Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for April 22-28, 2019: Three Facebookers Arrested amid Enhanced Security on Occasion of 44th Anniversary of Reunification


Defend the Defenders | April 28, 2019

During the week, Vietnam’s authorities arrested three Facebookers namely Nguyen Chi Vung, Tran Thanh Giang and Vo Thuong Trung amid enhanced security in the southern region on the occasion of the 44th anniversary of the country’s reunification.

Vung, who was detained twice last year due to his participation in the mass demonstration in Ho Chi Minh City, was charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code while the charges against the two remaining Facebookers remain unknown. Giang is a Hoa Hao Buddhist follower from An Giang province while Trung is from Long Khanh town in Dong Nai province.

In order to prevent public demonstration, authorities in southern localities put the local police on alert and keep close eyes on local activists.

Nguyen Thien Nhan, member of the ruling communist party’s Politburo and the secretary of the party’s Committee in HCM City has declared that he had ordered the city’s police forces to take all measures to prevent public demonstrations during the 5-day holiday. Police are requested to place 600 local activists under close eyes and house arrest, Nhan said.

A group of seven Protestant followers in the northern province of Bac Giang were beaten by thugs and undercover police on April 19 while charity worker Nguyen Van Dieu Linh was assaulted by plainclothes agents two days later. 

Democracy activists Luu Van Vinh, Nguyen Quoc Hoan, Nguyen Van Duc Do, Tu Cong Nghia and Phan Trung were planned to seek for their second appeal to the Supreme People’s Court after feeling that their first-instance and appeal were unfair. They were convicted of subversion and sentenced to between eight years and 15 years in prison and three years of probation each for their plan to set up the Vietnam National Coalition.

Former prisoner of conscience Truong Duy Nhat, who is held in T16 detention facility in Hanoi, has been denied of receiving food from his family. His family was allowed to send him money so he can purchase food and other stuff from the facility’s canteen while other detainees are still permitted to receive food and money from their relatives.

Activist Bach Hong Quyen, who lives in exile in Thailand, is likely held in a Bangkok’s prison. He was said to give himself to the Thai’s authorities after the Thai Royal Police were seeking for him due to his assistance given to Truong Duy Nhat during his short stay in Bangkok.

Jailed blogger Le Anh Hung was sent back to the Temporary Detention facility No. 2 under the authority of the Hanoi’s Police Department after mental examination. 

===== April 22 =====

Seven Protestant Followers Harassed, Beaten by Thugs and Undercover Policemen

Defend the Defenders:A group of seven Protestant followers in the northern province of Bac Giang have been brutally beaten by thugs and plainclothes agents who also burned their Bibles and destroyed their items.

According to Mrs. Vu Minh Khanh (Facebooker Vũ Minh Khánh), the wife of former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Van Dai, the group was beaten at their rent house in Dinh Luc 2 village, Tan Dinh commune, Lang Giang district.

The followers started to mov in their house on April 5 and ten days later, communal policemen came to request for administrative checking.

On April 19, a group of 60 thugs came to break their house’s door and stump in. They beat followers and destroyed their belongings, including cell phones, TV set and fans. The attackers also took all Bibles and burned.

Outside, riot police were around the house and all roads leading to the house were blocked by police.

After knocked down all of followers, the attackers left the scence. When the victims called on the local police for help, police came after the attackers dissappeared.

The victims said they recognized some police officers among the attackers. They are the same police officers who came for administrative checking four days before.


Charity worker Nguyen Van Dieu Linh Attacked by Plainclothes Agents

Defend the Defenders:Undercover policemen in Ho Chi Minh City have assaulted charity worker Nguyen Van Dieu Linh due to his efforts to help war invalids who fighted on the side of the Vietnam Republic during the Vietnam War.

In the evening of April 21, when Mr. Linh returned near his house from Ky Dong Redemptory Church, he was beaten by a group of attackers who were likely plainclothes agents.

The attack aims to discourage him from his charity works. Previously, plainclothes agents warned him that they would assault him if he still continues his charity works.

Before leaving the scence, the attackers said they would make his life difficult if he will not give up.

This was the fourth assault targeting him. In the first attack in 2017, they broke his fingers. Plainclothes agents beat him twice in 2018 and in both incidents, he was hospitalized for treatment of severe injuries.

In 2018, he was also summoned to a local police station for interrogation about priting T-shirds with slogan against draft law on Special Economic Zones.


Imprisoned Activist Luu Van Vinh and His Four Friends Seek to Appeal Again

Defend the Defenders:Imprisoned democracy activist Luu Van Vinh and his four friends Nguyen Quoc Hoan, Nguyen Van Duc Do, Tu Cong Nghia and Phan Trung have submitted their second appeal after losing their appeal in January this year.

They are contacting with their lawyers for appealing to the Supreme People’s Court for the second appeal, said Mrs. Le Thi Thap, the wife of Mr. Vinh. Currently, they are held in Bo La Prison camp under the authority of the Ministry of Public Security before being transferred to other prison camps.

Mr. Vinh and his four friends were arrested in early November 2016 and charged with subversion for their plan to set up the Vietnam National Coalition which aims to work for multi-party democracy and enhancing civil and political rights of ordinary citizens.

On November 5, they were tried by the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City which convicted them and sentenced them to a total 57 years in prison and 15 years of probation. In January, in their appeal, the Higher People’s Court in HCM City upheld their sentences.

According to the convicted activists, the first-instance hearing and the appeal were unfair and failed to meet international standards for fair trial.

There is a small chance for them to have their second appeal and if the regime agrees, they will not be to get sentences reduced for being freed.

Mrs. Thap said all five activists are in good mental health despite being given lengthy sentences.

They are listed as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International and NOW! Campaign.

===== April 23 =====

Imprisoned Independent Blogger Truong Duy Nhat Denied of Receiving Food from His Family

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in the Thanh Oai district-based T16 Temporary detention facility under the authority of Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security have not allowed imprisoned independent blogger Truong Duy Nhat to receive food provided by his family, Defend the Defenders has learned.

According to well-known writer Pham Xuan Nguyen from Hanoi, Nhat’s wife came from the central city of Danang to the detention facility on Monday to supply him food, however, she was told that he can receive money for purchasing goods in the facility’s canteen only.

Being questioned by her, the detention facility’s said the ban was given from the ministry’s Police Investigation Unit.

She recognized that families of other detainees were permitted to send food and other stuffs to them on Monday, as she did last month.

Mr. Nhat, a former prisoner of conscience once imprisoned for two years for posting to criticize the regime’s leadership on his blog, was taken to T16 in late January this year. So far, police have yet announced his arrest nor charges although a senior police officer had said that he had been involved in economic frauds committed by Senior Colonel Phan Van Anh Vu.

Nhat, who dissappeared in Bangkok on January 26, one day after applied for political asylum to the UN Office of High Commissioner for Refugees, was likely kidnapped by Vietnam’s secret agents.

After his dissappearance, many international rights groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists have called on the governments of Thailand and Vietnam to investigate the case and make clear his situation.


Two Activists Detainedamid Intensified Security to Mark 44th Anniversary of Reunification

Defend the Defenders: Vietnam’s authorities have arrested two activists named Nguyen Chi Vung and Tran Thanh Giang as they intensify public orders prior to the 44th anniversary of the country’s reunification, Defend the Defenders has learned.

Mr. Vung, a 38-year-old resident of Bac Lieu province, was reportedly detained at 10 AM of April 23 in his private residence in Dong Hai district. According to his family, he was charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code. The family was informed by the local police that he will be held for the next four months for investigation.

According to the current Vietnamese law, those who are convicted of this charge may face imprisonment of up to 12 years in prison.

Vung has a small shop for cell phone in Dinh Thanh commune. He participated in the mass demonstration against two bills Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security in Ho Chi Minh City on June 10, 2018. He was arrested on the same day, taken to a police station where he was interrogated and beaten before being released next day.

He was detained again on September 1, 2018 when he came to HCM City in a bid to participate in peaceful demonstration on the occasion of the country’s Independence Day (September 2). He was held in police custody for nine days and released.

In his Facebook account Nguyễn Chí Vửng, he has posted and shared a number of statuses advocating human rights and multi-party democracy, and addressing the country’s issues, including systemic corruption, environmental pollution and China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).

On the same day, police in the southern province of An Giang were said to arrest a local resident Tran Thanh Giang, who is a Hoa Hao Buddhist follower. It is unclear what charge(s) he is facing.

Mr. Giang has criticized Vietnam’s communist regime on his Facebook page, some activists said, adding this may be the reason for his detention.

Vietnam’s security forces are on alert one week prior to the end of April when the country mark the 44th anniversary of the nation’s reunification. Police are tightening security to deal with voices of descendants of the Vietnam Republic which ruled the southern country until 1975.

===== April 25 =====

One More Facebooker Arrested When Authorities in Southern Localities Tighten Security on 44th anniversary of Reunification

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Dong Nai province have detained local Facebooker Tìm Tự Dowhen authorities in southern localities are tightening security on the occasion of the 44th anniversary of the country’s reunification.

Accordingly, Vo Thuong Trung, a 42-year-old resident of Long Khanh town, was arrested on April 25 by police from Dong Nai. It is unclear what the charge(s) he is facing.

Trung was said to participated in the peaceful demonstration in Ho Chi Minh City in mid June last year. On his Facebook account, he has criticized the communist regime about systemic corruption, failure to settle the country’s hot issues, and the weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).

Trung may face accusation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” or “abusing democratic freedom,” the two controversial articles of the national security provisions in the Penal Code that the regime has used to silence political dissidents and online critics.

Authorities in southern localities are tightening security in a bid to prevent local residents from gathering to protest.


Blogger Le Anh Hung Sent Back to Hanoi Detention After Mental Examination

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi have sent local blogger Le Anh Hung to the Temporary Detention facility No. 2 under the authority of the city’s Police Department after mental examination, said his lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng.

Due to the mental examination which took place from early April, Hung was transferred from the detention facility to the Mental Hospital 1 located in Hoa Binh village, Thuong Tin district in late March, said the Saigon-based attorney, adding the results from the examination will be handed over to the Security Investigation Agency under the department in coming days.

This was the second mental examination for Hung since his arrest on July 5 last year.

Mr. Hung, 46, was charged with “abusing democratic freedoms” under Article 331 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code for his denunciations, online posts, public protests and interviews with foreign media in which he accuses Hoang Trung Hai, former prime minister and incumbent party’s secretary in Hanoi of being a spy for China and General Secretary cum President Nguyen Phu Trong of backing Hai.

Hung, a regular contributor for the Voice of America radio (VOA) and the Radio Free Asia (RFA), had submitted his denunciation to state agencies for 111 times before being arrested.

Mieng said he visited Hung twice, each time for a hour. The first was on October 11, 2018 and the second was on January 24, 2019. During their meetings, Hung said he did not ask for a reduced sentence or clemency but only asked to be tried properly according to the law. Hung insists that authorities must release him immediately as criminal proceedings against him and his arrest were both illegal.

Mr Hung also told his lawyer that his denunciation [against the Party and the government] was based on the truth. He wanted his case to be tried in court so he would have the chance to present his case and argue his case with the prosecutor.

===== 26/4 =====

HCM City Party Chief Vows not to Allow Demonstrations on Occasion of 44th Anniversary of Reunification

Defend the Defenders:Nguyen Thien Nhan, a member of the ruling communist party’ Politburo and the secretary of the party’s Committee in Ho Chi Minh City has vowed not to allow public demonstrations in late April and early May when the country marks the 44th anniversary of reunification.

Nhan was quoted by state-run newspapers that he has ordered the city’s security forces to take all measures to ensure that no public protest will occur during the five-day holiday.

He said the security forces were requested to keep close eyes to 600 local individuals who are potential sources of protests. Potential threats from other provinces should also be eliminated, Nhan noted.

After his statement was publicized on newspapers, there is a mass protest online. Former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Ngoc Gia said Nhan has violated the country’s 2013 Constitution and the international human rights treaties Vietnam has signed. He should be charged criminally for his speech, Gia noted.

Due to the strong public protest, all articles about his statement in state media were deleted.

Meanwhile, dozens of activists in HCM City and other localities have been complaining that their private houses are surrounded by undercover police and militia. It is likely that they could not go out from April 28 until May 2.


Activist Bach Hong Quyen Likely Imprisoned in Bangkok’s IDC

Defend the Defenders:Vietnamese democracy activist and human rights defender Bach Hong Quyen is likely held in the Bankok-based Immigration Detention Center under the authority of Thailand’s Immigration Police, SBTN.TV outlet has reported, citing an anonimous source.

Quyen is said to give himself to the Thai Royal Police after being chased by the Thai authorities due to his involvement in the case of former Vietnamese prisoner of conscience Truong Duy Nhat, who was likely entering in Thailand illegally in mid January and dissappeared on January 26, one day after registering as a political asylum to the UN Office of High Commissioner on Refugee in Bangkok.

Currently, Nhat, who served two years for his online posting against Vietnam’s leadership, is held in a Hanoi-based detention under the authority of the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security. Nhat was probably kidnapped by Vietnamese secret agents.

It is unclear Quyen’s situation. He may face deportation to Vietnam where he would be criminally charged. In 2017, Quyen fled to Thailand after Vietnam’s communist regime issued arrest warrant for his assistance given to Formosa-affected fishermen in Nghe An province.

Quyen and his wife and three kids have been granted with refugee status and they were said to seek for resetlement to Canada.

Months ago, Quyen sent an open letter to international rights groups to seek for help after the Thai authorities were searching for him.

Quyen was one of Vietnamese based in Thailand helped Nhat during his short stay in Bangkok. He reportedly took Nhat to the UNHCR’s office for registration.