PRESS RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE SCREENING: WHEN MOTHER’S AWAY

VOICE Presents Documentary on Imprisoned Vietnamese Blogger Mother Mushroom

Bangkok, 27 June 2018 – Noting the one-year anniversary of her first trial, VOICE reiterates its call for the Vietnamese government to immediately and unconditionally release citizen journalist, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, popularly known as Mother Mushroom, with a screening of When Mother’s Away, a moving portrait of Mother Mushroom and her family. Screening from 7:00PM at the FCCT.

When Mother’s Away is a personal portrait that follows the life of Mother Mushroom’s mother, Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan, solely taking care of her two young grandchildren, while they struggle to continue on their lives and support Mother Mushroom, after she is sent to prison. In its depiction of an ordinary family facing an extraordinary circumstance, the film explores the themes of family and motherhood. Following the screening, VOICE will lead a panel discussion on the film and situation in Vietnam.

On 29 June 2017, Mother Mushroom, 38, was handed a ten-year prison sentence under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, often wielded against those whose only crime has been to speak out for human rights. A blogger, known for her writing about police brutality, freedom of expression, land confiscation, and the Formosa environmental disaster, Mother Mushroom was held in detention following her arrest in October 2016 until hours before her June trial. At her appeal, November 30, family and friends assembled outside the courthouse and were attacked by thugs.

Since February 2018, Mother Mushroom has been held in a remote prison over 1000 kilometers from her home. Family visits are difficult and expensive. At her last visit, Mother Mushroom’s mother revealed her poor health. In May, Mother Mushroom underwent a 6-day hunger strike to protest against prison treatment. Her family’s request to send her basic medicine and the Holy Bible was denied by the prison authorities.

VOICE reiterates its calls for the Vietnamese authorities to comply with their international human rights obligations, and to immediately and unconditionally release Mother Mushroom, and urges the international community to intervene at the highest possible levels to support her immediate release.

VOICE continues to stand by Mother Mushroom’s call for all Vietnamese to continue fighting for their rights for a better and greater nation.

We each only have one life to live but if given the choice, I would still do it exactly the same… I hope everyone will soon raise their own voice and fight for their rights so that they can overcome their own fears, and build a better and greater nation – Mother Mushroom.

VOICE is a non-profit, non-governmental organization working in the field of promoting civil society development, advocacy for human rights, including refugee protection, and rule of law in Vietnam. Founded in 2007, VOICE’s mission is to empower individuals in order to envision a strong, independent, and vibrant civil society.

2018 Recommendations for US – Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue

Context and Update

Vietnam implements a number of vaguely-worded and restrictive laws to punish individuals for exercising fundamental rights including:

a. Freedom of Religion

Since the new Government of Vietnam came into power in May 2016, at least 59 human rights defenders have been arrested and imprisoned, many of whom are Christian fighting for religious freedom. The authorities have instigated state-sponsored assaults against those who dare to speak up, especially Catholic villagers in Central Vietnam whose lives have been adversely affected by the Formosa environmental disaster.

‘Hoi Co Do’ (The Red Flag Groups) have been formed and sponsored by the authorities in many parts of Vietnam to incite violence and hatred against parishes critical of the government’s policy concerning the Formosa incident. For example, on 17 December 2017, Parish Ke Gai of Diocese Vinh in Nghe An Province was attacked by hundreds of members of a Red Flag Group due to their activism in protecting the environment resulting in scores of parishioners being injured. See video clip below produced by the Redemptorist Church (with English subtitle):

This marks the first time a new tactic has been used by the authorities to set non-Catholics against Catholics. It is a deliberate state attempt to create tension and sow distrust between faith-based groups.

The independent Hoa Hao Buddhist Church has also suffered much throughout this past year. Buddhist ceremonies organized by the Church were shut down by the authorities and at least, fifteen (15) members of the Church were arrested last year. One of their leaders, Mr Vuong Van Tha, was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment while his son was sentenced to 7 years on 23 January 2018.

Further, the authorities continue to harass and persecute religious leaders of unregistered religious groups by either demolishing their temple and confiscating the property (Lien Tri Temple in Saigon) or attempting to confiscate it (Thien An Monastery in Hue) or engineering direct attacks (including physical assaults) against many Protestant church leaders in the Highlands. Many of them are, to date, banned from traveling within and outside of Vietnam despite guarantees made in the new Law on Religion and Belief concerning freedom of religion and under Vietnam’s own Constitution.

b. Freedom of Expression

Freedom of Expression continues to be severely restricted by Article 258 (343), 79 (109), and 88 (117) of the Penal Code despite the latest amendments in early 2018.

Article 258, also known as ‘Abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens.’ (now revised as Article 343 in Vietnam’s Penal Code, which came into effect on 1 January 2018). Those who are convicted under this article face up to seven years’ imprisonment. Article 258 has been used to prosecute a wide variety of people for allegedly ‘abusing’ their freedom of speech.

Article 88, also known as ‘conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’ (now revised as Article 117) has been widely used to imprison those who raise their voice in whatsoever forms to criticize the government and the Communist Party. The range of penalties is between three and twenty years imprisonment.

Article 79, also known as ‘carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration’ (now revised as Article 109) is designed to prevent dissidents from organizing themselves to compete politically. This law can be used against anyone who peacefully organizes to oppose the party’s dominance or its policies. Organizers, instigators and active participants can face between twelve years to life imprisonment or capital punishment, while other accomplices can face between five to fifteen years imprisonment.

c. Freedom of Assembly

The Law on Association has not been adopted though at least 16 draft bills had been brought before the National Assembly in the past decade. The delay indicates the constant vigilance and reluctance of the authorities in enacting a law they consider to be ‘politically sensitive’. The latest bill itself, however, failed to be passed after many civil society organizations raised their concern about its repressiveness. Article 8, inter alia, bans every association from cooperating with foreign organizations or receiving foreign funds.
Association in the form of political organization or party is strictly banned. Members shall be charged with ‘carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration’ and given lengthy prison terms, including life imprisonment or capital punishment under Article 79/109 of the Penal Code.
The Law on Demonstration was scheduled to be discussed and passed by the National Assembly in 2015, however, it was removed from the agenda in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The National Assembly itself does not plan on bringing the law back to the table for discussions, while at the same time, the Ministry of Public Security – the government agency responsible for drafting this law – keeps delaying the submission of the draft law.

Independent labour unions are banned. Strikes must be registered under harsh requirements, and labour activists are subject to continuous surveillance and harassment.
GONGOs (government-organized non-governmental organizations) are given space for their activities on the condition that they work to further the government’s interests. While dozens of human rights activists are banned from traveling outside of the country, there have been many cases where GONGO staff enjoy the freedom to travel abroad and attend international conferences, in some cases, as police informers in disguise. Security officers are also said to put in a great deal of effort to cause splits between registered NGOs and independent ones. For example, human rights activists are often blocked from attending events held by registered NGOs.

d. Harassment of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs)

There are hundreds of bloggers (including Facebook users) and HRDs who frequently write about political and human rights issues in Vietnam. Since the most recent Party Congress early 2016, the Vietnamese government has arrested 59 activists, almost half of the total number of the current prisoners of conscience in detention. The fact that the arrested vary from human rights lawyers to anti-corruption students, from land-lost farmers to labor rights activists, from environmentalists to unregistered religious groups’ followers proves that the government is systematically applying a zero tolerance policy towards dissent.

In addition, travel ban is one of the tactics used by the authorities to further isolate Vietnamese activists from the regional and international civil society communities. Statistically, over 100 human rights defenders, including bloggers, are banned from traveling outside and within Vietnam. Human rights defenders travelling abroad have had their passports confiscated by police upon their return to Vietnam and many of them are placed on a blacklist forbidding them to travel again. As a result, these activists lose their chance to meaningfully participate in regional and international forums to raise public awareness of Vietnam’s human rights situation as well as to learn from fellow activists in the region.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

1. Follow Germany’s lead by actively engaging with and calling on the authorities, particularly the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), to lift the travel ban against all HRDs, and refrain from imposing restrictions on their right to freedom of movement in the future.

2. Raise the cases of the following imprisoned human rights defenders and offer them asylum in the US even if some of them may not take up the offer:

Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, ICT entrepreneur and blogger, sentenced to sixteen years under Article 79 in January 2010.
• Faith-based Bia Son group sentenced to ten to seventeen years (for followers) and life imprisonment (for the leader) under Article 79 in February 2012.
Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy sentenced to three years for ‘anti-state propaganda’ postings on Facebook under Article 88.
Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam), blogger, sentenced to five years for blogging.
Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thu Ha, sentenced to 15 years and 9 years imprisonment respectively after being found guilty under Article 79 on 5 April 2018.
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (aka Mother Mushroom), blogger, convicted under Article 88 on 29 June 2017 and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment leaving two young children behind without parental guidance and support.
Hoang Duc Binh, environmental and labour rights activist, convicted of ‘resisting officers in the performance of their official duties’ under Article 257; and ‘abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State’ under Article 258 and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.

3. Call for the grant of access to visit prisoners of conscience and to do so periodically. This will send a strong message to the authorities that cases of concern are being monitored.

4. Call for the elimination and/or amendment of vaguely-worded articles in the Penal Code, such as Articles 258, 88, 79 and Article 19 – holding lawyers criminally responsible for not reporting clients to the authorities for a number of crimes.

5. The US Mission in Hanoi to organize seminars (such as one on the upcoming UPR of Vietnam in early 2019) and invite independent civil society organizations to participate. This will counter the authorities’ policy in using all means to deny unregistered CSOs the physical space needed for their meetings and to encourage and legitimize their work.

6. Consider designating Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern as the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended.

7. Use the Magnitsky Act as leverage for negotiation of the above.

VOICE holds Vietnam accountable to human rights agreements on mid-term campaign

VOICE delegation at the UN office in Geneva. From left to right: Anna Nguyen, Le Thi Minh Ha, and Dinh Thao. Source: VietnamUPR Facebook page

Haiy Le, October 9, 2017: When the human rights group, Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment (VOICE), sent a delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2014, the delegation was made up of three men and all were citizens of Vietnam. This year, the trio is all female.

“We did not purposely want to have a female delegation,” said Anna Nguyen, Director of Programs at VOICE. A more interesting point, she explained, are the different backgrounds — and continents — the three women come from. Anna is a lawyer born and raised in Australia. Joining her is Le Thi Minh Ha, the wife of blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh who was sentenced in March 2016 to five years in prison by the Vietnamese government for founding and operating a successful independent news blog. The third member is Dinh Thao, a Vietnamese citizen who left her career as a medical doctor to become an activist working out of VOICE’s headquarters in the Philippines and is now stationed in Belgium as the European Union Program Coordinator.

As activists waging a long war against Vietnam’s authoritarian government, they are unbothered by the comments littered on the VOICE Facebook page calling them “dogs” and “liars” who should “die.” The group suspects the comments come from hacks paid by the Vietnamese government. In the spirit of free expression though, the malicious comments are free to stay. It’s the opposite of what Hanoi is doing.

In 2017 alone, Vietnam’s one-party Communist government has detained or sentenced 16 activists under the country’s draconian penal code, and specifically Article 88, which makes it a crime to “propagate” against the government. Human Rights Watch has reported on the country’s long history limiting freedom of expression, which has sent more than 100 activists to prisons. The country’s repression has led to thousands of refugees seeking political freedoms and economic opportunities to live and work elsewhere under more democratic and transparent governance.

VOICE was founded in 1997 as a legal aid office in the Philippines to help stateless Vietnamese refugees resettle in countries, including Australia, the U.S. and Canada. Since then, the nonprofit’s mission has branched out to include advocacy for human rights and the rule of law in Vietnam.

Anna’s career has evolved somewhat similarly. She began her career as a refugee lawyer in Australia where for three years she worked with asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam. “That’s when I started to learn about the human rights situation in Vietnam. Instead of helping people leave the country, I wanted to explore why people were leaving in the first place. The war ended in 1975 but why are people still leaving?”

Since joining VOICE in 2014, Anna’s work includes communicating with foreign governments and multilateral organizations, and persuading them to use their influence to put pressure on Vietnam. She also makes sure these foreign bodies hear from independent activists and civil society groups in Vietnam. “Many of these activists are banned from traveling and don’t have a platform, so it’s great that we can give them a voice,” she said.

In 2014, a 23-member delegation from Hanoi met with the U.N. Human Rights Council for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a review process on the human rights records of all UN Member States. The Vietnamese government agreed to the implementation of some UPR recommendations and rejected others, notably the release of prisoners and the revision of vague national security laws that are used to suppress human rights.

The goals of this year’s Mid-term UPR Advocacy Campaign are to follow up on the recommendations and to advocate for the prisoners, particularly Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, a technology entrepreneur and blogger who was sentenced to 16 years for “conducting activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” on January 2010; Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, better known by her pen name, Mother Mushroom, is a blogger convicted of “anti state propaganda” on June 2017 and sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment; and Tran Thi Nga, a blogger sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment on July 2017 for “anti state propaganda” in her sharing of articles and videos highlighting abuses tied to environmental crises and political corruption. In the past couple of months, there has been a rise in the number of female activists targeted by the government. Mother Mushroom wrote that she was motivated to create a better future for her two children.

The mid-term campaign, which runs from September 15 through October 10, has been in the planning stages since the last UPR. The delegation has organized a marathon of meetings with foreign bodies in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium and the Czech Republic to give suggestions on how these groups can exert pressure on Hanoi.

In a recent case that has made headlines for its Cold War style of abductions, a Vietnamese asylum seeker was snatched off the streets of Berlin in broad daylight on August 24 — one day before his asylum hearing — and whisked back to Vietnam on corruption charges. In a meeting with Germany’s Office of Foreign Affairs on September 15, VOICE raised concerns to Annette Knobloch, Deputy Head of Unit of South East Asia/Pacific.

“We made them a number of suggestions and then a few days after our meeting, it was announced in the news that Germany had expelled another diplomat,” Anna said.

As Vietnam’s biggest trading partner in the EU, Germany has influential leverage through its purse strings. There’s also Germany’s development aid to Vietnam, which in 2015 was $257 million distributed over two years.

On top of the meetings with Germany and other foreign governments, the delegates have communicated with UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defender, Michel Forst, and CIVICUS, a group working to strengthen civil society. VOICE’s collaboration with CIVICUS, which has consultative status with the UN, gave VOICE the opportunity to present in front of the UN Human Rights Council on September 19.

“We call on the Vietnamese government to implement in good faith the UPR recommendations it accepted in 2014,” Thao read in her statement. “We call on the UN Member States to urge Vietnam to free all prisoners of conscience.”

Thao said the presentation alone has made the 25-day campaign a successful one for her, in spite of the stressful logistics, the back-to-back meetings and the harassment from the Vietnamese government that she, her colleagues and family in Vietnam have received due to her activism.

After the campaign ends, the delegates plan to follow up on the meetings and maintain the contacts they met. “It’s really easy to meet people but if there’s nothing done after that, there’s no point in meeting them,” Anna acknowledged. They will also start making plans for the 3rd UPR in January 2019, which will involve more people, workshops and a UN session dedicated to addressing Vietnam’s human rights situation.

Being a human rights defender is like running in a marathon, Anna described. “You cannot expect to see the finish line straight away. It’s hard and arduous, and you will need to eventually pass on the baton to your comrades and colleagues. But like all marathons, you will eventually see the finish line.”

Haiy Le is a freelance journalist and previously worked at the San Francisco Chronicle and Newsela. She grew up listening to her father’s stories from the the Vietnam War and became more interested in Vietnamese foreign affairs while studying International Relations and Communication at Stanford University. Follow her @HaiyLe

© 2017 The 88 Project

 

One Year After Arrest, Demand for Release of Vietnamese Human Rights Defender Me Nam – Civil Rights Defenders

Public Statement

On 10 October 2016, Vietnamese authorities arrested blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known by her pen name Me Nam (Mother Mushroom), on charges of spreading propaganda against the State. On 29 June, Me Nam was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Known since 2006 for her active social media advocacy against the Vietnamese government’s rampant corruption, human rights abuses, and foreign policy, her arrest and later sentence should be seen as politically motivated. Civil Rights Defenders calls on the government of Vietnam to immediately and unconditionally release Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh and to end its wider persecution of bloggers and journalists under Article 88 of the Penal Code.

On the morning of 10 October 2016, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (Me Nam) was arrested while on her way to visit another rights defender in prison. Her arrest and ongoing detention should be seen as nothing more than persecution against her courageous defence of human rights.

Since 2006, Me Nam has been blogging about human rights abuses and corruption in Vietnam. In 2013, she co-founded the independent Vietnamese Bloggers Network, which is now blocked in Vietnam. She has investigated and published widely on environmental protection, public health, correctional reform and anti-torture efforts, and has been critical of Vietnam’s foreign policy toward China over disputed islands in the South China Sea. Me Nam has posted information about over 30 people who have died in police custody and has been active both online and offline in documenting and demanding redress for the 2016 Formosa environmental disaster, when the Taiwanese-Vietnamese Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation leaked toxic waste into the ocean having a devastating impact on tens of thousands of Vietnamese in four coastal provinces. Because of her tireless defence of human rights, Me Nam has been frequently targeted for harassment by the state, previously detained, interrogated, and beaten.

Following her arrest on 10 October 2016, Me Nam was held in incommunicado pre-trial detention until 20 June 2017, when she was first allowed to meet with one of her lawyers. The government also targeted her family in the month preceding her trial, the worst on 20 May 2017 when over 50 security officials surrounded the family’s house.

On 29 June 2017, following a speedy trial that failed to meet international fair trial standards, the People’s Court of Khanh Hoa province sentenced Me Nam to 10 years in prison under Article 88 of the Penal Code, for “conducting propaganda against the state.” The outrageousness of the sentence is compounded by serious grounds for concern over her deteriorating health.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Vietnam is a State Party, holds that anyone arrested or detained is entitled to a prompt trial without unreasonable delays and discourages pre-trial detention. Anyone who is arrested or detained is entitled to a lawyer of their choosing and to a court proceeding to decide without delay the lawfulness of their detention. The United Nations Human Rights Committee, which monitors the implementation of the ICCPR, holds that incommunicado detention denies the right to a fair trial, and raises the risks of torture. In April 2017, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found Me Nam’s detention to be arbitrary and called for her release. Instead, Vietnam proceeded with its persecution of Me Nam under the Penal Code. In contravention of Vietnam’s obligations under international law, Article 88 is often used to silence and imprison peaceful government critics and human rights defenders for exercising their right to the freedom of expression and opinion.

On the one-year anniversary of her arbitrary arrest and detention, Civil Rights Defenders urges the government of Vietnam to immediately and unconditionally release Me Nam, and to immediately end its wider persecution of bloggers and journalists under Article 88 of the Penal Code. As a prisoner of conscience, Me Nam has the right to remedy, including necessary medical attention, which Vietnam should ensure without conditions. Vietnam should amend or abolish those sections of the Penal Code that do not comply with its obligations under international law. Meanwhile, Vietnam’s donors, trade partners, and especially those seeking to expand relations with Vietnam, should likewise pressure the government to release Me Nam and all others arbitrarily detained for the peaceful exercise of their right to free expression.

Download as pdf: Public Statement.

Một năm sau ngày bị bắt Civil Rights Defender yêu cầu thả tự do cho Mẹ Nấm Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh - VietnamVOICE
On 10 October 2016, Vietnamese authorities arrested blogger Me Nam (Mother Mushroom), on charges of spreading propaganda against the State

Source from: Civil Rights Defenders – One Year After Arrest, Demand for Release of Vietnamese Human Rights Defender Me Nam

Vietnam activists face sustained government crackdown ahead of APEC – dpa International

Months of police action against Vietnamese dissidents has led to at least 12 people being locked up across the country. The crackdown comes ahead of a regional summit in Da Nang in November set to include leaders from throughout the Pacific region.

Hanoi (dpa) – Nguyen Viet Hung is unsure how to help his son. Police reportedly arrested Nguyen Viet Dung, 31, in his northern Vietnamese hometown on September 27 at lunchtime. Since then, neither his family nor a lawyer have been able to see him.

He was accused of “propagating” against the state, a charge that carries up to 20 years in prison.

“Dung has followed his way, so sooner or later he would have been arrested. When he was arrested, I was not surprised or shocked but I was very angry,” Hung said in a phone interview from his home in Nghe An province.

Dung’s story is not unique. At least 12 political dissidents have been arrested, charged or convicted of anti-state crimes since June in one of Vietnam’s most intense crackdowns on dissent in years.

Another dissident, who had been a dual French-Vietnamese national, had his citizenship revoked and was deported to Paris.

Vietnam, which is ruled by a single party communist state, bans dissent, criminalizes opposition parties and imprisons pro-democracy activists.

Pham Doan Trang, a former journalist for Vietnam’s state-controlled press who is now a rights activist, said the situation for the dissident movement appears bleak.

“The security forces will not stop and they won’t refrain from violence either. So these years will be very dark for Vietnam,” she said.

Anti-government activists, who primarily spread their messages via social media, take on causes ranging from environmentalism to Vietnamese sovereignty in the disputed South China Sea.

“It appears that the Vietnam government feels threatened by more concerted and organized campaigns … and the increasing influence of internet communications that enable people to organize in new ways,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Dung established an unrecognized Republican Party and a group called the Loyalist Association of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, both references to the old US-allied Saigon regime that the communists defeated in the Vietnam War.

He posted pictures of himself dressed in military uniforms alongside the old South Vietnamese flag, a symbol considered taboo in modern Vietnam.

Dung’s father described him as a man who was active in his community by helping those in need.

“He assisted people to build schools and roads, and helped families who were having difficulties, but the government thinks he incited people,” his father said.

Dung’s father added that villagers have kept their mouths shut since the arrest to “avoid trouble.”

Quang A, a retired economist and businessman who is now one of Vietnam’s most prominent pro-democracy activists, says depending on what you show support for, you can be targeted for dissent.

“If you raise your voice to support the old system, then maybe they see that you are more dangerous than the others,” said Quang A.

Other political prisoners, such as Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known by her pen name Mother Mushroom, were arrested for their criticism of the Communist Party in the Vietnamese blogosphere.

According to Carl Thayer, Emeritus Professor at The University of New South Wales and a Vietnam expert, the government could be initiating crackdowns in anticipation of November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the coastal city of Da Nang. The meeting is set to include leaders from throughout the Pacific region as well as US President Donald Trump.

With all eyes focused on Vietnam, the government wants to ensure that activists do not use the occasion to draw attention to their causes.

“The timing of the arrests and trials indicates the [government] is taking pre-emptive action far in advance of the APEC summit to intimidate other would-be activists from making public protests on the internet or in street demonstrations,” Thayer said.

He also pointed out that activists tried to use the 2006 APEC conference in Hanoi to gain attention from world leaders and media.

Quang A says that while the current government’s crackdown has been dramatic, it has not deterred committed activists from carrying on their work.

“If you are to become a member for the struggle, for democracy, or human rights, you have to face all the consequences, and I think for those activists who have been detained, they aren’t scared of anything,” he said.

“Sure, with such tough measures, they can incite some fear in people, but you see that is a temporary sentiment,” he added.

Former journalist Pham Doan Trang believes “there will be light at the end of the tunnel” for Vietnam, despite the current rights challenges affecting the country for the foreseeable future.

“It’s just a matter of time, and we must try to live to tell the tale,” she said.

Source from: dpa International – “Vietnam activists face sustained government crackdown ahead of APEC”

VOICE Representative’s speech at the UN Human Rights Council

Let’s listen to our statement before the United Nations’ Human Rights Council today, delivered by Đinh Thảo, one of our delegates, a staff of VOICE.

We are proud to bring voices of conscience from #Vietnam to the international community’s attention.

19 September 2017

36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Thank you, Mr. Vice President,

We are gravely concerned by the crackdown on human rights defenders in Vietnam. Despite its international treaty obligations and recommendations accepted at the UPR to respect freedom of expression and civil society space, the Government of Vietnam is doing the exact opposite.

In the first eight months of this year, at least 16 activists have been detained, arrested or sentenced under the country’s draconian Penal Code, including 6 members of the group, Brotherhood for Democracy, who could face the maximum sentence of death for their peaceful human rights work. Two female activists, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh and Tran Thi Nga, have been sentenced to 10 and 9 years in prison, for peacefully criticizing the government and have been subjected to dire prison conditions. I am also here with Ms. Le Thi Minh Ha, wife of Anh Ba Sam – Nguyen Huu Vinh who was sentenced to 5 years for simply blogging against the Government.

There are, in fact, hundreds of prisoners of conscience in Vietnam right now, yet Vietnam fails to acknowledge their existence.

Mr. Vice President, we call on the Vietnamese government to implement in good faith the UPR recommendations it accepted in 2014 as well as those made by Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies. We call on the UN Member States to urge Vietnam to free all prisoners of conscience.

CIVICUS presents this statement together with VOICE.

Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

#VietnamUPR #HRC36

Amnesty International: Viet Nam: activists held incommunicado may face life in prison

URGENT ACTION
ACTIVISTS HELD INCOMMUNICADO MAY FACE LIFE IN PRISON
Three Vietnamese activists, Trương Minh Đức, Nguyễn Trung Tôn, and Phạm Văn Trội, are being held incommunicado at B14 prison in Hà Nội after their arrests on 30 July 2017. They have a range of pre-existing health conditions that require treatment and face a sentence of up to life imprisonment or capital punishment.

Trương Minh Đức, Nguyễn Trung Tôn, and Phạm Văn Trội are members of the Brotherhood for Democracy, a group formed by human rights lawyer Nguyễn Văn Đài in 2013 to peacefully advocate for democracy in Viet Nam. They were arrested separately on 30 July 2017 and are accused of “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the People’s Administration” under Article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code. The vaguely-worded offence,which falls under the overbroad “national security” section of the Code, provides for a sentence of up to life imprisonment or capital punishment.All three men suffer from pre-existing health conditions that require access to medication and medical care. Trương Minh Đức has a heart disease and high blood pressure. Following a stroke in mid-May, he needs daily access to a number of medications in order to safely control his condition and help prevent another stroke or a heart attack. Nguyễn Trung Tôn suffers from kidney and prostate problems for which he takes medication. In addition, he has badly injured knees after he was abducted and beaten by unknown men in February 2017. Phạm Văn Trội has stomach ulcers for which he takes medication. Although their wives have attempted to pass on medicine via prison authorities, they are unsure whether it has been delivered, since they have not been able to visit their husbands.

All three men suffer from pre-existing health conditions that require access to medication and medical care. Trương Minh Đức has a heart disease and high blood pressure. Following a stroke in mid-May, he needs daily access to a number of medications in order to safely control his condition and help prevent another stroke or a heart attack. Nguyễn Trung Tôn suffers from kidney and prostate problems for which he takes medication. In addition, he has badly injured knees after he was abducted and beaten by unknown men in February 2017. Phạm Văn Trội has stomach ulcers for which he takes medication. Although their wives have attempted to pass on medicine via prison authorities, they are unsure whether it has been delivered, since they have not been able to visit their husbands.Incommunicado detention can facilitate torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and when prolonged can itself amount to such practices under international human rights law and standards. In addition, the right to promptly communicate with a lawyer and prepare a

Incommunicado detention can facilitate torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and when prolonged can itself amount to such practices under international human rights law and standards. In addition, the right to promptly communicate with a lawyer and prepare a defence is an essential part of the right to a fair trial.Please write immediately in Vietnamese, English, or your own language urging Vietnamese authorities to:

Please write immediately in Vietnamese, English, or your own language urging Vietnamese authorities to:- Release Trương Minh Đức, Nguyễn Trung Tôn, and Phạm Văn Trội immediately and unconditionally as they have been deprived of their liberty solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association;

– Release Trương Minh Đức, Nguyễn Trung Tôn, and Phạm Văn Trội immediately and unconditionally as they have been deprived of their liberty solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association;- Pending their release, ensure that they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and are allowed access to their family, a lawyer of their choice, and adequate medical care; and

– Pending their release, ensure that they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and are allowed access to their family, a lawyer of their choice, and adequate medical care; and- Ensure an immediate end to the arbitrary arrests and harassment of members of the Brotherhood for Democracy and other activists who peacefully express their views.

– Ensure an immediate end to the arbitrary arrests and harassment of members of the Brotherhood for Democracy and other activists who peacefully express their views.PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 20 OCTOBER 2017 TO:

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 20 OCTOBER 2017 TO:

Prime Minister
Nguyễn Xuân Phúc
Prime Minister’s Office
Hà Nội, Việt Nam
Email:
nguoiphatngonchinhphu@chinhphu.vn
Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Public Security
To Lam
44 Yết Kiêu St. Hoàn Kiếm District Hà
Nội, Việt Nam
Fax: + 844 3823 1872
c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Email: ttll.mfa@mofa.gov.vn
Salutation: Dear Minister

And copies to:

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy
Prime Minister
Phạm Bình Minh
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
1 Ton That Dam Street, Ba Dinh district
Hà Nội, Việt Nam
Fax: + 844 3823 1872

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Name Address 1 Address 2 Address 3 Fax Fax number Email Email address Salutation Salutation
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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

On the morning of 30 July 2017, Trương Minh Đức and his wife were stopped on a street in Hà Nội by Vietnamese officials in plain clothes and forcibly escorted to a local police station where an arrest warrant was read. The same morning Phạm Văn Trội and Nguyễn Trung Tôn were arrested by police at their homes in Hà Nội and Thanh Hoa province, respectively, where arrest warrants were also read out. A fourth individual, Nguyễn Bắc Truyển, was forcibly disappeared on the same morning (see https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa41/6964/2017/en/%20for%20further%20information/). According to State-run media, all four men are alleged to have connections to human rights lawyer Nguyễn Văn Đài who was himself arrested in Hà Nội on 16 December 2015 and, along with his colleague Le Thu Ha, is charged with “committing propaganda” against the State under Article 88 of the Penal Code and “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the People’s Administration” under Article 79.

Trương Minh Đức is a former journalist and prisoner of conscience. Prior to his arrest he worked as an administrator for the Brotherhood for Democracy and as an advocate in the Viet Labour movement, educating workers about their human rights. He was arrested in 2007 and imprisoned for five years after being convicted of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State” under Article 258 of the Penal Code for reporting on land grabs in a number of Vietnamese publications. In May 2009, his detention was found to be arbitrary by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (Opinion 1/2009), however he remained in prison until the end of his sentence. Since his release from prison in 2012, authorities have frequently raided his home, making it difficult for his family to earn a living from renting spare rooms at the back of their property. His adult children have been repeatedly questioned by officials about his activities and he has been badly beaten on a number of occasions by men in plain clothes whom he recognized as security officials.

Nguyễn Trung Tôn is a Protestant pastor and former prisoner of conscience who has written about and promoted freedom of religion in Viet Nam. He was arrested in January 2011 in connection with his writings and imprisoned for two years after being convicted of “conducting propaganda” against the State under Article 88 of the Penal Code. Nguyễn Trung Tôn and his family have been harassed for many years by authorities and unidentified assailants. Human waste, oil, and dirt have been thrown at both a market stall operated by his wife and their family home on a number of occasions. In February 2017, Nguyễn Trung Tôn and a friend were abducted in Quang Binh province by unidentified men and badly beaten. He was hospitalized and required surgery to repair injuries to his knees.

Phạm Văn Trội is a writer, activist, and former prisoner of conscience. He has provided advice to workers and land grab victims and written about human rights and democracy. He was arrested in September 2008 for his writings promoting multi-party democracy and imprisoned for four years, including six months in solitary confinement, after being convicted of “conducting propaganda” against the State under Article 88 of the Penal Code. In May 2009, his detention was found to be arbitrary by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (Opinion 1/2009), however, he remained in prison until the end of his sentence.
Viet Nam is in the midst of a sustained crackdown on human rights which has resulted in the arrest and arbitrary detention of at least fifteen peaceful activists and government critics since January 2017. Prison conditions in Viet Nam are harsh, with inadequate food and health care, falling far short of the minimum requirements set out in the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules) and other international standards.

Name: Trương Minh Đức , Nguyễn Trung Tôn, and Phạm Văn Trội
Gender: male

UA: 204/17 Index: ASA 41/7059/2017 Issue Date: 8 September 2017

TIME: Facing Jail, Democracy Activist Joshua Wong Says ‘Hong Kong Is Under Threat’

Feliz Solomon and Aria Hangyu Chen / Hong Kong
Aug 17, 2017

Joshua Wong is a free man, and a very young one, when he arrives Wednesday afternoon in front of a plaza in Hong Kong that he calls Citizen’s Square. But he may not be free for much longer. On Thursday, the 20-year-old faces a prison sentence for kicking off massive pro-democracy protests here three years ago. “I am not really ready for it,” he told TIME in an exclusive interview.

On Sept. 26, 2014, Wong and a small crowd of fellow student activists stormed the forecourt of Hong Kong’s government headquarters to oppose what they viewed as political and social encroachment by China. Originally an open plaza, the forecourt was fenced off in 2014 to prevent protesters, from democracy activists to land rights campaigners, from assembling there.

That night, Wong and others were pepper-sprayed amid scuffles with police, and at least a dozen students were arrested. Two days later , partly in response to clashes at the forecourt — which protesters began calling “Civic Square” or “Citizens’ Square” — tens of thousands of mostly young people flooded the Central and Admiralty neighborhoods, Hong Kong’s seats of power. There, they vastly swelled already-planned protests against Chinese interference in Hong Kong elections, and stayed on the streets for 79 days of mostly peaceful occupation. Wong’s remarkable role in the protests is the subject of the Netflix documentary Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower.

Facing Jail, Democracy Activist Joshua Wong Says 'Hong Kong Is Under Threat'
Joshua Wong, then 17 and leader of the pro-democracy group Scholarism, sits on steps alongside metal security barriers outside the Central Government Offices in the Admiralty district of Hong Kong, China, on Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. Lam Yik Fei/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Of all the events that made the movement that was later dubbed the Umbrella Revolution, it was this first act that may haunt Wong. On Aug. 19, 2015, he and two of his peers, with whom he founded the political party Demosistō, were charged with unlawful assembly and inciting unrest for their role in storming the government forecourt. They were convicted on July 20, 2016 and sentenced to 80 hours of community service. On Thursday , Wong, along with Nathan Law, 23, and Alex Chow, 26, face a judicial panel that has been asked by prosecutors to imprison them on the grounds that their sentence was too lenient and sent the wrong message to other activists.

In September last year, Law became, at 23, the youngest lawmaker ever elected to Hong Kong’s legislature, but he was ousted by pro-Beijing colleagues over claims that he disrespected China during his oath-taking ceremony. If he is imprisoned for more than three months, he will be legally disqualified from running for political office for five years — as will Wong and Chow. That the courts have even agreed to reassess the trio’s sentences after they have already been dealt and served has sounded alarm bells that China, of which Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous territory, may be putting pressure on what has long been cherished as an independent judiciary.

On Wednesday, an anxious but resolute Wong met with TIME outside the very same plaza he stormed three years ago. With less than 24 hours before the judges’ decision, he spoke candidly about his belief that he has become a target of political prosecution, his goal of a democratic and self-ruling Hong Kong, and his hopes that his hometown will stand its ground to remain what he calls the freest territory of China.

His interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The court is about to revisit its punishment for your role in the events of Sept. 26, 2014, when you and other student activists stormed the forecourt at government headquarters. Could you also revisit those events for us?

Three years ago, we organized an action to reclaim Citizens’ Square and to ask for free elections and democracy in Hong Kong. We were against the interference of the Communist Party of China. Today we’re facing a verdict that comes from the Chinese government. They will probably send me to prison for more than half a year. What I want the international community to realize is that Hong Kong is already under authoritarian rule. This is a long-term battle, and we ask for long-term support. Hong Kong is now under threat.

Looking back on that action, is there anything you would have done differently if you could do it over?

I have no regrets at all. We were against patriotic education [an attempt by local authorities to impose a pro-Beijing curriculum on local schools], which is why we took the square. Three years ago, the government set up a barrier to block our freedom of assembly. So we organized an action to reclaim the square to remind people that it’s time to take back their rights. This was the first place I was arrested, and it’s the reason I will be sent to prison, but I do not regret it at all and I will still keep fighting for democracy.

Given that you’ve already served a sentence for this case, and given that revising the sentence would legally derail your stated aim of running for political office, do you view the appeal on your sentencing as a political act?

Last summer I was sentenced to 80 hours of community service — tomorrow [Thursday] I will face nearly a year-long sentence with immediate imprisonment. It just proves that the Hong Kong courts just obey China. This is meant to be a threat.

If imprisoned, many will view you and your colleagues as Hong Kong’s first political prisoners. What does this say about the independence of Hong Kong’s judiciary, which you have referred to as one of the “core values” of the territory?

Judicial independence is under threat because of the Department of Justice’s loyalty to China. I hope people will realize that. One decade ago, people described Hong Kong as a place without democracy but with rule of law. Now Hong Kong has already transformed into an authoritarian regime.

We won’t be the first political prisoners in Hong Kong [on Tuesday, the courts sentenced 13 activists to jail terms of 8 and 13 months for storming the legislature on a protest over rural development projects]. We’re just the first from the Umbrella Movement. The government reviewed this case against us because they hope to send us to prison and block our chances of running in elections. I believe the Department of Justice is reviewing my sentence because they hope I don’t run in an election.

Do you view Hong Kong as a barometer of freedom elsewhere in Asia, and do you view the way you’re being treated as an omen for democratic norms and rule of law in the broader region?

Hong Kong is the city with the highest degree of freedom of all the Chinese territories. In the Asia Pacific, I think Hong Kong should be in the spotlight to make people realize that [China] is still violating human rights. I hope the experience of Hong Kong will urge global solidarity and make people care about Hong Kong. Now it’s a place where youngsters — like her or him or me [gestures at passersby] — are sent to prison.

What impact do you think your experience with the courts will have on the many young people in Hong Kong and elsewhere that have become more politically active in recent years?

In the past few years there has been an uprising, a new political awareness among my generation. However, political prosecutions and sentences are increasing. We are in a time of darkness for my hometown. But in a dark era like this, with the repression of the Beijing regime, youngsters must fight on the front line to ask for democracy. I just want to say that if Nathan, Alex and I are in prison, and we cannot stand on the front line, there’s no reason for anyone else to take a step backwards.

It’s safe to say that most observers predict that you are going to prison. You’re only 20 years old. Are you afraid?

I am not really ready for it. And when, after I have been sent to prison, I can only meet my parents twice per month for half an hour. I will miss them, and I will miss my home. No one wants to be sent to prison, including me. I’m tired, and I’m scared, but I will still keep on fighting.

The Guardian: How Vietnam locked up its most famous blogger – Mother Mushroom

One of Vietnam’s most influential political bloggers, given a courage award by Melania Trump, faces a decade behind bars for her ‘reactionary’ work.

Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known as Mother Mushroom, on trial in the city of Nha Trang. Photograph: Vietnam News Agency/EPA

“Each person only has a life, but if I had the chance to choose again I would still choose my way.”

They are the words of one of Vietnam’s most influential bloggers — known by her online pseudonym, Mother Mushroom — minutes before she was handed the shock sentence of a decade in prison. Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh directed her defiant comments at her 61-year-old mother, who was watching a live feed in a room next door as she was not allow into the courtroom.

The 37-year-old was accused of defaming Vietnam’s communist regime in her blogs and interviews with foreign media.

“I clapped my hands in the room, where 20 security officials looked at me with very angry eyes, but I was not afraid; I was OK, very proud of her,” said Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan.

Arrested in October while attempting to visit another dissident in prison, Quynh, 37, has already spent nine months behind bars, in what her lawyer said were desperate conditions.

She subsisted only on a diet of anchovies and spinach soup for the first seven months, and was denied both sanitary pads and underwear, Vo An Don said.

After Quynh was arrested on 10 October, her mother heard nothing about her whereabouts or wellbeing until a brief reunion in prison hours before her 29 June trial for crimes against the state.

The months had taken their toll on her daughter, Lan told the Guardian in a phone interview from her home in the southern coastal city of Nha Trang. Quynh appeared sickly during their meeting, she said.

“I said: ‘My dear daughter, now I believe you are still alive.’ But she looked weak with very pale skin,” she added.

Vietnam is infamous for its limits on freedom of expression, yet Mother Mushroom’s detention and unusually lengthy sentence raised fresh alarm among the country’s blogging community, which avoids the censorship of state-control print media. The US state department quickly called for all prisoners of conscience to be released immediately.

While Quynh has been branded a “reactionary” by the state for her anti-government blogging, her friends and family defend her as a champion of free expression in a country where dissent against single-party rule is outlawed.

“My daughter has done a normal thing in an abnormal society, so she has to pay the price of prison and being denounced,” Lan said.

Quynh rose to fame in Vietnam’s blogosphere in the late 2000s for her doggedly independent citizen journalism. A founding member of the underground Vietnamese Bloggers Network, she is especially passionate about environmentalism, police brutality and Vietnam’s dispute with China over control of the South China Sea.

Lan said her daughter’s political awakening began after studying foreign languages in university.

Upon discovering the pluralistic online world, Quynh came to her mother with difficult questions.

“She asked me: ‘Mum, do you know this or that [about the government]?’ I said I did, she questioned me, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’” recalled Lan.

“I told her I knew, but in this society we are living in, it is not the society where you can speak out, and they will denounce you.”

Quynh has since become a prominent figure outside Vietnam, and has championed efforts in Vietnamese civil society to hold political discussions on Facebook. The government has become so angered by the movement that it has called on all companies in Vietnam to stop advertising on YouTube and Facebook.

The Guardian: How Vietnam locked up its most famous blogger – Mother Mushroom
Quynh championed efforts in Vietnamese civil society to hold political discussions on Facebook. Photograph: Tracey Nearmy/AAP

In March the US first lady, Melania Trump, awarded Quynh the International Women of Courage Award, which Vietnam said “was not appropriate and of no benefit to the development of the relations between the two countries”.

Quynh’s friends described her as frank and hot-tempered but true to her word.

“She always spoke out what she was thinking, so that’s why it’s not good for her when she caused trouble with such a personality, but she was a person who always does what she says she will,” said Trinh Kim Tien, a 27-year-old Ho Chi Minh City-based activist.

Quynh’s last posts on Facebook, her favoured blogging medium before her detention, were a combination of repostings of articles by other activists and brief, poetic, biting attacks on the state.

“What kind of a society is it where people responsible for their [high] positions, where the officials consider the citizens more stupid than pigs?” she wrote on 29 September.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said her involvement in protests against the Taiwanese-owned Formosa Ha Tinh Steel plant in north-central Vietnam, which was linked to a catastrophic fish die-off in 2016, was the last straw for the authorities.

“Mother Mushroom’s prominent ties to the anti-Formosa movement, which the government is increasingly viewing as a security challenge to its authority, means she became the ideal candidate for a heavy sentence designed to sideline her and intimidate others,” Robertson said.

The Guardian: How Vietnam locked up its most famous blogger – Mother Mushroom
Environmentalist protesters demand that the Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa leave Vietnam. Photograph: Bennett Murray for the Guardian

 

Human Rights Watch says there are about 110 known political prisoners in Vietnam, although the country denies holding any. Speaking at a press conference on the day of the trial, foreign affairs ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang said “all violations of laws must be extremely punished in accordance with the laws of Vietnam”.

Pham Than Nghien, a friend of Quynh whose own blogging led to her being imprisoned from 2008 to 2012, said she cried when the verdict was delivered.

“While I wasn’t astonished because she had committed many crimes according to the regime … I could feel my hands and legs shiver,” she said.

“We’re friends, we’re also both women, and I feel sympathy for her children, her family.”

Quynh’s mother, Lan, is now tasked with raising her two grandchildren while their mother remains in prison. Unless the state grants Quynh clemency the children will grow up parentless.

“I feel empty now,” Lan said.

The New York Times: With Social Media, Vietnam’s Dissidents Grow Bolder Despite Crackdown

HANOI, Vietnam — A prominent blogger and environmental activist in Vietnam was sentenced last week to 10 years in prison on charges of national security offenses, including sharing anti-state propaganda on social media.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, better known by her online handle Mother Mushroom, had been held incommunicado since she was arrested in October, and attendance at her trial was strictly controlled.

But barely one hour after the verdict was handed down on Thursday, one of Ms. Quynh’s lawyers summarized his arguments and posted her final statement at the trial to his 61,000 Facebook followers.

New York Times: Nhờ mạng xã hội, các nhà bất đồng chính kiến ở Việt Nam ngày càng quả cảm bất chấp các cuộc đàn áp
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, the Vietnamese blogger known as Mother Mushroom, at her trial Thursday. A lawyer posted a statement from her on Facebook. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“I hope that everyone will speak up and fight, overcome their own fears to build a better country,” she said, according to the lawyer. The statement was reposted thousands of times.

In authoritarian Vietnam, the internet has become the de facto forum for the country’s growing number of dissenting voices. Facebook connections in particular have mobilized opposition to government policies; they played a key role in mass protests against the state’s handling of an environmental disaster last year. Now, the government is tightening its grip on the internet, arresting and threatening bloggers, and pressing Facebook and YouTube to censor what appears on their sites.

“Facebook is being used as an organizing tool, as a self-publishing platform, as a monitoring device for people when they are being detained and when they get released,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

Facebook is being used “to connect communities that otherwise wouldn’t be connected,” he said.

Nguyen Anh Tuan, 27, a pro-democracy activist, said the growing number of dissidents forging connections through social media had emboldened him.

The first time the police interrogated him in 2011, he said, he felt utterly alone. His parents and friends disapproved of his political writings, and he knew few other people he could turn to for help.

Mr. Tuan still faces police harassment and his passport has been confiscated. But the most recent time he was called in for questioning, he posted a copy of the summons to Facebook, along with a satirical note demanding to be paid for the time he spent in custody.

His note went viral, and other people followed suit, posting their own police summonses on Facebook and asking for compensation. “Regarding activism, I cannot feel lonely anymore,” he said.

New York Times: Nhờ mạng xã hội, các nhà bất đồng chính kiến ở Việt Nam ngày càng quả cảm bất chấp các cuộc đàn áp
Nguyen Anh Tuan, a human rights activist, said that when police interrogated him in 2011, he had no one to turn to. But now with supporters on Facebook, “I cannot feel lonely anymore,” he said. Credit Quinn Ryan Mattingly for The New York Times

Vietnam’s Facebook users — who now number 45 million, almost half the country’s population — use the site to organize prison visits and vigils outside police stations for detainees, and to solicit donations for political prisoners. And dissidents are increasingly migrating political and personal blogs, which can be easily blocked by the government, onto Facebook, which is so widely used that blocking it entirely would not be feasible.

Mr. Tuan helps run a fund that supports the families of prisoners of conscience, including Ms. Quynh’s mother and two young children. He said that much of the support now came from people inside the country sending money from their personal bank accounts, which the state can trace. In the past, he said, overseas Vietnamese communities drove most of the dissent and supplied most of the money.

“They know very well that they could be checked by the government, but they dare to do it,” he said of his local donors.

That has not gone unnoticed by the government, which is also asserting its authority in new ways. Ms. Quynh is one of over 100 bloggers and activists jailed in Vietnam, according to Human Rights Watch. Pham Minh Hoang, another popular blogger, was stripped of his citizenship and deported last week to France, where he also holds citizenship.

The government has strategically cut access to Facebook when protests are expected, and earlier this year asked both Facebook and YouTube to help it eliminate fake accounts and other “toxic” content, like anti-government material, saying it had identified up to 8,000 YouTube videos that fit that description, according to the local newspaper Tuoi Tre. The government also warned Vietnamese companies that their ads must not appear next to that sort of content.

Facebook has said its policy is to abide by local laws, although there was no indication it had removed content in Vietnam thus far.

Nguyen Quang A, a retired computer scientist and former Communist party member who is now a dissident, said he felt the human rights situation was as bad as ever.

Last week, shortly before a planned interview, he was picked up by police near his house and taken for a five-and-a-half-hour drive to the seaside and back. He said he had been similarly detained 11 other times in the past year and a half.

He suggested the government was under increasing pressure from citizens frustrated by its handling of recent environmental and land issues. When a chemical spill at the Formosa Steel company killed tons of fish last year, outrage coalesced online, where protests were organized, photographs of the disaster spread rapidly and the hashtag #Ichoosefish became a rallying cry.

“I guess that they are too afraid,” Mr. Quang A said. “They see the situation is too dangerous for them, and they see peaceful activists as a very dangerous enemy.”

In a report released last month, Human Rights Watch detailed what it called a “disturbing trend” of bloggers and activists being beaten on the street by thugs known as “con do.” It tallied 36 such attacks from January 2015 to this April, only one of which the police investigated.

New York Times: Nhờ mạng xã hội, các nhà bất đồng chính kiến ở Việt Nam ngày càng quả cảm bất chấp các cuộc đàn áp
Pham Anh Cuong, left, was alarmed by photographs online showing how brutally an activist, Nguyen Chi Tuyen, right, had been beaten by five men, prompting him to become more politically outspoken. Credit Quinn Ryan Mattingly for The New York Times

The report relies partly on the activists’ own photos and videos of their injuries, often filmed shakily on smartphones and quickly shared online.

Jonathan London, a Vietnam specialist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, said that despite recent repression, the transformation wrought by the internet in a short period had been “astonishing and hopeful.”

It is “remarkable that in a country that as recently as 15 or 20 years ago had one of the lowest rates of telephone usage in the world has thrust rapidly into an era of 24-hour news and continuous social and political criticism accessible to everyone,” he said.

Pham Anh Cuong, 45, an electrical engineer, was not outspoken about politics until two years ago, when an activist he followed online, Nguyen Chi Tuyen, 43, was severely beaten by five men. Mr. Cuong saw photographs of Mr. Tuyen’s bloody face and was alarmed by the brutality of the attack.

Today, he considers himself “one who raises my voice,” if not fully a dissident. His goal is to share information with family and friends, rather than depend on the mainstream news media, which is nearly all state-owned.

“The very first time I wrote on Facebook, nobody even ‘liked’ it — they were scared of pressing the like button,” he said. “Now people are starting to like and they are starting to share as well.”

Offline, he now considers Mr. Tuyen and other dissidents friends, and several of them play together on a soccer team, the No-U FC. (“No-U” refers to a U-shaped line marking China’s bold territorial claims in the South China Sea, an issue that galvanized many Vietnamese dissidents several years ago.) A Facebook page meticulously tracks the team’s wins and losses, as well as its members’ frequent run-ins with the security police.

In a cafe in Hanoi last week, the two friends simultaneously chatted, chain-smoked and checked Facebook. They noticed a state media story criticizing Mother Mushroom for receiving a cash prize from a human rights group in Stockholm. Mr. Tuyen immediately tagged a Swedish diplomat to alert her to the piece and asked the rights group for comment.

The two began scrolling again.

“Here’s news from one of my friends, a doctor in Saigon, who just heard the news that Mother Mushroom is in debt,” Mr. Tuyen said.

“The doctor in Saigon raised his voice that we should contribute to give money to her family,” he said.

He typed for a moment, then looked up again.

“I just commented, ‘I will join.’”

By 

Amnesty International: Open letter on Prisoner of Conscience Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức

On the 8th anniversary of the arrest of POC Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức – and half way through his 16-year prison sentence – the Directors of 12 Amnesty International offices call for his immediate and unconditional release. The letter also calls on Viet Nam’s prison authorities to ensure that their treatment of Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức adheres strictly, as a minimum, to the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules) so that he is treated with dignity and respect while he is incarcerated.

Ref: TG ASA 41/2017.002 Index: ASA 41.6234.2017
To Lam
Minister of Public Security
Ministry of Public Security

19 May 2017

Your Excellency

RE: OPEN LETTER ON TRẦN HUỲNH DUY THỨC

We are writing to draw your attention to the situation for Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức, who is currently serving a 16-year prison sentence at Prison No 6 in Nghe An province.

Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức, a successful entrepreneur and advocate for social and economic reform, has been imprisoned since 24 May 2009, when he was arrested on charges of “theft of telephone lines”. Authorities later initiated a criminal investigation under Article 88 of Viet Nam’s 1999 Penal Code for “conducting propaganda against the state,” but subsequently charged him with “attempting to overthrow the people’s administration” under Article 79. On 20 January 2010, Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức was tried, convicted and sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment with five years’ house arrest on release. His trial fell short of international standards for fair trial, disregarding the presumption of innocence and right to a defence. The prosecution provided no evidence to support the indictment. According to observers, the judges deliberated for only 15 minutes before returning with the judgment, which took 45 minutes to read, suggesting it had been prepared in advance of the hearing.

Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience, held solely for peacefully exercising his human right to freedom of expression in his writing and his calls for peaceful social and economic reform. We therefore urge that he be immediately and unconditionally released, and his conviction quashed.

As Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức reaches the half-way point of his sentence, we are particularly concerned that he is held in conditions that do not meet international standards and that are negatively affecting his health and well-being. During the course of his imprisonment, he has been transferred several times, without prior notice to his family, who have to travel long distances to visit him. Rule 59 of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules), adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly in December 2015 and provides that “Prisoners shall be allocated, to the extent possible, to prisons close to their homes or their places of social rehabilitation.”

In his current location – Prison No. 6 – he is not provided with enough light in his cell when the electricity is switched off every morning so that he can read and write comfortably. Rule 14(a) of the Nelson Mandela Rules provides that “The windows shall be large enough to enable the prisoners to read or work by natural light and shall be so constructed that they can allow the entrance of fresh air whether or not there is artificial ventilation.” Rule 14(b) provides that “Artificial light shall be provided sufficient for the prisoners to read or work without injury to eyesight.” Yet prison officials have refused to either improve the situation themselves or allow his family to provide artificial lighting in the form of a small battery-run lamp. As a consequence, his eyesight is badly affected, a condition for which hehas received no examination or treatment in the prison. Other rights to which he should be entitled have also been denied by the prison authorities, such as the transmission of letters between him and his family and access to reading material, in breach of Rules 58(1) and 64 of the Nelson Mandela Rules, respectively. He has also been threatened with reprisals for speaking up for the human rights of other prisoners.

We call on Viet Nam’s prison authorities to ensure that their treatment of Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức adheres strictly, as a minimum, to the Nelson Mandela Rules so that he is treated with dignity and respect while he is incarcerated.

Finally, we urge once more that Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức and all other prisoners of conscience in Viet Nam are immediately and unconditionally released. As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Viet Nam must respect and protect the human right to freedom of expression. By imprisoning people like Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức, who has done nothing but express his opinions peacefully, Viet Nam is failing in its obligations under international human rights law.

Yours sincerely

Claire Mallinson
Director, Amnesty International Australia

Shamini Darshni
Director, Amnesty International Malaysia

Sylvie Brigot-Vilain
Director, Amnesty International France

Altantuya Batdorj
Director, Amnesty International Mongolia

Markus N. Beeko
Director, Amnesty International Germany

Grant Bayldon
Director, Amnesty International New Zealand

Mabel Au
Director, Amnesty International Hong Kong

Anna Lindenfors
Director, Amnesty International Sweden

Usman Hamid
Director, Amnesty International Indonesia

Hideki Walkbayashi
Director, Amnesty International Japan

Jose Noel Olano
Head of Office, Amnesty International Philippines

Piyanut Kotason
Director, Amnesty International Thailand

Kate Allen
Director, Amnesty International UK

Margaret Huang
Director, Amnesty International USA

Resource: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa41/6234/2017/en/