Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 25/2018 – Week of June 18-24

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.

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Prisoners of Conscience
Do Cong Duong
Land rights and anti-corruption activist Do Cong Duong has been charged with “abusing democratic freedoms” by the police of Bac Giang province. At the same time, he is charged with “disturbing public order” by the police of Tu Son commune, who concluded their investigation on June 16, 2018. Dong was detained in January 2018 after filming a forced eviction. Under this charge, he faces up to seven years in prison.
Nguyen Van Quang
Authorities arrested Nguyen Van Quang of Thanh Hoa province on June 12, charging him under Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code (“making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam”) for Facebook postings encouraging people to protest. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Prisoner collage 2Prisoner collagePrisoner collage 3
Left to right: Nguyen Van Dien, Vu Quang Thuan, and Tran Hoang Phuc
Three members of the National Movement to Revive Vietnam will face their appeal trial on July 10. Nguyen Van DienVu 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.
Nguyen Van Tuc
Nguyen Van Tuc is also in poor health in prison, with graying hair and difficulties eating and sleeping from his heart disease. His wife reported back on his condition after a June 21 visit, stating also that Tuc lacks sufficient air ventilation in his cell. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in April for subversion under Article 79 of the 1999 Criminal Code. Tuc is a member of the Brotherhood for Democracy and previously served time in prison from 2008-2012.
Nguyen Van OaiNguyen Viet Dung
Nguyen Van Oai (l) and Nguyen Viet Dung (r)
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.
Activists at Risk
It has now been two weeks since Will Nguyen, an American citizen, was detained after participating in peaceful protests in Vietnam over the new cybersecurity law and a proposed law on special economic zones that many believe would benefit China. Will was taken into custody on June 10 with a head injury; he was later charged with “disturbing public order.” His confession was later broadcast on state media, but many have questioned its validity, given Vietnam’s previous use of coerced confessions. Many international news outlets have called for his release, but the US State Department has not formally intervened. A consular officer did visit him in detention and reported he is in good health, but his family, as well as Democratic members of Congress in California, are pushing for more.
Meanwhile, activists and protesters continue to be detained, harassed, and physically assaulted; in one case, one young man who was interviewed by Radio Free Asia about the protests and his assault has left home to seek medical treatment. Police are searching for him. The Vietnamesewrites about the particularly tense situation that remains in Ho Chi Minh City. Read this story of a young Vietnamese, detained by chance and brutally beaten by a  mob of police (men and women, old and young) from 2pm to 7-8pm Sunday, June 17, at Tao Dan (district 1, TP. HCM), as they thought he was a protester.

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.

International Advocacy
Canadian Senator Thanh Hai Ngo decried the recently-passed Vietnamese law on cybersecurity, stating: “Without a free internet, there is no safe place left in Vietnam for people to speak freely.” He specifically mentioned the prosecution of political and social activists, such as in the cases of Tran Hoang Phuc, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (Mother Mushroom), and Tran Thi Nga, as the government’s motivation for passing the new law.

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.


Vietnam Mass Protests Expose Hanoi’s China Dilemma: “Much of the fuel for the current wave of anger has accumulated from the toxic legacy of several Chinese investment scandals. This includes the bauxite mining project in the Central Highlands that triggered a nationwide protest in 2009. The Chinese company’s role and the huge environmental threat posed by the toxic sludge triggered a wide spectrum of protest, from dissidents and ranking party members all the way up to the legendary hero retired General Vo Nguyen Giap. Yet the project has continued after some improved environmental safeguards and monitoring from Vietnam’s weak Ministry of Environment. The government was clearly shaken by the last week’s protest. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc tried to appear conciliatory, assuring the public that ‘we have listened to a lot of intellectuals, the people, members of the National Assembly, senior citizens and overseas Vietnamese.’ However in the same week as the prime minister started listening, one of the main venues for political debate, the internet, was subjected to stricter regulation and censorship by the new cybersecurity law, in spite of protests also condemning this new measure.”

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.”


You can support Will Nguyen by signing a petition for his release at or donating through Go Fund Me to help his family cover the cost of legal fees.

© 2018 The 88 Project