Two Hanoi-based Activists Beaten While Holding Facebook Live Stream about Formosa

Beaten activist Trinh Dinh Hoa

By Defend the Defenders, April 5, 2017

On April 5, two activists from Hanoi, Le My Hanh and Trinh Dinh Hoa, were brutally beaten by unidentified individuals as they were broadcasting a live stream on Facebook about the environmental disaster caused by the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant in the central coastal region in April 2016.

According to the video posted on their Facebook accounts, as Ms. Hanh and Mr. Hoa were conducting the live stream in Ho Tay (West Lake) to report about the current situation in the central region, a group of six thugs appeared behind them, attacking Ms. Hanh and robbing her cell phone with which she was filming herself.

Throwing her cell phone into the lake, the thugs turned to beat Hanh and Mr. Hoa, who stood near her.

Due to the assault, Hanh and Hoa suffered from a number of injuries. Mr. Hoa’s face was covered in blood as his nose was broken.

Hanh recognized one of the attackers as Ha Vu, a member of a pro-government group in Hanoi which has received support by the local authorities to disturb patriotic and pro-democracy activities organized by local activists. In 2015, the same group persecuted the family of activist Nguyen Lan Thang.

Ms. Hanh is a citizen journalist who has actively reported peaceful demonstrations by central coast residents who seek compensation for the environmental consequences of a waste discharge by the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant in the central coastal waters and request the Taiwanese group to leave Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Mr. Hoa has actively attended peaceful demonstrations which aim to protest China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea), human rights violations and other issues in the communist nation.

Hanh and Hoa are among numerous activists who have been assaulted by plainclothes agents and pro-government individuals in the past few years.

Among victims are human rights lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Nguyen Bac Truyen, prominent human rights activists Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Thanh Nghien, and Vu Quoc Ngu, anti-China activists La Viet Dung and Truong Minh Tam.

In order to silence local critics, Vietnam’s communist government has deployed a number of measures, including intimidation, harassment, physical assaults, and arbitrary arrests and detentions against them.

Over a hundred of pro-democracy advocates, social activists and human rights defenders have been imprisoned while dozens of others have been assaulted as the government has intensified its crackdown against local dissent amid increasing public dissatisfaction due to its failure to address systemic corruption, economic slowdown, and rising social inequality.

Facebook’s live streaming is an effective tool used by Vietnamese activists to address social issues.

Meanwhile, state media, including the Vietnam Television (VTV) has continued to broadcast false information about peaceful demonstrations of fishermen in the central region to accuse protestors of conducting violence against local authorities, and to provide untrue facts about the polluted waters in the central coast.

At the same time, citizen journalists are striving to cover the news about the situation in the central coastal region, particularly the hard life of the local residents due to the environmental pollution caused by the Formosa steel plant, and the unfair compensation from the insufficient overall $500 million pledged by the Taiwanese group.