Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for June 28-July 4, 2021: Blogger Le Dung Vova Arrested after One Month Sheltering
Defend the Defenders | July 4, 2021
After sheltering one month in his relative’s private residence, on June 30, Hanoi-based blogger Le Van Dung (Le Dung Vova) was arrested by security officers from the Hanoi Police Department. His family told Defend the Defenders that the 50-year-old activist was arrested in his aunt’s house in Ung Hoa district. Currently, he is held at the Temporary Detention Center No. 1 under the authority of the capital city’s Police Department.
As Defend the Defenders reported, in late May, security officers from the Hanoi Police Department went to his private residence in Ha Dong district to arrest him but he was not at home. A few days later, the city police issued a special domestic wanted warrant for his detention on the allegation of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code. Mr. Dung, one of very active anti-China campaigners in the last decade and a well-known Facebooker for victims of injustice, faces imprisonment of between seven and 12 years if convicted.
He will be held incommunicado for at least four months, a common practice in political cases.
On the same day, the security forces in the central province of Quang Ngai arrested three local Facebookers named Bach Van Hien, Phung Thanh Tuyen, and Le Trung Thu and charged them with “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the Criminal Code for their anti-government comments and sharing on Facebook, the most popular social network in the Southeast Asian nation.
With these arrests, Vietnam’s authoritarian regime arrested at least 16 activists in the first half of this year, raising the total number of prisoners of conscience to 256 as of June 30, according to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics.
Meanwhile, authorities in Hanoi plan to hold the first-instance hearing on July 9 to try local blogger Pham Chi Thanh(aka Pham Thanh), whose blogger is Bà Đầm Xoè. Mr. Thanh, 69, was arrested on May 21, 2020 and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” for sharply criticizing Vietnam’s communist regime and its senior leaders, includingGeneral Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong of the ruling communisst party. These are little hopes for Mr. Thanh to be freed given the lack of independent court in Vietnam. He faces imprisonment of between seven and 12 years in prison.
===== June 28 =====
Vietnam to Try Political Blogger Pham Thanh on “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda” Allegation on July 9
Defend the Defenders: After 13 months holding political blogger Pham Chi Thanh (aka Pham Thanh) in pre-trial detention, Vietnam’s authoritarian state has planned to conduct the first-instance hearing on July 9 to try him on charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code, with potential imprisonment of between seven and 12 years if is convicted.
The open trial will be carried out by the People’s Court of Hanoi, according to a notice sent to his lawyer Ha Huy Son, who was allowed to meet with his client for the first time on May 28 to prepare for his defense.
It is likely the 69-year-old writer who owns blog Ba Dam Xoe will receive a hard sentence given the fact that in recent months, Vietnam’s communist regime convicted a number of political dissidents, social activists, human rights defenders and Facebookers of the same charge with lengthy imprisonments. So far this year, 13 activists were sentenced to between five years and 15 years in prison on the controversial allegation.
Mr. Thanh is a retired reporter and editor of the state-controlled Voice of Vietnam Radio (VOV). He has written several books critical of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and its leaders, including late President Ho Chi Minh and incumbent General Secretary cum President Nguyen Phu Trong. His posts on his blog Bà Đầm Xoè are mainly critical of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and its leader Trong. In 2019, he released a book titled Thế thiên hành đạo hay Đại nghịch bất đạo (Holder of Mandate of Heaven or Great Immoral Traitor) and its main character is the incumbent party chief.
On his blog Bà Đầm Xoè, Thanh also posted his writings on politics and social issues, including China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and the weak response of the Vietnamese Communist regime, systemic corruption, widespread environmental pollution, human rights violations, etc.
His arrest on May 21 last year is part of Vietnam’s intensified crackdown on local dissent before and after the 13th National Congress of the ruling party.
So far this year, Vietnam’s communist regime has arrested 12 activists on allegations such as “conducting anti-state propaganda” or “abusing democratic freedom” in the National Security provisions of the Criminal Code. The regime has also sentenced 16 activists to between two years and 15 years in prison.
According to Amnesty International, Vietnam is the largest jailer of prisoners of conscience with 170 activists being jailed while the latest statistics of Defend the Defenders shows that Hanoi is holding at least 2632 prisoners of conscience. Reporters Without Borders regularly ranks Vietnam among the worst five countries on press freedom and the largest number of jailed bloggers. Vietnam’s communist government always denies it has any prisoners of conscience, saying it imprisons only law violators.
===== June 30 =====
Blogger Le Dung Vova Reportedly Arrested After One-month Sheltering in Relatives’ House
Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi have reportedly arrested local blogger Le Van Dung (aka Le Dung Vova) one month sheltering in his relatives’ house after Hanoi police issued a special domestic search for him.
Some sources said he was caught by security forces in his aunt’s house in Ung Hoa district, the home district of the blogger who later moved to Ha Dong district. Police were said to detain the 51-year-old blogger as well as his aunt and nephew, and took them to unknown places.
In late May, the Hanoi Police Department sent a group of security officers to Dung’s private residence in Ha Dong district with the aim to arrest him on the charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code. However, Dung was not at home and the police confiscated his wife’ two smart phones and one laptop.
A few days later, the city’s Police Department issued a special arrest warrant calling for detaining the blogger. His aunt and nephew could be charged with “Concealment of crimes” or “ Misprision.”
Dung started his civil activities in 2011 by participating in anti-China protests objecting to China’s expansionism and violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea). Later, he joined other bloggers to work for CHTV channel, an independent channel established by political dissident Vu Quang Thuan who was convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code 1999. Dung and other members of CHTV channel have used Facebook’s live-broadcast feature to transmit information on social issues such as land disputes and corruption, and to give ordinary citizens a chance to discuss matters of concern, drawing the attention of law enforcement and security agencies.
He has been summoned by the Hanoi police several times for interrogation about his posts. A few months ago, they questioned about his 12 videos, however, Dung admitted that only a half of them were conducted by him on which he talked about Vietnam’s issues while others were not his original ones.
Vietnam’s authoritarian regime strictly controls the media and persecutes independent journalists and bloggers. Dozens of Facebookers and bloggers have been imprisoned while others under regular harassment. The country has been placed in the groups of the countries in the bottom of the Press Freedom Index of the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for many years. In 2020, it was ranked 175th among 180 countries in the index.
Three Facebookers in Quang Ngai Arrested on Allegation of “Abusing Democratic Freedom” for Online Posts
Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s central province of Quang Ngai have arrested three local Facebookers on the allegation of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the Criminal Code for their posts on the social network most popular in the Southeast Asian nation.
Citing the information from the province’s Police Department, the state-controlled media reported that 34-year-old man Bach Van Hien, 38-year-old Phung Thanh Tuyen, and 41-year-old Le Trung Thu were detained on June 30. Their private residency was also searched by the local police.
The three men will be held in the next two months at least for investigation on the allegation of posting statuses with content criticizing the regime’s agencies including the People’s Court, the police, the army, the inspectorate, the Vietnam Central Television (VTV), and the Propaganda agency as well as the regime’s leaders.
Recently, Vietnam’s authoritarian regime has arrested many Facebookers with charges of “conducting anti-state propaganda” or “abusing democratic freedom” in a bid to silence the regine’s critics. The first charge may take the convicted ones to between seven and 12 years in prison while the second allegation would take the convicted ones to stay imprisoned up to seven years.
Last month, within a week, Vietnam’s authoritarian regime convicted two Facebookers named Dang Ngoc Minh and Cao Van Dung of “conducting anti-state propaganda” for their posts and sentenced them to seven and nine years in prison, respectively.
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