Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 41/2018 – Week of October 15-21
Mother Mushroom and her children on the plane after her sudden release from prison on October 17. Source: Vietnam Bloggers Network
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 October 15-21. After two years in prison for her social and environmental activism, blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (Mother Mushroom) is free and in the United States with her family. Read about her release, her time in prison, and her thank you to her supporters. Unfortunately, the same day, medical worker Nguyen Dinh Thanh was sentenced to seven years in prison for printing leaflets to protest a proposed law in Vietnam. Also on October 17, three protesters were sentenced to between two and three years in prison for participating in a demonstration. And the following day, a court upheld veteran and environmental activist Le Dinh Luong’s 20-year prison sentence. Read about political prisoners Tran Huynh Duy Thuc and Nguyen Van Tuc’s conditions in prison from recent family visits, as well as a recommended prosecution against female blogger Huynh Thuc Vy and a violent dispersal of a protest in Yen Bai province. We also highlight a fact sheet about the proposed EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement and a case of potential police brutality. In the news, read about the upcoming ratification of the Pacific trade agreement and the U.S.’s request to free more dissidents in Vietnam. Take action to support the remaining female political prisoners and activists, and consider making a donation to our crowdfunding campaign before it ends!
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HUMAN RIGHTS & CIVIL SOCIETY
Quynh gave an interview in which she described harsh prison conditions that she faced, including a lack of privacy for female prisoners and multiple hunger strikes, the longest being 16 days. While she believes her release coincided with Mattis’s visit to Vietnam, she denied the claim that Vietnam is softening its stance on political prisoners. Release in exchange for exile in a common tactic used by the Vietnamese government, such as in the cases of human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and blogger Dieu Cay.
On October 18, environmental activist Le Dinh Luong‘s 20-year sentence was upheld on appeal. He reportedly told the court: “My deeds will be judged by history. I will be happy to be in prison if the nation grows up in freedom and democracy.” He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in August for his human rights and democracy advocacy. Human Rights Watch called for his release ahead of the appeal trial, stating: “This is an opportunity for the court to right this wrong, distinguish between criticism of the government and actual threats to national security, and defend everyone’s right to free expression.”
On October 17, The People’s Court of Binh Duong province held the first instance court against Nguyen Dinh Thanh (born 1991, from Binh Duong province) and sentenced him to seven years in prison for “making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code. Thanh created and printed more than 3,300 leaflets, containing pictures and articles, for use to protest the draft law on Special Economic Zones. On June 8, he was arrested by the Investigation Agency of Binh Duong province while copying those documents. Authorities alleged he also posted anti-state content on his Facebook account.
On October 17, The People’s Court of Binh Tan Ward, Ho Chi Minh City held the first instance court against Le Trong Nghia (born 1987, from Long An), Pham Thi Thu Thuy (born 1974, from Tien Giang) and Vo Van Tru (born 1982, from Long An). They all were charged with “Disturbing public order” under Article 318 of the 2015 Penal Code. According to the indictment, on the morning of June 11, the police force of Binh Tan Ward, in cooperation with some other agencies, was mobilized to ensure public order at the main gate of the Pouyuen Company, where a demonstration against the draft laws on Cybersecurity and Special Economic Zone was occurring. Nghia, Thuy, and Tru joined the demonstration. They allegedly threw stones and bricks at security forces. The court sentenced Nghia to 2 years and 3 months; Thuy to 2 years and 6 months, and Tru 3 years and 3 months in jail.
NEWS & ANALYSIS
Vietnam to ratify Pacific trade pact next month: “Trump has singled out Vietnam for its gaping trade gap with the United States and urged Hanoi to buy more American goods, including military equipment. But trade troubles have not appeared to dent relations between the close military and political allies as they seek to counterbalance China’s rising influence in Asia. Vietnam is a hub for cheap manufactured goods from Adidas shoes, Intel processors and Samsung phones, and one of the region’s fastest growing economies that has largely been buoyed by globalisation and open trade. A long-delayed free trade agreement between Vietnam and the European Union inched closer to finalisation this week after the European Commission submitted the deal for final approval from the EU’s 28 members and the European Parliament.”
After this week’s much-welcomed release of Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (Mother Mushroom) from prison in Vietnam, we remember the female prisoners who remain imprisoned. Please take action with Amnesty International for Tran Thi Nga, an imprisoned female labor rights activist. And please consider a donation to our crowdfunding campaign! With the funds, we will create an interview series with the female activists, sharing details about their backgrounds, personal lives, and motivations for becoming human rights advocates.
© 2018 The 88 Project