Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 4/2018 – Week of January 22-28
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 January 22-28. Environmental activists Hoang Duc Binh and Nguyen Nam Phong will now face trial on February 6, 2018, after their trial was postponed just before it was due to start on January 25. Hoa Hao Buddhist Vuong Van Tha, his son, and his two nephews, were sentenced to between six and twelve years in prison for their peaceful activism. This month, we remember the 22 An Dan Dai Dao Buddhists serving multiple years in prison after their arrest in February 2012 and trial in January 2013. Fishermen gathered this week in Quang Binh to petition the government for fair compensation following the Formosa environmental disaster, and locals in Nghe An defended their land from being confiscated after a tense encounter with authorities. In the news, read about social media concerns and the question of long-term change following Vietnam’s recent corruption crackdown. In case you missed it, check out IFEX’s user-friendly map of “10 acts of artistic rebellion,” and listen to our interview with RFA Vietnamese to learn more about our recently-launched Vietnam Political Prisoners Database. Finally, remember that three more activists face trial in the coming week, and please take action for Hoang Duc Binh.
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HUMAN RIGHTS & CIVIL SOCIETY
Prisoners of Conscience
Hoang Duc Binh and Nguyen Nam Phong’s trial was scheduled for January 25 at 8 a.m., but it was postponed shortly before the scheduled time. It’s now slated for February 6, 2018, in Nghe An. The environmental activists were involved in Formosa protests. Binh, vice president of the independent Viet Labour Movement and a well-known blogger who covered news on the environmental disaster, is charged with “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties” under Article 330 and “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State” under Article 331 of the new 2015 Criminal Code. Phong is charged with “resisting persons in the performance of their official duties” under Article 330. Lawyer Ha Huy Son met with Binh on January 24, at Nghi Kim Detention Center in Nghe An province and reported that Binh is in good spirits and his health is normal, although he looks thinner and still has back pain.
Phan Kim Khanh’s family visited him on January 22 for the first time since his trial. Khanh had been transferred from Thai Nguyen province Detention Center to Nam Ha prison in Ha Nam province, which probably means he has not appealed his sentence of 6 years imprisonment and 3 years of probation under Article 88. According to the family, Khanh is in good health and spirits.
NEWS & ANALYSIS
Vietnam’s Social Media Battle: “He recounts the weeks following the 2016 Formosa disaster. ‘It was a bad time for me, my friends and family,’ he says. ‘They [blocked Facebook and Instagram] because of that disaster only, but it affected lives. Our world was closed.’ Many people, he explains, were simply trying to go about their daily lives and weren’t involved in any protests, but their access was blocked anyway. Frustrations were voiced in personal interactions, and the fact that the disruptions were limited to weekends suggested that the government was aware of how upset people would be if access was blocked for a longer period. ‘To me and many of my friends who really cared about the disaster, at that time the only thing we could do is talk about it,’ Phong adds. ‘We wanted to talk about it and share our opinions, we wanted the government to listen to the young people.'”
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
IFEX released their interactive feature, “10 acts of artistic rebellion,” which highlights the stories and works of artists worldwide who have recently faced imprisonment, harassment, or other risks for their activism. Vietnamese dissident singer Mai Khoi is among the featured cases.
Labor and environmental activist, Hoang Duc Binh (right), along with fellow blogger Bach Hong Quyen (left), who is wanted by authorities
Take action for Hoang Duc Binh with Front Line Defenders. Send a letter urging the Vietnamese government to immediately release him and drop all charges against him. Click here to get involved.
You can also take Amnesty International’s Urgent Action for Hoang Duc Binh and Bach Hong Quyen, also an environmental activist who is currently wanted by the Vietnamese authorities.