Vietnam Human Rights Defenders’ Weekly Report for November 23-29, 2020: Political Blogger Pham Thanh Sent to Mental Hospital After Six Months of Detention

Defend the Defenders | November 29, 2020

On November 25, a half year after his detention, authorities in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi forcibly committedpolitical blogger Pham Chi Thanh (penname Pham Thanh) to the Central Psychiatric Institute. Two days later, his wife went to the facility but was not permitted to meet him. She is very concerned that he may be held in this facility for enforced treatement like other cases such as blogger Le Anh Hung and pro-democracy activist Nguyen Trung Linh, who were arrested under National Security provisions of the Criminal Code but later forcibly committed at mental hospitals where they were beaten and subjected to forced medication with unknown medicines. Their families have been denied visitation rights.

Imprisoned independent journalist Nguyen Van Hoa has been conducting a hunger strike in An Diem Prison camp for more than a week while other prisoners of conscience in the prison like Nguyen Bac Truyen and Pham Van Diep have joined him later. The reason of their fasting is to protest the prison’s inhumane treatment. Also in this prison, union activist Hoang Duc Binh was not permitted to meet with his brother during a regular visit after Binh refused to wear the prisons’ uniform which are printed with the word Criminal.

On November 25, New York-based Human Rights Watch issued a press release calling on the Vietnamese communist regime to drop all allegation against former prisoner of conscience Tran Duc Thach and release him immediately and unconditionally. Mr. Thach, who was arrested in April, will be taken to court on charge of subversion on November 30. His sentence may be very hard given the lengthy sentences given to other local activists recently, and especially in light of the Party Congress scheduled for early next year.

However, in early morning of November 30, lawyer Ha Huy Son, who was hired by Mr. Thach’s family to provide legal consultation for him, informed that the People’s Court of Nghe An province has suspended the first-instance hearing scheduled on the same day due to Mr. Thach’s poor health. Currently, Mr. Thach is under urgent treatment in a police-managed hospital and the new date for the trial has not been set.

===== November 27 =====

Prisoner of Conscience Pham Chi Thanh Sent to Mental Facility Six Months After Being Held in Police Custody

Defend the Defenders: Authorities in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi have forcibly committed political dissident and well-known blogger Pham Chi Thanh (penname Pham Thanh) to the Central Psychiatric Institute for mental health examination six months after his detention on charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the country’s Criminal Code, his family informed Defend the Defenders.

His wife, Nguyen Thi Nghiem, said a security investigator from the Hanoi Police Department informed her on November 26 that he had been transferred from the city police’s Temporary Detention Facility No.1 to the mental facility on November 25. However, the police officer did not provide the reason for the move.

One day later, Mrs. Nghiem went to the Central Psychiatric Institute to request a meeting with Mr. Thanh, however, the facility’s authorities denied her request. They only permitted her to send him some food and other stuff.

Mrs. Nghiem said before being arrested in late May, Mr. Thanh was healthy and exhibited to signs of mental or physical illness. She said she is very concerned about the new development in her husband’s case and fears he may be held in this facility for enforced treatment for a lengthy period.

Mr. Thanh, 68, is a retired reporter and editor of the state-controlled Voice of Vietnam Radio (VOV). He has written a number of 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. Last year, he released a book tittled 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.

He had a blog named Bà Đầm Xoè on which he has 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.

The arrest of Mr. Thanh is part of Vietnam’s intensified crackdown on local dissent as the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam is preparing for its 13th National Congress slated for early January next year.

So far this year, Vietnam’s communist regime has arrested 29 activists and sentenced 15 activists to between 18 months and eight years in prison. It also convicted six land petitioners in Dong Tam for “murder” and sentenced two of them to death and four of the remaining to lengthy imprisonment as well as imprisoned eight other land petitioners for “resisting on-duty state officials” during the brutal attack of thousands of riot police in their Hoanh village on January 9 this year.

According to Amnesty International, Vietnam is the largest jailer of prisoners of conscience while the latest statistics of Defend the Defenders shows that Hanoi is holding at least 260 prisoners of conscience. Reporters Without Borders regularly ranks Vietnam among the worst five countries on press freedom and the jailing of bloggers in particular. Vietnam’s communist government always denies it has any prisoners of conscience, saying it imprisons only law violators.

It is concerning that Vietnam’s communist regime continues its trick to hold local activists in mental facilities for enforced treatment where they are beaten and forced to take unknown medicines. Its victims include blogger Le Anh Hung and pro-democracy activist Nguyen Trung Linh.

===== November 28 =====

Independent Journalist Nguyen Van Hoa on Hunger Strike, Labor Activist Hoang Duc Binh Denied Family’s Visit in An Diem Prison Camp

Defend the Defenders: A number of prisoners of conscience held in An Diem Prison camp continue to protest the prison’s inhumane treatment against them.

The family of independent journalist Nguyen Van Hoa, who is serving his 7-year imprisonment, said he is conducting a hunger strike to protest the prison’s refusal to send his letters to his family in which he describes the prison’s inhumane treatment against him and other prisoners of conscience as well as its refusal to send his petition to the Supreme People’s Procuracy and the Supreme People’s Court for his case.

Accordingly, Hoa started fasting one week earlier and other prisoners of conscience Nguyen Bac Truyen and Pham Van Diep joined him this week. On November 21, Hoa was honored with Vietnam Human Rights Prize 2020 together with jailed educator Nguyen Nang Tinh and the unregistered professional group Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam by the Californial-based Vietnam Human Rights Network.

Meanwhile, union activist Hoang Duc Binh, who is also serving his 14-year imprisonment in An Diem Prison camp, has not been permitted to meet with his family during regular prison visits. The refusal of family visitation rights is reprisal for his refusal to wear the prison’s uniforms which are printed with the word Criminal. Mr. Binh claims that he is not a criminal but a political prisoner convicted by the communist regime for his peaceful activities protected under Vietnamese law and international human rights law. Before his arrest, Hoang Duc Binh was involved in protesting China’s violations of Vietnamese sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and the Formosa Steel plant which discharged toxic waste in the sea and caused environmental disaster in the country’s central coast in 2016.

Related article: Jailed Vietnamese Activist is Denied Family Visits For Refusing to Wear Prison Garb