Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No.37/2018 – Week of September 17-23
Featured Image: Dao Quang Thuc at his trial on September 19. Source: Vu Thi Ha/ Vietnam News Agency via AP
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 September 17-23. This week, four more activists were sentenced to prison terms in Vietnam. Do Cong Duong, who was arrested after filming a forced eviction, received four years in prison. Dao Quang Thuc, an online activist and peaceful protester, was sentenced to astounding 14 years in prison. And two Facebook users — Nguyen Hong Nguyen and Truong Dinh Khang — were given two- and one-year sentences, respectively, for their online postings critical of the government. It is possible that five more activists could go to trial on October 5, including Luu Van Vinh and Nguyen Van Duc Do. This week, we have an update on Nguyen Van Tuc’s health condition in prison, and we remember two other political prisoners, Tran Anh Kim and Nguyen Van Oai, on the anniversaries of their arrest and trial, respectively. Citizen journalist Ngo Van Dung, who filmed protests in June, is still being held in an unknown location more than two weeks after his arrest. Dr. Nguyen Quang A, a well-known pro-democracy activist, was prohibited from leaving Vietnam this week. Thirty-two members of the European Parliament released a letter calling for human rights improvements in Vietnam ahead of any vote on the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement. Several civil society organizations have also voiced concerns about the agreement. In the news, read about the passing of Vietnam’s President, Tran Dai Quang, and continued criticism over the new Law on Cybersecurity. Please take action for Tran Thi Nga, one of the 14 female political prisoners currently imprisoned in Vietnam, who has received death threats in prison. Please consider donating to our campaign to amplify the voices of female activists and former political prisoners!
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HUMAN RIGHTS & CIVIL SOCIETY
Ha Huy Son, Mr. Duong’s defense counsel, claimed his innocence and argued that his behavior was just to take photos and observe the land acquisition by authorities. He had been arrested after filming a forced eviction in January 2018. There was no evidence from the investigative agency to prove that Mr. Duong opposed the person on duty or abetted anyone, even though they had accused him of “disturbing public order”. Mr. Duong wrote an appeal and sent it to the court. He also faces separate charges of “abusing democratic freedoms,” for which he will be tried in October, also carrying a maximum sentence of seven years. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the sentence against him.
Former teacher Dao Quang Thuc was tried on September 19 in Hoa Binh province and sentenced to 14 years in prison under Article 79 of the 1999 Criminal Code for subversion. Thuc’s lawyer, Le Van Luan, said that the prosecution did not make an adequate case against Thuc, stating, “They showed only that he had tried to make connections [online] with others with similar views.” Thuc’s daughter remarked that he looked frail at trial, and that he had been severely beaten after his October 2017 arrest. Thuc had made online postings with social commentary and participated in protests over the environment and territorial disputes with China.
This week, two more Facebook users were handed prison sentences in Vietnam for simply expressing their viewpoints online. Nguyen Hong Nguyen (above, left) and Truong Dinh Khang (above, right) were tried on September 22 under Article 331 of the 2015 Criminal Code for “abusing democratic freedoms.” In separate trials in the People’s Court of Cai Rang district, Can Tho City, Nguyen was sentenced to two years in prison and Khang to one year.
However, his spirit of courage remains. He even encouraged his son and fellow activists to turn pain into action. Nguyen Van Tuc is a pro-democracy activist and member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, whose 13-year sentence was upheld on appeal on September 14, 2018.
Luu Van Vinh is slated to face trial on October 5. His wife learned of the trial date independently, but no official date has been sent to the lawyers involved. Several others could also be tried along with Vinh, including Nguyen Van Duc Do, Phan Van Trung, Nguyen Quoc Hoan, and Tu Cong Nghia. All face charges under Article 79 of the 1999 Criminal Code for subversion. Vinh and his friend Do had both protested Chinese activity in the South China Sea and the toxic Formosa spill that began in April 2016. Vinh founded a group called the Coalition for Self-Determination for the Vietnamese People, which he had left a few days before his arrest.
The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization also released a statement this week expressing concern over the potential impacts of the EVFTA on working conditions and workers’ rights, as well minority populations, in Vietnam, noting that “the monopoly of the Communist Party over politics threatens basic freedoms such as that of speech, press or religion; human right defenders, bloggers and journalists face physical assaults, harassment, threats; minorities such as the Khmer-Krom suffer repression and marginalisation.” They called on the EU’s leaders and members of Parliament to guarantee that the EVFTA includes protections for these groups of people.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide has submitted its comments to the 39th UN Human Rights Council regarding the situation for freedom of religion in Vietnam. It criticized Vietnam’s Law on Belief and Religion for its restrictions of religious organizations and individuals and notes that all religious communities in Vietnam continue to be targeted with harassment, disruption of events, and even arrests. Read the full submission, here.
NEWS & ANALYSIS
Tran Dai Quang, Hard-Line Vietnamese President, Dies at 61: “Many criticized him because he supported the passage of a cybersecurity law in June that would require Facebook and other technology companies to open offices in Vietnam and store ‘important’ user data on local servers. Rights groups say such a move would enable further government repression of political dissidents. ‘Since Mr. Tran Dai Quang was highly educated, many people had a lot of hope for him,’ the human rights lawyer Tran Vu Hai said in an interview. But when he took over the security ministry, Mr. Hai said, ‘the situation for dissidents remained the same.'”
Please take action with Amnesty International for Tran Thi Nga, an imprisoned labor rights activist. She is facing harsh conditions in prison, including death threats at the hands of her cellmate. Send a message demanding that Vietnam protect Nga from ill treatment, release her from prison immediately, and investigate the allegations against her cellmate. We hope to amplify the voices of powerful female activists and former political prisoners with our video interview series. Consider donating to the video campaign, here!
© 2018 The 88 Project