only 13 days to prepare. His wife, Le Bich Vuong, did not receive any notification. By rule of closed trials, she would not be allowed to attend the hearing; however, after writing the courts to make a request, Vuong received a letter telling her to “be present near the courthouse area” on the morning of April 12.

Since Thang’s arrest in July 2022, the family has not been allowed to see him. His wife is still trying to recover some of her personal belongings that were taken by the police when they arrested him. Thang’s lawyers only saw their client for the first time on Feb. 16, nearly one month after his indictment was announced on Jan. 17. Thang told his lawyers he had not received the indictment and was advised to file a complaint, which he tried to do. However, prison officials refused to give him any pen or paper. When Thang met his lawyers for the second time a few weeks later, he told them about this. At their third meeting on March 30, Thang’s lawyers were finally able to show him the indictment.

Healthwise, Thang has gained 7-8kg, which is unusual and alarming, according to his wife. Le Bich Vuong told Project 88 that she had been writing and calling multiple agencies the past few months to inquire about her husband and the trial but she was never given a straight answer. Some of her inquiries were not even answered. It remains to be seen if she will actually be allowed inside the courtroom where Nguyen Lan Thang will be tried in secret. By law, his lawyers won’t be allowed to discuss the proceedings in public.

Background

Nguyen Lan Thang is the third generation of Nguyen Lan family, one of families in Vietnam that has been known for having a long and prominent traditional fondness for learning. He is the grandson of the prominent scholar Nguyen Lan, whose Dictionary of Vietnamese is widely used. Seven of Nguyen Lan’s eight children have doctorate degrees; several teach at universities. One of them was a delegate in the National Assembly.

Thang was an active leader of the Communist Youth League during high school. Despite graduating from the University of Architecture Hanoi, he soon after quit his job and became an independent journalist from 2011 onwards.

Profile photo source: Vietnamnet

History of Activism

Nguyen Lan Thang is active on civil society development and human rights. Thanks to his talents in photography, he was familiar with netizens for a larger number of updated pictures and videos on issues such as demonstrations or land grabs by the government, on which state-owned media was prohibited from reporting. He is on the blacklist of police and is often harassed.

On October 30, 2013, Thang was detained at Noi Bai airport after returning home from a 6-month trip to the Philippines and Thailand, where he and a group of Vietnamese bloggers attended a study program on civil society and met U.N. Human Rights officials to present Declaration 258, signed by 100 supporters, and to report about human rights violations in Vietnam. He was then released the next day.

In 2014, authorities prevented him from traveling to the US for attending events on the World Press Freedom Day.

In 2015, a group of people went to his private house to threaten his family on October 21. Two days later, Nguyen Lan Thang and his wife, Le Bich Vuong, were attacked at a kindergarten when they were picking up their three year-old child. On October 24, a group of strangers splashed the door of his house with red paint.

In March 2017, Tran Nhat Quang, leading a group of public opinion shapers that was established by the government as polemicists to detect online anti-government sentiments and direct the public opinion, went to Thang's house and made noise by playing music, shouting, and insulting him with a loudspeaker.

August 8, 2018: family harassed by veterans

Harassment at private residence
August 08-09, 2018
No 32, 221 Alley, Thinh Quang, Thai Thinh Street, Dong Da District, Ha Noi (map)

  • liberty and security of the person
  • equal protection of the law
  • respect of privacy, family, home, and correspondence
  • freedom from discrimination

On August 8, 2018, a group of four-five injured war veterans went to Nguyen Lan Thang’s house and demanded him to come out and talk. Nguyen Lan Thang was outside at this time.

They accused him of mocking Ho Chi Minh’s image and defaming the regime, which they sacrificed themselves to build up and protect.

They brought a loudspeaker and kept making noise in front of his house. After Thang’s neighbors complained, the group gave an excuse that they were doing a “mission," then continued shouting and playing music.

Thang’s wife made a phone call for police, but they did not come, even after promising to do so. 

The group of veterans then bought food and ate right outside Thang’s house. They didn’t leave until around 7:00 pm, after calling someone to report that they had done their work.

On August 09, 2018, as they promised before leaving the prior day, they came back to his house and took similar actions.

Sentenced to 6 years in prison and 2 years probation under Art. 117 (2015 Code). Expected Release is July 5, 2028.

  • Art. 117 (2015 Code)
Hanoi (map)
April 12, 2023
The People's Court of Hanoi, Hanoi
  • Pham Le Quyen
  • Nguyen Ha Luan
  • Dang Dinh Manh
  • Le Van Luan
6 years in prison and 2 years probation
July 5, 2028
  • freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
  • liberty and security of the person
  • freedom of expression
  • fair trial
  • US government
  • International Commission of Jurists
Details of Imprisonment

Thang was arrested on his way to a coffee shop in Hanoi on July 5, the family said. The police later went to search his house and took away laptops, mobile devices, books and other items. Thang is suspected of spreading “anti-state propaganda” under Article 117. Although he has been involved in political activism for at least 10 years and has a Facebook page with over 150,000 followers, Thang has not been very active since the birth of his second child two years ago, and his Facebook account has been administered by other people for many months. It is not clear why the government has decided to arrest Thang now.

February 2023:

Hanoi police said the investigation against blogger and activist Nguyen Lan Thang is complete and that he will be charged with spreading “anti-state propaganda” according to Article 117.

Thang’s lawyers were allowed to meet with him on February 16 to plan their defense. Thang is accused of spreading 12 videos and two books with contents that allegedly defame the Party and the State. Thang said he’d gained over 10 pounds (6Kg) while in detention and was afraid unhealthy prison food would exacerbate his high blood pressure and other pre-existing conditions. No trial date had yet been set. 

 

Actions Taken

The International Commission of Jurists wrote an open letter to the Vietnamese government denouncing the conviction of Nguyen Lan Thang and calling for his release. “The prosecution and conviction is not only a miscarriage of justice against an individual, but yet another attack on an already battered rule of law in Vietnam,” said Ian Seiderman, the ICJ’s Legal and Policy Director. “The ongoing and heightened crackdown has targeted civil society activists, lawyers, journalists, political commentators and human rights defenders for engaging in activities that are protected under human rights law.”

Resources

Vietnamese blogger arrested on ‘propaganda’ charge, Radio Free Asia, July 5, 2022

Công an Hà Nội bắt tạm giam bị can Nguyễn Lân Thắng, Vietnam Net, July 5, 2022

April 12, 2023: trial

April 12, 2023
Hanoi (map)

  • freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
  • liberty and security of the person
  • freedom of expression
  • fair trial
  • US government
  • International Commission of Jurists
Details of Imprisonment

Thang was arrested on his way to a coffee shop in Hanoi on July 5, the family said. The police later went to search his house and took away laptops, mobile devices, books and other items. Thang is suspected of spreading “anti-state propaganda” under Article 117. Although he has been involved in political activism for at least 10 years and has a Facebook page with over 150,000 followers, Thang has not been very active since the birth of his second child two years ago, and his Facebook account has been administered by other people for many months. It is not clear why the government has decided to arrest Thang now.

February 2023:

Hanoi police said the investigation against blogger and activist Nguyen Lan Thang is complete and that he will be charged with spreading “anti-state propaganda” according to Article 117.

Thang’s lawyers were allowed to meet with him on February 16 to plan their defense. Thang is accused of spreading 12 videos and two books with contents that allegedly defame the Party and the State. Thang said he’d gained over 10 pounds (6Kg) while in detention and was afraid unhealthy prison food would exacerbate his high blood pressure and other pre-existing conditions. No trial date had yet been set. 

 

Actions Taken

The International Commission of Jurists wrote an open letter to the Vietnamese government denouncing the conviction of Nguyen Lan Thang and calling for his release. “The prosecution and conviction is not only a miscarriage of justice against an individual, but yet another attack on an already battered rule of law in Vietnam,” said Ian Seiderman, the ICJ’s Legal and Policy Director. “The ongoing and heightened crackdown has targeted civil society activists, lawyers, journalists, political commentators and human rights defenders for engaging in activities that are protected under human rights law.”

Resources

Vietnamese blogger arrested on ‘propaganda’ charge, Radio Free Asia, July 5, 2022

Công an Hà Nội bắt tạm giam bị can Nguyễn Lân Thắng, Vietnam Net, July 5, 2022

Profile last updated: 2024-06-13 20:34:05

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