Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 28/2018 – Week of July 9-15
Above: Detained American Will Nguyen, Source: ABC News/family photo
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 July 9-15. On Tuesday, an appeals court struck down the appeals of National Movement to Revive Vietnam members Nguyen Van Dien, Vu Quang Thuan, and Tran Hoang Phuc, upholding their sentences. The court refused to see critical evidence in the case for the second time. Amnesty International and the US Embassy in Vietnam both spoke out against the trial. After being detained for over a month without formal charges, pro-democracy activist Nguyen Trung Linh has been charged under Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code; he faces up to 20 years in prison. Political prisoners Tran Thi Xuan, Nguyen Trung Ton, and Nguyen Bac Truyen have all been transferred to prisons farther away from their families, the latest in a string of recent transfers that many believe are intended to isolate prisoners from their supporters. Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh has continued her hunger strike in prison, citing poor treatment. Hoang Duc Binh is also suffering extremely difficult conditions in prison. Detained American graduate student Will Nguyen faces trial on July 20 for “disturbing public order” after a June 10 protest; supporters say the US has not done enough to press for Will’s release. In international advocacy, read three submissions to the UN ahead of Vietnam’s Universal Periodic Review in early 2019. In the news, read an analysis of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Vietnam, implications of the recent nationwide protests in Vietnam, and reflections on continued religious persecution. In case you missed it, check out the new search features on our Vietnam Political Prisoner Database, and read a recap of the first six months of arrests, trials, attacks on activists, and other human rights events in Vietnam. Lastly, please join us in our new crowdfunding campaign: Run for Vietnamese Activists! We are raising funds to produce video interviews with female activists and former political prisoners to highlight the unique struggles they face and their incredible stories. Please donate and share the campaign!
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HUMAN RIGHTS & CIVIL SOCIETY
An appeals court in Hanoi denied the appeals of three members of the National Movement to Revive Vietnam on July 10. Nguyen Van Dien, Vu Quang Thuan, and Tran Hoang Phuc were sentenced to six and a half, eight, and six years 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. Family members were not allowed to attend the appeal trial, and the court still refused to show the videos in question; the videos were also blocked at the first trial in January. Defense lawyer Ha Huy Son said of the move: “This left both the convicted men and their lawyers with no way to debate the prosecutors. In other words, the court issued its ruling without considering the evidence, which is a violation of Vietnamese law.”
Amnesty International condemned the original sentences and called for their dismissal ahead of the appeal trial, with their Senior Director of Global Operations Minar Pimple saying: “These three men have committed no crime; they have merely used social media to express opinions that the authorities do not like – namely by supporting the protection of human rights and social justice in the country.” The US Embassy in Vietnam released a statement following the appeal trial expressing disappointment in the outcome.
American graduate student Will Nguyen will face trial on July 20. He was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City after taking part in a protest on June 10 and was shown to be bleeding from his head while being detained. Authorities allege he incited protesters. He faces charges of “disturbing public order,” which carries a maximum of seven years in prison. Though US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo allegedly raised his case during his visit to Vietnam last week, his family and many supporters say the US has not done enough to ensure his release.
Authorities also transferred Brotherhood for Democracy member Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton (middle) from the B14 detention center in Hanoi to Dak Trung prison camp in Dak Lak province, about 1,000 km from his home. Ton is serving a 12-year sentence.
They also transferred his co-defendant, religious freedom activist Nguyen Bac Truyen (right). Truyen was moved from the B14 detention center in Hanoi to An Diem prison camp in Quang Nam province, over 800 km from his family. He is serving an 11-year sentence.
Authorities had also recently transferred a third and four co-defendant of Ton and Truyen’s. Pham Van Troi was sent from B14 detention center in Hanoi to Sao prison camp, and Truong Minh Duc was also transferred from B14 detention center in Hanoi to prison No. 6 in Thanh Chuong, Nghe An province. Troi and Duc are serving seven and 12-year sentences, respectively. All four co-defendants had their sentences upheld on appeal in June 2018. Authorities commonly transfer prisoners away from home provinces and communities in an attempt to isolate them from support networks.
NEWS & ANALYSIS
A democratic revolution has just begun in Vietnam: “It is telling that these mostly orderly yet massive demonstrations were organized without any dissident leaders. The reason was quite simple: about 200 of the country’s most prominent activists and democracy advocates are currently in prison. Others were blocked from leaving their homes by plainclothes police, with some of their homes even locked by authorities from the outside. Still, the SEZ law, cybersecurity law and a fear of China have united people against the Communist Party-led government. A growing number of Vietnamese see government officials and Party leaders as traitors, particularly since they have consistently failed to protect the country’s sovereignty and fishermen from China in the contested South China Sea.”
Vietnamese Religious Minorities Continue to Face Persecution: “Much of the widescale and violent discrimination against religious groups in Vietnam comes from both the provincial and local level. While the national government is not as harsh as the many of the localized entities, they still regularly persecute breakaway Buddhist groups and religious dissenters. A report released by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom highlights this ongoing problem. While we are not seeing widescale religious violence as is found in places like Nigeria, we are seeing faith groups regularly harassed, imprisoned, and tortured by local governments and extrajudicial groups acting on behalf of the government. Groups that are subject to this persecution include local religions such as Caodaism, offshoot Buddhist groups, and Christian groups. In 2017 Hoa Hao Buddhists in An Giang, in Southwest Vietnam, were consistently harassed, placed under house arrest, and assaulted by local police forces. In a similar ongoing case, members of the Khmer Krom religious and ethnic group in the Tra Vinh Province regularly have their property confiscated and their temples destroyed.”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
We have also updated our Vietnam Political Prisoner Database with new search fields including “Year of Expected Release,” “Year of Trial,” and “Known Affiliations.” Check out the new features, and stay tuned for more changes in the coming months.
We are excited to announce the official launch of our new crowdfunding campaign: Run for Vietnamese Activists! The campaign aims to raise funds to produce video interviews with female activists at risk and former political prisoners. There are currently 15 female political prisoners in Vietnam. And even more are facing increasing harassment and physical assaults. Female prisoners and activists face additional risks and difficulties, such as a lack of access to feminine hygiene supplies and separation from young children. Follow us on Twitter @The88Project and on Instagram for the latest updates on the campaign.
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