Greetings from The 88 Project! We bring you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of May 31-June 6. One more Facebooker has been sentenced to prison for “anti-state propaganda.” An independent journalist is now a fugitive wanted by the police. The US annual report on Religious Freedom has been published. Norway gets involved in helping Vietnam improve its human rights practices. Meanwhile, COVID-19 continues to spread as lockdowns are implemented. In a desperate move, the socialist government calls for cash contributions from citizens to help buy vaccines. Help share a video of Le Huu Minh Tuan, who was sentenced to 11 years in January for his “reactionary” writings.
HUMAN RIGHTS & CIVIL SOCIETY
Facebook user Dang Hoang Minh, 28, was sentenced to seven years in prison by a court in Hau Giang Province. It is not clear if Minh had legal representation at his trial. Minh was charged with “anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 for his posts in 2020 that were deemed to be false and defamatory toward the Communist leadership, including the late Ho Chi Minh. Minh is the 21st person to be imprisoned in Vietnam this year for online speech.
A national manhunt is under way for journalist Le Van Dung, aka, Le Dung Vova. The police issued a “special warrant” for his arrest after they failed to detain him at his house last week because he wasn’t home at the time. The police seized a laptop and mobile devices that belong to his wife, Bui Thi Hue. The “special arrest” warrant is typically used only for dangerous criminals; this could signal a more serious crackdown on independent journalism. The warrant even allows ordinary citizens to apprehend Dung and take him to the police if they find him. Dung is being sought for “anti-state propaganda” under Article 117.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has released its annual report for 2020. Vietnam is recommended to be placed on the list of Countries of Particular Concern, citing its Law on Belief and Religion, which the report said “contravened international human rights standards and systematically violated religious freedom.”
Norway will help the UN Development Program work with the government of Vietnam to strengthen the country’s human rights commitment and practices. Ambassador Grete Løchen said in a statement, “Promoting human rights has been a global priority of Norway. This event is another proof of Norway’s close partnership with UNDP and Vietnam in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and leaving no one behind.” The United Nations Development Programme Vietnam (UNDP – Vietnam) officially started in 1978.
This week, we will remember the following political prisoners on their arrest and trial anniversaries:
- Activists arrested in June 2018 for participating in public protests against the draft laws on Special Economic Zones and Cybersecurity. The full list can be found here. Some received particularly lengthy sentences, including:
- Medical professional Nguyen Dinh Thanh, arrested June 8, 2018, sentenced to seven years in prison under Article 117 for his Facebook posts and for creating and printing leaflets for use at the protests
- Protester Dang Ngoc Tan, arrested June 11, 2018, sentenced to a total of 24 years in prison in a series of three trials under Articles 318 (“causing public disorder”) and 178 (“deliberate destruction of public property”)
- Protester Pham Thanh, arrested June 11, 2018, sentenced to a total of 15 years and six months in prison under Articles 318 and 178
- Independent journalist Le Huu Minh Tuan, arrested June 8, 2020, sentenced to 11 years in prison under Article 117 for writing and sharing “reactionary content”
- Khmer Krom land rights activist Huynh Van Dep, arrested June 7, 2020, sentenced to 2.5 years in prison under Article 330 for “resisting officers in performance of their official duties”
- Online commentators Huynh Anh Khoa, Nguyen Dang Thuong, and Tran Trong Khai, arrested June 13, 2020, sentenced to 15 months, 18 months, and 12 months in prison, respectively, under Article 331 for “abusing democratic freedoms”
- Aquaculture engineer Nguyen Ngoc Anh, tried June 6, 2019, and sentenced to six years in prison under Article 117 for his online posts
NEWS & ANALYSIS
New Vietnam variant imperils global supply chains, David Hutt, Asia Times, June 1, 2021: “The Health Ministry has raised concerns that infection rates are growing rapidly in the industrial zones in northern Bac Ninh and Bac Giang provinces, near the capital Hanoi, where major foreign brands including Samsung and Foxconn have factories. On Saturday, the ministry announced that it would prioritize vaccinations for the 240,000 workers in the area, sending at least 200,000 vaccines to each of the two provinces in the hope that they can all be administered within a week. The Vietnamese government also appealed to the likes of Samsung and Apple to help procure vaccines for their own workforce, according to an official statement released on Monday.”
Vietnamese government sends mass texts to citizens asking for cash to fund vaccine program, Sky News, June 3, 2021: “Vietnam is asking members of the public to donate money that can be used to buy, import, research and produce COVID-19 vaccines. The country is currently being hit by its biggest coronavirus outbreak so far, with nearly 60% of its infections recorded in the past month. And the government has now sent mass text messages to citizens requesting financial contributions to a £777m special fund for the COVID vaccination programme.”
June 5, 2011 – The Beginning Of The Longest Anti-China Protest Movement, Son Nguyen, The Vietnamese, June 5, 2021: “Although the government repressed the protests, they still demonstrated to the Vietnamese government that the people could disagree with the government and willingly show it. Additionally, the protests also sowed the seeds of government criticism among the people. The movement provoked many intellectuals and highly-credited ex-government officers to speak out against the Communist Party and demand democracy.”
No Trade-Off: Biden Can Both Deepen U.S.-Vietnam Ties and Promote Human Rights, Bich Tran, CSIS, June 3, 2021: “Biden can deepen ties with Vietnam and promote human rights at the same time. In doing so, his administration needs to increase mutual trust by reassuring that it respects Vietnam’s political system and distinguishing revisionist states like China from communist regimes like Vietnam. Only when trust is high enough can the United States persuade Vietnam to improve its human rights for its own good. Washington should make use of multilateral mechanisms to encourage Hanoi to change. Bilaterally, upgrading the U.S.-Vietnam relationship to a strategic partnership will signal a higher level of trust and provide a better framework for alignment in human rights practices.”
The Socialist Irony: Vietnamese Companies Exploit Labor And Damage The Environment In Cameroon, Nguyen Dinh Gia Son, The Vietnamese, May 28, 2021: “Various Vietnamese companies are damaging Cameroon’s forests and its economy through logging activities in the country, according to a new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an international non-profit organization aiming to protect the global climate. In an investigative report, the EIA said that these companies extracting timber to export back to Vietnam were violating export laws and were engaging in labor exploitation and discrimination, tax evasion, illegal logging, and other things. The Vietnamese socialist government has consistently condemned the imperialism and economic exploitation that has resulted from capitalism.”
Cybersecurity in Vietnam has anything changed?, Le Ton Viet, Russin & Vecchi (Vietnam), May 28, 2021: “The situation has created a profound muddle. A lack of guidelines denies clarity and creates uncertainty. But lack of clarity and certainty is not new in Vietnam. Often it is a conscious strategy. It means that the debate remains open. For business, it means that past practice enabled by light regulation should be modified voluntarily to avoid provocation. Lack of certainty also enables companies to continue to make and develop their case in the face of light regulation while at the same time aligning at least in part, with the government. While the right of the government to require localization is clear, it has not yet been enforced, and the threat of localization is an informal but effective way to control conduct.”