Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 39/2017 – Week of November 20-26

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Onto the news, analysis, and actions regarding human rights and civil society in Vietnam during the week of November 20-26. Mother Mushroom’s appeal trial is set for November 30. She has lost one of her lawyers, Vo An Don, after he was disbarred just days before the trial. Authorities have announced that video bloggers Vu Quang Thuan and Nguyen Van Dien will be prosecuted under Article 88, facing up to 12 years in prison. Activists were harassed after a meeting with EU delegates this week, mirroring an incident last week in which three activists were detained also following a meeting with EU representatives. Read two eye-opening pieces, one investigating the different types of blogging in Vietnam, and one outlining labor abuses of female workers at a Samsung plant, in the analysis section. We remember blogger and entrepreneur Tran Huynh Duy Thuc as his birthday, November 29, is approaching. Please take action for Mother Mushroom ahead of her appeal trial.

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Prisoners of Conscience
 Mother Mushroom standing
Imprisoned blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, a.k.a. Me Nam, will face an appeal trial on November 30in Nha Trang. She was sentenced to ten years in prison in June 2017. In prison, Quynh’s health is still of great concern. Quynh’s mother, Ms. Nguyen Tuyet Lan, visited her on October 23 and shared on Facebook that Quynh was in poor health.
For the Day of the Imprisoned Writer, Madeleine Thien, of Canada, wrote a letter to Quynh for PEN International: “You wrote about the struggles of others, and you advocated for the release of political prisoners, and for this, your freedom was taken away.” Read the full letter, hereNeither Vietnam nor any Southeast Asian nation supported the UN Resolution on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity this week.
Lawyer Vo An Don, one of Quynh’s defense counsels, was disbarred from the Bar Federation of Phu Yen province on Sunday November 26. He won’t be able to represent Quynh at her appeal trial on November 30State-owned media announced the reason for the disciplinary measure as follows: “Mr. Vo An Don has abused the right to freedom of expression, having had many articles, speeches, and responses to foreign media that were fabricated and that spoke ill of the lawyers, procedure-conducting bodies, the Party, and the Vietnamese State, in order to incite, propagate, distort the truth, impacting extremely badly upon the prestige of the Party, the State, procedure-conducting bodies, and Vietnamese lawyers.”
Vu Quang Thuan and Nguyen Van Dien
Police have finished the investigations of Vu Quang Thuan (right) and Nguyen Van Dien (left), who have been in pre-trial detention since their arrests on March 3, 2017 for “making and distributing video clips with bad content on the Internet.” They will be prosecuted under Art. 88 cl.1 and face up to 12 years in prison. Just days before their arrest, they uploaded a video series called “Guide to Lawful Protest.” They are leading members of the Vietnam Progressive Movement and have been watched by the state for many years; read more on their backgrounds here.
Lawyer Ha Huy Son, Nguyen Van Dien’s defense counsel, met with Dien for the first time on November 24 in Detention center No. 1 in Hanoi, and shared that Dien is in good health and spirit.
Activists at Risk
Less than a week after three activists were detained following a meeting with EU delegates, on November 21, Vietnamese civil society activists were watched and intimidated following another series of meetings with foreign representatives to discuss the on-the-ground human rights situation in Vietnam. At this meeting were former prisoners of conscience, including Bui Thi Minh Hang, who was among the three detained last week by authorities; Ms. Trang, prisoner of conscience Pham Van Troi’s wife; and several other human rights campaigners.
On November 16, Nguyen Quang A, Bui Thi Minh Hang, and Pham Doan Trang were detained and later released after meeting with EU delegates. Trang was detained for several hours before being released in the evening, and her communication devices were confiscated. Dr. Quang A reports that this is his fourteenth arrest this year alone, highlighting the constant harassment and surveillance that activists face inside Vietnam. A piece from The Vietnamese comments on plainclothes and uniformed police’s numerous confrontations with activists that disrupt normal life activities and inflict mental and physical injuries: “Doan Trang said no one in Vietnam could really tell for sure each time an activist got snatched by the police, that whether it would be just for a few hours of questioning, or the government would press charges and put someone away for a couple of years.”


Blogging Three Ways in Vietnam’s Political Blogosphere: “The existence of different kinds of blog groups reveals the disingenuous policy of Vietnamese officials in managing the blogosphere. On the one hand, the CPV refuses to recognize blogs as a journalistic activity and continues to crack down on activist bloggers. On the other hand, blogs have been used by government officials to influence public opinion, expose political scandals and publicize sensationalist news. On the surface, the three kinds of blogging activities in Vietnam illustrate the beginning of online freedom of expression where bloggers can express their political viewpoints for or against the authorities. However, the rise of pro-CPV and anonymous bloggers — who seem to have had their safety guaranteed in contrast to the risks facing activist bloggers — proves that this kind of freedom is limited. Instead, online freedom has been distorted and used by Vietnamese leaders for their own political purposes. The politics of blogging is particularly risky for known activist bloggers who criticize the CPV.”

Stories of Women Workers in Vietnam’s Electronics Industry: “Female workers reported exhausting working conditions include alternating day and night shifts for periods of 4 days; standing for the entire 9 – 12-hour shift; and high noise levels regularly exceeding Vietnamese legal limits (MOH, 2016) (MONRE, 2010). Pregnant workers stand for the entire shift but are permitted to take breaks. However, most of them try to not take breaks because if Samsung thinks they are taking too much time off, the company deducts money from their wages. Time is controlled to such an extent that workers have to request ‘toilet cards’ to be able to go to the bathroom in order to maximize time on the production line.”

Vietnam – Deputy PM’s Flip-Flopped Position Signaled Government Will Take Tough Measures on Cybersecurity Law?: “Deputy PM Dam’s recent defense of the government’s use of technical measures to censor and control the Internet and social media – to some people – adds worries that Vietnam would – by all means – pass the proposed Cybersecurity Draft Law. To defend the government’s legitimacy and absolute power, the control over the media had never slipped off the Party’s grips. Deputy PM Dam’s stand on the issue of Cybersecurity could give glimpses of the Party’s unanimity on maintaining that control by expanding and strengthening Internet censorship in the country, regardless of how many factions within the Politburo we may think there are.”


tran huynh duy thuc 3

November 29 is Tran Huynh Duy Thuc‘s birthday. It is the ninth birthday he has spent in prison since his arrest in May 2009. An entrepreneur and social and political blogger, he was sentenced to sixteen years in prison on January 20, 2010 — one of the longest sentences for a current prisoner of conscience in Vietnam. In 2014, we released a video about Thuc with a message from his father in honor of his birthday. Thuc’s family and many followers remain committed to his release, despite pressure from authorities.


Take PEN International’s action  for Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (Me Nam), calling for her immediate release ahead of her appeal trial on November 30.

© 2017 The 88 Project