Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter No. 41/2019 – Week of October 7-13

Featured Image: Nguyen Nang Tinh, Source: Nghe Anh Times.

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 7-13. After enduring death threats from his cellmates, Nguyen Ngoc Anh was viciously attacked in prison and then put into solitary confinement. And Huynh Truong Ca is now on hunger strike to protest the denial of medical treatment for his multiple diseases. Authorities have announced that they will try Facebooker and musician Nguyen Nang Tinh on October 17. Authorities have also recommended human rights lawyer Tran Vu Hai for prosecution for “tax evasion.” Hai had petitioned to represent Truong Duy Nhat on his charge of “abuse of position and power,” but the request was denied, and Nhat’s new lawyer, Dang Dinh Manh, has expressed worries about the authorities complicating Man’s efforts to defend his client. Plainclothes police physically assaulted a group of Hoa Hao Buddhists belonging to an unrecognized branch of the religion while they were heading to protest the demolition of their temple this week. And public security officers detained and questioned three activists at a seminar on the East Sea. In the news, read about the discussions over labor code changes in Vietnam. In case you missed it, we released the trailer of our interview with teacher and activist Dao Thu Hue. Take action for Facebooker Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong, who was arrested in late September, by sharing Human Rights Watch’s statement calling for his release.


Prisoners of Conscience
Nguyen Ngoc Anh is in a dangerous situation after he was viciously beaten by a cellmate. He sought treatment in prison but was refused. His wife reported that he was having trouble walking and using his hands at her recent visit with him. After the attack, Anh was forced into solitary confinement. Anh has refused to admit guilt and is appealing his six-year prison sentence. He has been held with common criminal inmates and has been suffering from severe physical and mental harassment– including death threats– for two months, which he believes to be inflicted upon him at the command of the detention center leadership. He is now in fear for his life after becoming increasingly targeted. Anh’s birthday was October 12, his second spent behind bars.
Anh revealed that the detention center ignored his requests for change rooms.
Anh wrote a complaint to report his cellmate’s illegal actions, as well as a request for medical treatment to see if any of his limbs were broken. In response, the detention medial center just quickly checked up and concluded that he got osteoarthritis pain. However, it was so painful that Anh was unable to eat and sleep. Despite his health condition, a senior detention official advised him to accept the reality and comply with the detention regulations.
The People’s Court of Nghe An Province will try Facebooker and human rights activist Nguyen Nang Tinh on October 17. He is being tried on charges of making “propaganda against the state” under Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code. Arrested in late May, he now faces up to 12 years behind bars. In addition to his other forms of activism, Tinh often sings songs that have been outlawed by the Communist regime.
Huynh Truong Ca began a hunger strike in Xuan Loc prison camp on October 4 to protest a lack of medical treatment. Ca is suffering from several medical issues, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. A member of the constitutional rights group, Hien Phap, Huynh Truong Ca was arrested in a 2018 crackdown on the group and sentenced to 5.5 years in prison.
Source: Facebook Tran Vu Hai
Authorities have recommended lawyer Tran Vu Hai and his wife Ngo Tuyet Phuong for prosecution under charges of tax evasion under Article 161 of the 2015 Criminal Code. Two others have also been implicated in the charges in what was allegedly a fraudulent property transaction. In July, police issued a search warrant of Hai’s office and took away a large amount of materials not related to the case. These materials included the dossiers of multiple important cases, such as the case of Truong Duy Nhat. Hai is a well-known human rights lawyer, leading many to believe that the charges against him are politically-motivated. The Ministry of Public Security recently refused Hai’s request to represent Truong Duy Nhat at trial.

Truong Duy Nhat’s current lawyer, Dang Dinh Manh, told Radio Free Asia that the authorities might intentionally put up barriers for Manh in his process of trying to defend Nhat. Nhat, a well-known former political prisoner and blogger, has been indicted on charges of “abuse of position and power” for an alleged illegal land purchase. Nhat was kidnapped from Thailand, where he was attempting to apply for asylum, by Vietnamese security agents in January and forcibly returned to Vietnam. Manh reported that authorities are trying to move the venue of Nhat’s trial from Da Nang province to Ha Noi, which he argues is illegal. Authorities also forced Manh and Nhat to reschedule a planned meeting. We wrote an analysis of the indictment against Truong Duy Nhat, here, including how Nhat’s case raises questions regarding Vietnamese land law and why the charge against him is politically-motivated.
This week, we remember the arrest anniversaries, as well as the birthdays, of the following political prisoners:
  • A Tach, Montagnard Christian activist, arrested October 11, 2012, sentenced to 11 years in prison
  • Tran Thi Xuan, birthday October 10, Catholic social activist and member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, sentenced to nine years in prison
  • Pham Van Troi, birthday October 10, writer and member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, sentenced to seven years in prison
  • Le Minh The, online activist, arrested October 10, 2018, sentenced to two years in prison
Activists at Risk
Plainclothes agents attacked a group of Hoa Hao Buddhists in An Giang province this week. The group was en route to demonstrate the demolition of their temple, which was under threat of destruction for the second time in recent weeks. While Hoa Hao Buddhism is recognized by the state, this group of protesters belongs to an unrecognized branch of the religion. The state-approved Hoa Hao Buddhist group had planned to tear down the temple, citing the need to build a completely new one. Those opposing the demolition said that the temple should be preserved for its religious importance and could be fixed with repairs. Several Hoa Hao Buddhists belonging to unrecognized groups are currently in prison for their religious activism.

On October 6, public security officers questioned three activists, who are members of the unrecognized Chan Hung TV – Revive Vietnam Television (CHTV) media group. They were detained during a workshop on the East Sea. Le Dung Vova, Tran Thi My Linh (Cat Linh), and Anton Tuan were all detained and interrogated about their journalism activities; their equipment was also confiscated. They were released later in the evening. The detentions came as tensions around Chinese maritime activity in Vanguard Bank continue to rise.


Labor Code Reforms Set for Debate in Vietnam, Ha Nguyen, Voice of America, October 10, 2019: “One factor motivating the move to allow more labor unions is Vietnam’s trade agreement with the European Union. The pact requires the Southeast Asian nation to increase worker protections, including through more union representation. The agreement was signed in June but its effective date will not be known until it receives legislative approval. Human Rights Watch, however, said that the agreement does not go far enough and that the EU should press Vietnam not just on labor rights but also on human rights more broadly.”

Vietnam a lonely island of resistance to China, Richard Javad Heydarian, Asia Times, October 10, 2019: “There are rising voices, usually stifled in Vietnam’s closed and authoritarian political system, calling for greater internationalization of the nation’s disputes with China. A group of Vietnamese experts suggested this week that Vietnam should sue China for violating its sovereignty under international law at The Hague, a move that would raise the diplomatic ante on the Vanguard Bank and other contested features.”


“When enough people believe in doing the right things, and eliminating the bad, the environment in which we live will improve.” These wise words come from teacher and activist Dao Thu Hue, who we spoke with about life as a female activist. Full interview coming soon! Watch the trailer, here.


A profile picture on Vuong’s Facebook with a caption that calls for the release of political prisoner Tran Huynh Duy Thuc. Source: Facebook Vuong Nguyen
Take action with Human Rights Watch (HRW) for Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong, a businessman and Facebooker who was arrested in late September. Share this statement, urging authorities to free him and drop the charges against him. HRW notes that “Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong has expressed views supporting democracy in Vietnam and criticized the Communist Party of Vietnam for corruption and monopolizing power,” and that none of his posts incite violence.
© 2019 The 88 Project