Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 25/2018 – Weeks of August 27-September 2 and September 3-9
Featured Image: Engineer Nguyen Ngoc Anh, arrested in Ben Tre province on August 30.
Greetings from The 88 Project! We are bringing you news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the weeks of August 27-September 3 and September 4-9. Political and environmental activist Nguyen Trung Truc will go to trial on September 12, and land rights activist Do Cong Duong will face trial on his first set of charges on September 17. Former teacher Dao Quang Thuc has his trial set for September 19, and pro-democracy activist Nguyen Van Tuc will appeal his 13-year sentence on September 14. Authorities have charged at least three online activists within the past two weeks with alleged crimes against the state, including an engineer charged under Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code for “making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State.” In addition, trials continue for those involved in June 2018 protests in Binh Thuan province. Political prisoner Tran Huynh Duy Thuc remains on hunger strike after several weeks, with his family unable to receive news on his condition from prison authorities. We think of him this week, as well as religious freedom advocate Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton, who spent another birthday in prison on September 2. Several activists remain at risk this week after being questioned or detained in recent days; several activists were also beaten by police. Police have released some activists after questioning but are still holding others, whose whereabouts remain unknown. Read about an environmental protest over a waste management facility, another alleged case of police brutality, and several pieces of international advocacy. The International Federation for Human Right’s Secretary General has been denied entry into Vietnam for the World Economic Forum; the organization had recently co-authored a statement responding to Vietnam’s report to the UN for is upcoming Universal Periodic Review. In the news, learn more about Vietnamese activists’ relationships with the late US Senator John McCain and perspectives on the draft bill on Special Economic Zones and the relationship between human rights and global financial instruments. Please take action to help us reach our funding goal for our video interview series! So far, we have raised enough funds to start production on the first two interviews with female activists. Please consider donating, here.
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HUMAN RIGHTS & CIVIL SOCIETY
Two men were also arrested on September 1 in Can Tho province. Doanh Khanh Vinh Quang and Bui Manh Dong were arrested for their Facebook postings criticizing the government and calling for protests.
Additionally, seventeen more people were tried in Binh Thuan province for their roles in June 2018 national protests, which, according to national media, brought the total number of prosecuted protesters in Binh Thuan to 32. While protests were mainly peaceful, there were reports of some violent tactics used in Binh Thuan specifically, though The 88 Project cannot confirm these claims and also recognizes that media reporting on this story inside Vietnam is run by the state itself. Read our report and analysis on the June 2018 protests’ aftermath and resulting arrests, here.
- Police kidnapped and held former political prisoner Nguyen An for twelve days, refusing to give his family information about his location. He was imprisoned from 1979-1983 and had participated in June 2018’s widespread protests.
- Blogger and active Facebook user Ngo Van Dung was taken into custody on Septemner 4. He situation remains unclear, and many fear he has been formally arrested. Authorities have not given his wife information about his whereabouts.
- Facebook users Xuan Hong and Pham Vu Phong were allegedly detained in Ho Chi Minh City on September 2. Their families also do not know their whereabouts and have not received information on formal charges.
- On September 4, Tran Huu Dao, a teacher, was kidnapped and assaulted, his phone destroyed. He has been vocal about human rights issues and believes he was kidnapped by plainclothes police.
- Police held and interrogated blogger and prominent Facebook user Ngo Thanh Tu for over 24 hours between August 30-31, using force against him which he claims amounted to torture.
Here, The Vietnamese reflects on the concerted government attempts to quell public dissent since the June 2018 protests.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) have spoken out against Vietnam’s report to the UN ahead of its Universal Periodic Review in January 2019, calling parts of the report false and not conducive to an open human rights conversation. “The government report for the UPR is full of statements that defy reality and mask the fierce repression of civil society that has drawn strong criticism from the international community,” said VCHR President Vo Van Ai. Read the organizations’ response to the Vietnamese government’s report, here.
On September 9, FIDH announced that Vietnam had denied entry of its Secretary General, Debbie Stothard, into the country. She is an invited participant of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Hanoi from September 11-13 and had already arrived at the airport in Hanoi before being refused entry. “Whatever inconvenience I am being subjected to is nothing compared to the attacks on Vietnam human rights defenders and the media,” Stothard said on social media.
NEWS & ANALYSIS
John McCain embodies US-Vietnam reconciliation: “As an ardent advocate for human rights, freedom, democracy and the rule of law, during his numerous trips to the one-party state, besides holding talks with Vietnamese leaders and officials, the maverick senator sought to meet rights activists and political dissidents. In fact, he strongly and consistently urged the US to support ‘all Vietnamese citizens who seek to use peaceful means to build a strong and prosperous country that respects human rights and the rule of law.'”
FAQs About The Special Economic Zones and Vietnam’s SEZ Draft Bill: “7. Is There Any Alternative Solution To The SEZ Project? Experts point out that the SEZ idea was something that belongs to the last century, that it has become out of date, and that the SEZs are not relevant to the current circumstances of Vietnam. Instead, the urgent thing to do now is to launch a fundamental and comprehensive institutional reform in the nation, focusing on: – setting the private sector as the basic economic sector, contracting the state sector to its minimum; – recognizing and protecting private ownership of land; – establishing democracy, and protecting and promoting freedom rights to mobilize the citizenry for the development cause of the nation.”
Human Rights Safeguards Take a Backseat in New Global Economics Institutions: “As the EU expands its regional economic presence, however, it is struggling to balance its commercial interests with its promotion of human rights. When the military overthrew Thailand’s civilian government in 2014, for example, the EU frozediscussions on an economic and political cooperation agreement with the country. But the EU lifted sanctions after only partial government reform efforts. Thailand has continued to resist EU pressure for real political liberalization, setting a date for a general election, but allowing the current prime minister—the leader of the 2014 coup d’état—to remain in office. Meanwhile, an EU-Vietnam FTA remains on the table, even as Hanoi continues to hold over a hundred human rights activists captive. As ASEAN nations become higher value trade partners, the economic interests of the EU, its member states, and other nations are likely to trump international human rights concerns, diluting protections contained within trade agreements.”
We are excited to announce that so far we have raised enough funds to produce two episodes for our interview series with Vietnamese female activists and former political prisoners! Stay tuned for the release! We have almost two months left to reach the rest of our goal of $5000. Please donate, here.
© 2018 The 88 Project