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 18-24. Activist Do Cong Duong has been charged with both “abusing democratic freedoms” and “disturbing public order”; he faces up to seven years in prison. Police this week arrested Nguyen Van Quang under Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code for his Facebook posts. Three members of the National Movement to Revive Vietnam, Nguyen Van Dien, Vu Quang Thuan, and Tran Hoang Phuc, will face an appeal trial on July 10. Dien and Phuc are suffering from health problems in prison; so is pro-democracy activist Nguyen Van Tuc, who is serving a 15-year sentence. This week, we also remember political prisoners Nguyen Van Oai and Nguyen Viet Dung, who had birthdays on June 18 and 19, respectively. Oai is serving five years, and Dung is serving seven. Many activists and local community members remain at-risk following nationwide protests over the cybersecurity law and draft law on special economic zones. This includes American Will Nguyen, who was detained on June 10; two weeks after his arrest, some are criticizing the US State Department for not doing more to free him. A religious freedom activist and a former political prisoner were assaulted by police agents this week as well. In international advocacy, read reactions to the Vietnamese government’s violent handling of recent protests and its passage of the cybersecurity law. Under news and analysis, check out reflections on the mass protests and on Will Nguyen’s case. Take action for him by signing a petition for his release or donating to help cover his legal fees.
Please subscribe to the newsletter!
HUMAN RIGHTS & CIVIL SOCIETY
Three members of the National Movement to Revive Vietnam will face their appeal trial on July 10. Nguyen Van Dien, Vu Quang Thuan, and Tran Hoang Phuc were sentenced to six and a half, eight and a half, and six year in prison, respectively, in January 2018 under Article 88 of the 1999 Criminal Code. According to the indictment, Thuan and Dien were accused of posting 17 video clips on the Internet and possessing materials with anti-socialist state content; Phuc was accused of helping them in storing the materials and posting 3 of the 17 clips. Both Dien and Phuc are in poor health in prison, with Dien suffering from stomach issues and Phuc suffering from hepatitis C.
We remember two political prisoners who had birthdays this week. Nguyen Van Oai whose birthday was June 18, is a Catholic social activist serving a five-year sentence for “failing to execute probation” (Article 304). His appeal was denied in January 2018, and in March, he was transferred without notice to Gia Trung prison; his wife reports that he is doing hard labor in prison.
June 19 marked Nguyen Viet Dung‘s birthday. He was sentenced in April 2018 to seven years in prison under Article 88. He is the founder of the Republican Party of Vietnam and had previously been imprisoned after taking part in an environmental protest.
Also this week, religious activist Hua Phi was beaten by police and plainclothes agents in his home on June 22, just hours after receiving a summons from the local authorities to discuss his non-cooperation with an administrative fine. They reportedly beat him to the point of unconsciousness and also threatened his family members. Plainclothes agents also attacked former political prisoner Truong Van Kim, assaulting him from their motorbikes while he was driving. The land rights activist had also been attacked by non-uniformed police in April of 2017.
Human Rights Watch has urged the EU to demand human rights protections in an upcoming meeting between trade representatives over the proposed EU-Vietnam free trade agreement. They state: “Vague commitments will be meaningless and only serve to make the EU feel self-satisfied. Any agreement should include clear provisions to improve human rights and clear consequences. The EU has an opportunity to use its considerable bargaining power on behalf of the Vietnamese people.”
Additionally, Amnesty International has called on the Vietnamese government to release protesters detained in the June 9 and 10 protests over the cybersecurity law and draft law on special economic zones. They have also called for an investigation into allegations of torture of detainees by police, including beating them with wooden sticks for denying police their phone passwords.
NEWS & ANALYSIS
Why Did Viet Police Forcibly Grab US Student?: “None of the reports, whether in media supervised by the Hanoi regime, in dissident media online, or in the Western press, have offered any plausible explanation of why Vietnam’s police chose to mete out such extraordinary treatment to this second-generation Vietnamese-American scholar. A 3,500-word English-language essay posted online by Nguyen on April 30, and then on May 23 in translation offers a clue. In ‘North/South,’ he relates his lengthy effort to disentangle a coherent narrative of Vietnam’s recent history from ‘contradictory but co-existing truths.’ On one hand were the bitter accounts of struggle and betrayal that he absorbed while growing up in Houston’s ‘Little Vietnam,’ and on the other the triumphalist Hanoi propaganda that Nguyen found in his university library.”
Family focused on freedom for Houston man detained in Vietnam: “On Twitter, Nguyen documented some of the early parts of the protest as it moved southbound on Nguyen Van Troi, one of the city’s major streets, named for the Viet Cong guerrilla who tried to assassinate U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in 1964. ‘This is #democracy in #Vietnam,’ Nguyen wrote as a caption to one social media post showing a throng of marchers headed down the street. In another, he said security forces were walking with the demonstrators, saying they ‘relented’ to having the march proceed past police roadblocks.”
In Vietnam, Discontent Lurks Under Surface of Economic Success: “’There’s an overall frustration in society,’ said Alexander Vuving, a political analyst at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii. ‘During the 10 years since Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization, they have seen progress in terms of wealth creation. At the same time, people have seen a lot of corruption scandals. And Vietnamese are very suspicious of Chinese influence.’ Vietnam’s one-party system is governed by a collective leadership involving the Communist Party general secretary and ministers. Activists and bloggers who challenge the legitimacy of the party and government can be jailed — there are currently 169 activists in prison, according to U.S. Representative Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican who has held hearings on Vietnam.”
© 2018 The 88 Project