Nguyen Quang A

Current Status: At risk

Photo of Nguyen Quang A

Other Names: Nguyễn Quang A

Date of Birth: 1946

Gender: M

Ethnicity: Kinh

Occupation: Entrepreneur

Areas of Activism:

  • Democracy
  • Economic reform
  • Environment
  • Sovereignty

Known Affiliations:

May 2023:

Dr. Nguyen Quang A, a member of the independent Roundtable for Civil Society, was prevented from making a trip to Thailand. He was stopped at the Noi Bai International Airport by the police who proceeded to tear up his boarding pass. The only reason given was “a security concern.”

Details - Background, History of Activism.

Nguyen Quang A was educated in Hungary and worked as a computer scientist and in a civilian military position. He was once a member of the Communist Party.

Nguyen Quang A has long been a vocal critic of the Communist Party in Vietnam. In 2007, he helped found the Institute of Development Studies, a think tank, and then he and others co-founded the Civil Society Forum in 2013 in response to Decree 72, which further limited citizen’s expression online. He also has organized against China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Since the Formosa toxic waste spill in 2016, he has been a strong advocate for environmental rights.

In 2016, Nguyen Quang A unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the National Assembly as an independent candidate to draw attention to the lack of outside political participation in Vietnam. He appealed to Vietnamese citizens to exercise their political rights. He was supposed to meet with then-US President Barack Obama that year as well, but he was detained by plainclothes security officers during the visit.

On November 16, 2017, Nguyen Quang A, Bui Thi Minh Hang, and Pham Doan Trang were detained and later released after meeting with EU delegates. Nguyen Quang A reported that this was his fourteenth arrest in 2017 alone, highlighting the constant harassment and surveillance that activists face inside Vietnam.

In August 2019, Nguyen Quang A urged everyone to put the words “SUE CHINA” on t-shirts, jackets, helmets, cars, etc. after a Chinese surveying expedition in contested waters entered a Vietnamese-owned area known as Vanguard Bank. The ships left the area, but not before provoking a widespread public reaction to a perceived challenge to Vietnamese sovereignty. 

July 2021:

The Conscience Fund, started four years ago by Dr Nguyen Quang A to help families of political prisoners, announced that it had to close down its account. A explained that because he opened the account under his name, he needed to avoid “the possibility that bad actors might send in donations and try to mess me up.” Back in April, Nguyen Thuy Hanh, founder of another political prisoner charity called The 50K Fund, was arrested for “anti-state propaganda.”

September 18, 2018: prohibited from travelling to Australia

Travel restriction
September 18, 2018
Public security
Noi Bai International Airport, Ha Noi (map)

freedom of movement

On September 18, Nguyen Quang A was barred from leaving the country to travel to Australia. In a separate trip, planned for early October, he hoped to travel to Brussels, to attend an EU hearing about human rights. He was stopped, searched, and questioned by security officers, and held for six hours total — even though his destination for this trip was not related to the EU hearing. He said this was the 20th time his travel was restricted since 2014.

Later, in October, Nguyen Quang A was scheduled to appear as a representative of Vietnamese civil society at the EU Parliament's hearing on the issue of EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement in Brussels. However, in order prevent him from attending that important meeting, police had confiscated his passport on September 18, 2018 and gave him back an edited passport - they used a pen to manually change his year of birth from 1946 into 1949. A only realized the isue on the morning of October 8, after the repeated reminders from a state official to check his documents. Later that same day, Nguyen Quang A still went to the airport with the old, edited passport. Suddenly, an official of Ministry of Public Security appeared and gave him another brand-new passport. A few hours later, Nguyen Quang A finally boarded the airplane headed to Brussels. His statement at the hearing can be found here.

Vietnam Leading Dissident Barred from Travelling to Australia, Defend the Defenders, September 18, 2018

September 17, 2020: detained and questioned by police while on his way to meet the US Ambassador

September 17, 2020
Public security
Gia Lam district, Hanoi (map)

  • freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
  • liberty and security of the person
  • freedom of expression

Dr Nguyen Quang A was detained on his way to the residence of US Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink for an afternoon coffee at the invitation of the ambassador. Hanoi police held him against his will and did not allow him to make any phone calls. He was released after a few hours of questioning about his Facebook posts, especially those in relation to Dong Tam. He reported that this was his 18th detention in the past few years.

His Facebook post about the incident 

Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for September 14-20, 2020: Vietnam Meets Strong Protest after Sentencing Two Dong Tam Land Petitioners to Death, Defend the Defenders, September 20, 2020

December 9, 2020: repeatedly summoned and threatened by the police

Police summons
December 09-31, 2020
Public security
Ha Noi (map)

freedom of expression

On December 9, 15, and 31, 2020, the Investigating Agency of Public security of Ha Noi City repeatedly sent three invitations to Nguyen Quang A requesting his presence at their office. 

Quang A replied with a written letter. He asked for the lawful reason for his summon-- whether he was involved in any ongoing investigation or he is summoned as a related party, a defendant, or a plaintiff of any case. He contended that unless the authorities answer his questions properly, he is not required to present himself for questioning. 

July, 2021: summoned about possible criminal charge under Article 117

Police interrogation
July, 2021
Public security
Ha Noi City (map)

freedom of expression

Nguyen Quang A was summoned by the police to discuss a criminal case under Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code (propaganda against the state). While Dr. A has frequently been invited and/or summoned to work with the public security, this is the first time the public security has mentioned his involvement in a criminal case under Article 117.

The Conscience Fund, started four years ago by Dr Nguyen Quang A to help families of political prisoners, announced that it had to close down its account. A explained that because he opened the account under his name, he needed to avoid “the possibility that bad actors might send in donations and try to mess me up.” Back in April 2021, Nguyen Thuy Hanh, founder of another political prisoner charity called The 50K Fund, was arrested for “anti-state propaganda.”

Profile last updated: 2023-05-09 15:16:39

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