Three Vietnamese Activists Detained After Meeting with EU Delegation

Ms. Doan Trang (second from left and Mr. Nguyen Chi Tuyen (fourth from right) at a meeting with EU lawmakers in the bloc’s diplomatic headquarters in Hanoi on February 23 this year

By Defend the Defenders, November 17, 2017

Three out of four Vietnamese activists attending a meeting with a high-ranking delegation from the EU have been detained and questioned for hours by security forces immediately after the talks.

Dr. Nguyen Quang A, Ms. Bui Thi Minh Hang, and Ms. Doan Trang were taken by security forces in Hanoi at noon on November 16 after the meeting with the Political Counselors of the EU Member States at the Office of the EU Delegation to Vietnam.

Dr. A said at 11.30 AM on Thursday, when he left the Lotte Building in which the headquarters of the 28-nation bloc’s diplomatic delegation is located, he was detained by four police officers and taken to a police station in Gia Lam district where he resides.

At the police station, he was interrogated by a senior officer about the meeting with the guests from the EU. However, he refused to cooperate with him and police released him at 4.48 PM, Dr. A wrote on his Facebook account.

Meanwhile, police also detained Ms. Hang and Ms. Trang right after they left the Lotte Building. Police separated the two female activists and took them in two directions.

While Hang was taken to a police station in Thanh Cong ward not far from the EU’s headquarters, Trang was brought to the headquarters of the Investigation Agency under Hanoi Police Department on 89 Tran Hung Dao street.

Hang was also questioned but released in the evening while police kept Trang until late night. They took her to her private residence but still keep her under house arrest.

It was reported that police had confiscated all items of Ms. Trang, including her cell phones.

Nguyen Chi Tuyen who is popular on Facebook and Twitter under penname Anh Chi, was the fourth activist participating in the meeting. However, he left the Lotte Building safely after the event.

The meeting is part of preparations for an annual Human Rights Dialogue between the EU and Vietnam scheduled in early December. The activists were reportedly providing current situation in Vietnam regarding human rights abuse and the environmental disaster caused by the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant last year and the government’s suppression of those who voice their protest against the foreign company.

Two years ago, prior to the bilateral Human Rights Dialogue, Vietnam arrested prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai when he was on his way to meet with guests from the EU who came to attend the dialogue. Mr. Dai is still in detention and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 and later with “carrying out attempts to overthrow the government” under Article 79 of the country’s 1999’s Penal Code.

The EU is among the biggest trade partners of Vietnam. The two sides signed a Free Trade Agreement last year but the EU’s parliament has not approved the pact due to human rights abuse in the Southeast Asian nation.

Pham Doan Trang is a human rights defender, blogger and journalist. She is the founder of online law and human rights magazine Luật Khoa and a member of the editorial board of newly launched The Vietnamese, an independent news website which aims to raise public awareness on politics and human rights in Vietnam. She has also worked for major Vietnamese media agencies such as VnExpress, VietNamNet, Vietnam Week, HCMC Legal Daily and the English language website Vietnam Right Now. In 2012, after being arrested and interrogated, she published a recording of her interrogation and was resultantly forced to temporarily leave the country. She returned to Vietnam in January 2015.

Bui Thi Minh Hang is a human rights defender, blogger, and documenter of human rights violations in Vietnam. She also advocates for freedom of religion and has provided support to victims of land grabs. In 2011, Bui Thi Minh Hang was arrested and sent to a “re-education camp” for six months as a result of her activism. In June 2012 the human rights defender was released, however she was arrested again in February 2014 while visiting a former prisoner of conscience. In August 2014, she was sentenced to three years in prison for “causing public disorder.” She was released in February 2017.

Nguyen Quang A is a human rights defender and a prominent member of Vietnamese civil society. In 2007, he co-founded the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), an independent, non-profit think-tank, since closed, that frequently questioned the government’s policies. In 2013, he co-founded the Civil Society Forum in response to Decree 72, a party document that limits online expression. The forum has, among other activities, organised protests against environmental damage and promoted the participation of independent candidates for Parliament elections. Lately, Nguyen Quang A has been extremely vocal regarding the 2016 Formosa spill, an industrial disaster which caused tens of thousands of fishermen to lose their source of livelihood.