Hanoi-based Activist Reportedly Held after Calling for Peaceful Demonstrations Last Week

Mr. Nguyen Trung Linh (second from left) with other activists calling for multi-party democracy

Defend the Defenders, June 1, 2018


Mr. Nguyen Trung Linh, a pro-democracy activist in Hanoi, was reportedly held by Vietnam’s security forces due to his statement last week calling for peaceful demonstrations nationwide to protest China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).

Several days ago, Defend the Defenders learned from a source that Mr. Linh had been detained by security forces on May 27 afterhe appeared in centralHanoi.

Some activists tried to connect with Mr. Linh by phone but failed. Others came to his apartment in Hanoi but it was closed. His neighbors told them that Mr. Linh had been arrested and his house had been searched.

However, it is unclear when security forces arrested him and when they conducted thehouse search. Noone knows whether he has beencharged,and if so withwhich article ofthe Penal Code.

Mr. Linh’s detention seems to be linked tohis callfor peaceful demonstrations posted on his Facebook account Trung Linh Nguyenon May 25. Accordingly, he called all people across the nation to gather in cities’ centers in the morning of May 27 to protest China’s invasion in the East Sea and the weak response of the Vietnamese communist government to Beijing’s aggressiveness in the resource-rich sea which is also important for international trade.

Mr. Linh, 51, obtainedabachelor degree intheCzech Republic. After returning to Vietnamin the early 1990s, he often voiced to support multi-party democracy. He was said to have established a number of pro-democracy parties but they were unpopular among Vietnamese.

Once he was arrested due to his activities and sent to a mental clinics for treatment for several months.

Several years ago, he joined the Brotherhood for Democracy for a short time. Recently, he has been an independent activist, not closely connected with othercivil society organizations in Vietnam.

He may face charges of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 or”conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code. People convicted under the first may face imprisonment of up to seven years in prison, and 20 years in prison underthe second.

Last week, after the call byMr. Linh, security forces in many Vietnamese localities were mobilized, ready to deal with potential public gatherings. Authorities in cities sent plainclothes agents to private residences of local activists during the weekend to effectively place them under house arrest. Some were only allowed to go out under close surveillance of security forces.

Vietnam’s communist governments does not welcome spontanous public demonstrations on most issues, including the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea. In recent years, security forces have suppressed many peaceful demonstrations and persecuted and jailed a number of activists for their participation under allegation of “causing public disorders.”

Mr. Linh’s detention isbe part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on local dissent which started in late 2015 with the arrest of prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai. Vietnam arrested nearly 50 activists last year, and four so far this year namely Vu Van Hung, Do Cong Duong, Nguyen Duy Son and Nguyen Trung Linh. Most of them have been charged with controversial articles of the national security provisions in the Penal Code.

Over 40 activists have been convicted and sentenced to heavy sentences between three and 16 years in prison since mid-2017.