Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 23/2018 – Week of June 4-10
Above: Protester in Ho Chi Minh City. Source: Vietnam Right Now
Greetings from The 88 Project! We are bringing you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of June 4-10. In a surprising decision, Vietnam released political prisoners Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thu Ha and sent them immediately into exile in Germany, a bittersweet move that brings them freedom but also bans them from the country they’ve worked peacefully to change. Unfortunately, authorities denied Dai and Ha’s four co-defendants’ appeals on Monday. Nguyen Trung Ton, Truong Minh Duc, Pham Van Troi, and Nguyen Bac Truyen will have to serve out the rest of their sentences, ranging from seven to 12 years. Dai, Ha, Ton, Duc, and Troi are members of the Brotherhood for Democracy; another member, Nguyen Trung Truc, spent his first birthday in prison on June 6. He is awaiting trial under Article 79. In some positive news, imprisoned blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (Mother Mushroom) has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by a Canadian professor, and imprisoned labor rights activist Tran Thi Nga has finally been allowed to speak with her family. Forced evictions have left locals in Hanoi and Catholic sisters in Ho Chi Minh City worried, and people in several cities turned out in record numbers on Sunday to protest Vietnam’s draft laws on cyber security and special economic zones. Pro-democracy activist Nguyen Trung Linh is still in police custody after being detained in late May. In international advocacy, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have spoken out against the draft cyber security law, and several organizations have urged the EU not to ratify a free trade agreement with Vietnam. In the news, read about the US’s call to delay the vote on the cyber security law, an opinion on the pending free trade agreement, and the effects of the US’s deportation of protected Vietnamese immigrants. Please take action for Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc, and Nguyen Bac Truyen, calling for their immediate release from prison.
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HUMAN RIGHTS & CIVIL SOCIETY
Protesters decried the draft cyber security law and draft legislation on special economic zones in demonstrations across several large Vietnamese cities on June 10. They expressed frustrations over the zones, which offer investor incentives like 99 year-leasing of land, which they believe will provide an advantage to China. They also called out the restrictions on internet providers and vague provisions of the draft cyber security law. Vietnam has long held tensions with China, including over disputed territorial claims to parts of the South China Sea. These protests are allegedly the largest mass demonstrations in Vietnam since those over the Formosa environmental disaster began in April 2016. There have been reports that Vietnamese authorities responded to the peaceful protests with force and have detained many participants. More pictures and videos of the protests in different cities can be found here.
90 organizations have sent an open letter to the EU Parliament, urging them not to ratify a pending free trade agreement with Vietnam. They cited Vietnam’s recent increased crackdown on bloggers and other civil society activists, as well as the draft cyber security law. Read the letter in both Vietnamese and English, here.
NEWS & ANALYSIS
Enhanced Restrictions In Cybersecurity Draft Law Shows Vietnam Is NOT Ready To Commit To EU-FTA’s Human Rights Clause: “The European Union, its parliament, and its member countries should take careful notes of this Cybersecurity draft law when they consider the ratification of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EU-FTA) in early 2019. As in all EU trade agreements, the human rights clause have been maintained by EU officials and politicians as an essential condition, and that they reserve the power to suspend the agreement if there are going to be gross violations. The Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee for International Trade, Bernd Lange, during his visit to Hanoi in September 2017, even declared that human rights and labor rights are at the center of the continued discussions about the FTA between Vietnam and EU. If this Cybersecurity draft law is passed, it will very well be in contradictions with the human rights clause of the EU-FTA. The U.S. government, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch all seem to have taken this view.”
Why Is the US Deporting Protected Vietnamese Immigrants?: “While he knew that his previous convictions meant he had to check in with ICE every year, he never expected to be returned to Vietnam. ‘There was one reason Vietnam didn’t want me, and that’s because my father is American and they hate that,’ Cuong says. ‘I don’t understand why they took me back now. I feel very bad. My blood is still American.’ Cuong had just received his new Vietnamese ID the day we met, but he has yet to find a job, even though he lives near Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s commercial center. ‘I’ve looked for any job; I’ve told them that I have experience as a mechanic, a chef and a server… but when they ask for my background, they see that I was deported and lived in America and say they don’t want me,’ he laments. ‘They put ‘Asian-American’ on the application.'”
Please take Amnesty International’s Urgent Action for Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc, and Nguyen Trung Ton. You can also take Front Line Defender’s action for Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Bac Truyen, and Truong Minh Duc, calling for their immediate release from prison.