Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 23/2019 – Week of June 3-9

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 3-9. A court in Ben Tre province sentenced shrimp farmer and Facebooker Nguyen Ngoc Anh to six years in prison. The trial of Michael Phuong Minh Nguyen, Huynh Duc Thanh Binh, Tran Long Phi, and Huynh Duc Thinh has been set for June 24, 2019 in Ho Chi Minh City. Political prisoners Luu Van Vinh and Nguyen Viet Dung have both been denied visits from family in prison. Another activist is now wanted under the charge of making “propaganda against the State,” and environmental activist Ha Van Thanh is at risk of deportation from the US. This week, we remember the arrest anniversaries and birthdays of many political prisoners, including dozens who were arrested on June 10, 2018 as part of a crackdown on national protests over two draft pieces of legislation. Read our analysis of the aftermath of the June 2018 protests — the conditions of the people and communities affected, one year later. In the news, read about Vietnam’s plan to potentially re-criminalize drug use. And in case you missed it, check out our full-length interview with Khiem Nhu, an female environmental activist, as well as The Vietnamese’s interview with two of the The 88 Project’s founders. And please consider taking action to support the founder of The Vietnamese, Vi Tran, who is suffering from health issues.

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Prisoners of Conscience

Nguyen Ngoc Anh at trial on June 6, 2019. Source: Huynh Phuc Hau/VNA via Reuters
On June 6, Nguyen Ngoc Anh was sentenced to six years in prison under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code for “making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” Arrested in August 2018, he was targeted for expressing his views on national issues on Facebook, protesting the Formosa environmental disaster, supporting political prisoners, and calling for protests. The EU condemned the decision against him and said he should be released, saying “Nguyen Ngoc Anh’s right to peaceful freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Vietnamese Constitution.” Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch spoke out in support of Anh ahead of the trial.

michael nguyen_squareHuynh Duc Thanh Binh
Michael Nguyen and Huynh Duc Thanh Binh
The trial of Michael Phuong Minh NguyenHuynh Duc Thanh BinhTran Long Phi, and Huynh Duc Thinhhas been set for June 24, 2019 in Ho Chi Minh City. Michael Nguyen, Huynh Duc Thanh Binh, and Tran Long Phi will be tried under Article 109 of the 2015 Criminal Code for “organizing to attempt to overthrow the people’s government,” while Huynh Duc Thinh will be tried under Article 390 of the 2015 Criminal Code for “failing to report crime.” All four were detained in July 2018. Nguyen was in Vietnam visiting family and friends, and his family maintains he has not been involved in any activism efforts. Binh is a student, human rights activist, and son of former political prisoner Huynh Duc Thinh. Phi is also a young human rights activist.

On May 31, 2019, Luu Van Vinh called home for five minutes, during which he told his wife that he was transferred to Gia Trung prison in Gia Lai province. This is the fourth prison he has been sent to in the past 30 months. Vinh’s wife took a 24-hour round trip to visit him in Gia Trung prison on June 3, but she was not allowed to see him. Vinh is refusing to wear the prison’s uniform, so he is not allowed to receive visitors. Vinh is serving a 15-year prison sentence for forming a pro-democracy group and protesting environmental and sovereignty issues.

Nguyen Viet Dung‘s family was not allowed to see him when they went to visit him in Nam Ha prison on May 28. Prison guards said he is being disciplined and transferred to another section of the prison (from section 1 to section 2) and is not allowed to receive visitors. It is unclear why he is being disciplined. Nguyen Viet Dung is the founder of the unsanctioned Republican Party in Vietnam and has been active in environmental and political protests; he was arrested in 2017 and sentenced to seven years in prison, reduced to six on appeal.

Source: Facebook Vo Hong Ly
On May 31, 2019, Nghe An province public security issued a wanted decision against Phan Cong Hai, 23, who resides in Nghi Loc district, Nghe An province. He is wanted under the charge of Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code for “making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

Le Anh Hung. Artwork by Dinh Truong Chinh for The 88 Project
It has been almost one year since journalist Le Anh Hung was arrested. Since then, he’s been subjected to violent tactics to stop his hunger strike and has been forcibly medicated. He is charged with “abusing democratic freedoms” under Article 331 of the 2015 Criminal Code for posting a letter critical of the government and its proposed law on Special Economic Zones. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

This week, we remember the arrest and trial anniversaries, as well as the birthdays, of the following political prisoners:

From left: Phan Kim Khanh, Nguyen Trung Truc, Nguyen Dinh Thanh

  • Phan Kim Khanh, birthday June 3, student human rights activist sentenced to six years
  • Nguyen Trung Truc, birthday June 6, member of the Brotherhood for Democracy sentenced to 12 years
  • Nguyen Dinh Thanh, a doctor arrested on June 8, 2018 for printing protest leaflets, later sentenced to seven years in prison
Activists at Risk
Environmental activist Ha Van Thanh is at risk of deportation back to Vietnam after trying to seek asylum in the US. His court case in the US is the culmination of an attempted asylum process that has taken him to seven different countries, starting in 2018, after fellow protesters such as Hoang Duc Binh and Nguyen Nam Phong were targeted by authorities in the wake of demonstrations against the Formosa company. Thanh has gone to court three times in the US, where his application for asylum was rejected and his appeal was denied. He is now set to be deported. At this point, government officials could intervene in Thanh’s case, though his fate remains uncertain.


How safe is your state? U.S. scores low on human rights, Reuters, June 6, 2019: “In Asia-Pacific, Vietnam performed poorly on empowerment rights – freedoms related to opinion, expression and assembly. ‘The groups identified as most at risk are human rights advocates, journalists, people with particular political affiliations or beliefs, people who protest or engage in non-violent political activity,’ Brook said.”

Vietnam’s Public Security Ministry to Explore Recriminalization of Drug Use, Radio Free Asia, June 5, 2019: “Trinh said that the government’s desire to criminalize drug use is merely a ploy to control users. ‘Once we recognize them as regular citizens, then they will have to be treated as such. If they are being treated as criminals the government can more easily deal with them. They are much easier to catch or summon,’ said Trinh. A woman who requested anonymity who was once interned at a rehab center spoke about her experience. ‘When I first walked into the assigned room, I was beaten. After the beating I obeyed their every command,’ she said.”


Nguyen Thi Khiem Nhu, born 1987 in Dak Lak, is a book editor and freelance writer based in Ho Chi Minh City. When politics and environmental issues started to impact her life directly, she decided to take action. Khiêm Nhu took to the streets for the environment, but she soon realized this was not enough for her. She changed her profession and spoke up, but not without serious consequences. Watch the full interview with her, here. This is the second of our interview series with female activists in Vietnam.

Also, check out The Vietnamese’s article about The 88 Project’s inception and recent expansion. We speak about the project’s formation, what inspires our team, and why Vietnamese human rights are important to us.


Trial of June 10 protesters on November 29, 2018 in Binh Thuan province, Source: Radio Free Asia
June 10 will mark one year since massive protests over two draft laws on cybersecurity and Special Economic Zones swept through Vietnam. A crackdown on the protesters left at least 127 people behind bars or at risk after their participation in the demonstrations. In this article, we reflect on the protests, their aftermath, and the conditions of the people and communities affected one year later.


Please consider contributing to the GoFundMe for Vi Tran. She recently suffered a brain aneurysm and has undergone several surgeries in Taiwan. Vi is the founder and principal author of The Vietnamese, an important news source focusing on human rights in Vietnam. The 88 Project often relies on the reporting of The Vietnamese in its own research.

© 2019 The 88 Project
Featured Image (top): Nguyen Ngoc Anh at trial on June 6, 2019. Source: Huynh Phuc Hau/VNA via Reuters