Wave of Repression Blankets Vietnam

Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform Party)
With members inside Vietnam and around the world,
Viet Tan aims to establish democracy and reform the country through peaceful means.
www.viettan.org

September 10, 2008
Contact: Duy Hoang +1 (202) 470-1678

Communist authorities in Vietnam have arrested several democracy activists in the middle of the night and placed many others under house arrest. These actions come amidst the sentencing of a prominent blogger and appearances of large banners in urban areas calling for multi-party democracy and leaflets protesting the government’s territorial concessions to China.

· On September 10, shortly before midnight, about a dozen security police raided the home of Pham Van Troi in Hanoi. Troi, a member of the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam, was arrested according to his wife. At the same time, police in Hai Phong surrounded the home of writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia, a leader of the Bloc 8406, and seized him. A third democracy activist, Pham Thanh Nghien, reported that her home in Hai Phong was surrounded overnight by police. Other confirmed arrests last evening include university student Ngo Quynh and poet Tran Duc Thach.

· Earlier in the day, in a closed-door trial in Saigon, authorities sentenced blogger Nguyen Van Hai (known by his pen name Dieu Cay) to 30 months in prison for tax evasion. However, everything about the case—how Dieu Cay was secretly arrested, his five months in prison without family visit, the government’s refusal to allow attorneys of his choice to represent him—indicates that the case was politically motivated. Dieu Cay wrote about Hanoi’s territorial concessions to Beijing. He had called for demonstrations against the Olympic torch relay in Saigon on April 29 when he was arrested.

· Friends of Dieu Cay were summoned to police stations this week or isolated at home to prevent them from trying to attend the trial. Currently, bloggers Uyen Vu, Ta Phong Tan, Trang Dem, Thien Sau and Song Chi and attorneys Le Tran Luat and Phan Thanh Hai remain under house arrest or tight police surveillance.

Hanoi authorities appear nervous before the 50th anniversary of a diplomatic note by former North Vietnamese prime minister Pham Van Dong recognizing China’s claims over islands historically belonging to Vietnam. Fifty Vietnamese citizens have initiated a petition campaign calling on the Hanoi government to nullify the September 14, 1958 diplomatic note. Recently, leaflets have been distributed at universities calling for protests outside the Chinese embassy on September 14th.

The government is also contending with the peaceful protest by thousands of Catholics for the return of confiscated church property. The protest of Thai Ha parish is entering its third week. Even though authorities have detained some protestors and used tear gas against crowds, the prayer vigils continue.

As American Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte visits Vietnam this week, the Hanoi leadership is trying to project a business as usual appearance while its security police is sweeping up dissidents throughout the country.

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Vietnam deports American democracy activist

Demian Bulwa, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, May 19, 2008

(05-18 ) 20:16 PDT Elk Grove — When Northern California activist Quan Quoc Nguyen sneaked into his native Vietnam last Nov. 15, crossing the Cambodian border on the back of a bicycle, he figured he had a 50 percent chance of being arrested.

Two days later, he was picked up and accused of terrorism for using fake identification and for authoring pro-democracy leaflets that described ways to peacefully get rid of the communist government. He faced the prospect of spending years away from his wife and two teenage sons.

But on Sunday, the 54-year-old engineer was back home with his family in Elk Grove (Sacramento County) after six months in jail – and following a whirlwind of a week. Nguyen was convicted of terrorism Tuesday in a Ho Chi Minh City court, then deported on Saturday. About 7:30 p.m. Saturday, he arrived at San Francisco International Airport, where he was met by a throng of cheering supporters, among them Democratic Assemblyman Dave Jones of Sacramento.

“I used the time (in jail) to feel the suffering of the people” in Vietnam, Nguyen said in a telephone interview. “I showed them that I’m ready to share their suffering with them.”

Jones, one of several California politicians who pressured the Vietnamese government to release Nguyen, praised him and said he had brought needed attention to his cause.

“This is a great day for (Nguyen) and his family, but also for the Vietnamese American community and anyone who cares about individual liberty and freedom,” Jones said. Nguyen was sentenced last Tuesday to six months behind bars, a sentence he was four days from completing. He had been arrested with seven others. Two Vietnamese citizens also were convicted; one has three months left to serve.

The state-run Vietnam News Agency reported that Nguyen’s trial showed that he “committed to run, and raise funds for the Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform) terrorist group and entered Vietnam to carry out its terrorist plot.”

Nguyen’s indictment, the agency said, alleged that he planned to “build a terrorism network of Viet Tan in Vietnam and distribute leaflets to incite people to cause social disturbances, oppose the State, and threaten the State’s security.”

Nguyen is a member of the leadership committee of Viet Tan, a peaceful, pro-democracy political party based in San Jose, said party spokesman Duy Hoang of Washington, D.C.

Nguyen said he wrote the text for the leaflets, which were printed and distributed in Vietnam. He said he “wanted to let people know how to promote nonviolent struggle and how powerless people can get the power.”

Nguyen, who as a high school math teacher escaped by boat from Vietnam in 1981, said he went back to visit a sister and old friends. He said he is not allowed to enter the country under his own name. When he was interrogated, he said, he admitted he authored the leaflets.

“I don’t want to deny it,” he said. “I want to pay the price for my beliefs.”

His wife, Huong Mai Ngo, said she didn’t even know her husband was inside Vietnam until she learned of his arrest. He didn’t want to worry her, so he told her he was traveling to Thailand.

Ngo said she could write her husband just one letter a month, and it was censored by the government. A Vietnamese lawyer that she hired quit the case, she said, after his family was threatened.

Nguyen was able to call his wife and speak to her for the first time from the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. His first words were, “Don’t cry, OK, don’t cry.”

She didn’t. But Ngo wept at the airport.

Vietnam deports American democracy activist

Vietnam deports American pro-democracy activist

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam has deported an American man of Vietnamese origin who was sentenced to six months in jail on terrorism charges for planning to circulate anti-government pamphlets, state media said Sunday.

Nguyen Quoc Quan, a mathematician from Sacramento, Calif., was expelled from Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday, the Vietnam News Agency reported.

Quan was among several people arrested last November in a house in the city. Authorities said they were preparing to circulate anti-government pamphlets on behalf of Viet Tan, a California-based group that Vietnam considers a terrorist organization.

Viet Tan says it promotes nonviolent political change in Communist Vietnam. U.S. Ambassador Michael Michalak has said he has seen no evidence the group is engaged in terrorism.

Also arrested in November were American citizen Truong Van Ba from Hawaii and French journalist Nguyen Thi Thanh Van. Ba, whose American name is Leon Truong, and Van were released in December.

Vietnamese authorities have said Quan entered the country on a forged Cambodian passport. He was sentenced Tuesday, then deported after being given credit for time served while awaiting trial.

Vietnam does not tolerate dissent, which it considers a threat to its one-party rule.

The Associated Press: Vietnam deports American pro-democracy activist

Capital man freed after six months in Vietnamese jail

After six months in a Vietnamese prison, Sacramento-area pro-democracy activist Nguyen Quoc Quan is finally coming home this weekend, U.S. State Department officials said Tuesday.

Nguyen, an engineer from Elk Grove, was convicted of terrorism in Ho Chi Minh City on May 13, six months after being arrested for distributing pro-democracy leaflets. He was sentenced to six months with credit for time served, and ordered deported.

Nguyen, 54, is scheduled to be released May 17. He could be home in Elk Grove with his wife and two teenage sons by Sunday.

“We welcome the news that after six months in detention, American citizen Nguyen Quoc Quan was finally granted a trial,” said State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez.

Nguyen’s wife, Ngo Mai Huong, declared, “I’m on top of the world now! When I see him, I’m going hug him and then slap him and tell him don’t do that to me again.”

Ngo said she was up all night waiting for the verdict, and finally got a call at 4 a.m. from a U.S. consular official in Ho Chi Minh City.

The son of Ho Diep, one of Vietnam’s most famous singers of classic poetry, Nguyen fell in love with Ngo in 1989 after reading a poem she wrote called “Mother.”

Nguyen is a member of Viet Tan, the International Vietnamese Reform Party. Viet Tan has been labeled a terrorist organization by Vietnam.

Nguyen was distributing 7,000 leaflets promoting nonviolent protest in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi and the movements that helped topple communism in Eastern Europe.

The two-page flier, entitled “Non-Violent Struggle: The Approach To Eradicate Dictatorship, Set The Stage for Democracy,” calls for widespread civil disobedience and urges protestors to “faithfully maintain the discipline of non-violence.”

The Vietnamese Embassy in Washington, D.C., said Nguyen was found guilty of terrorism under Article 84 of the Vietnam Penal Code.

“During the trial, Mr. Quan admitted to having participated in and supported terrorist activities initiated by U.S.-based Viet Tan group,” Nguyen The Cuong, press attache for the Vietnamese Embassy, wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.

“The court ordered Mr. Quan be deported from Vietnam after the completion of the jail term, which also counts his detention since November 2007.”

The State Department’s Vasquez said, “We are not aware of any information to support the charges of ‘terrorism’ against him.”

Michael Orona, a State Department deputy director who oversees human rights, said Nguyen “shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place.”

Orona credited Nguyen’s pending release to a team effort by U.S. diplomatic officials and elected representatives. California’s congressional delegation and the California Legislature, led by Sacramento Assemblyman Dave Jones, lobbied hard for Nguyen’s release.

California Sen. Barbara Boxer spoke with Vietnamese Ambassador Le Cong Phung in Washington Tuesday and was told Nguyen had been convicted of carrying false papers and terrorism, but would be released Saturday.

“Senator Boxer strongly challenged that he had committed any act of terrorism by simply carrying pro-democracy leaflets,” said Natalie Ravitz, Boxer’s communications director. “We’ve asked they reconsider the terrorism charge, but we’re happy he’s going to be home with his family.”

Duy Hoang, a UC Davis graduate working for Viet Tan in Washington, D.C., called Nguyen’s scheduled release “awesome news.”

“But promoting democracy through nonviolent means shouldn’t be a crime,” Huong said. “It means human rights are still lacking in Vietnam, and it takes people such as Dr. Quan to really risk their lives to promote freedom.”

http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/936696.html

Pro-democracy activists jailed in Vietnam

13 May 2008

HO CHI MINH CITY (AFP) — Three pro-democracy activists including an American were handed jail terms of up to nine months on “terrorism” charges in a trial held under tight security Tuesday.

The three, all linked to a US-based party banned in Vietnam, were accused of “inciting riots threatening the national security” of the communist country by distributing leaflets.

“All the three defendants are guilty of terrorism offences,” said presiding judge Vu Phi Long after the brief trial.

They “planned to distribute a huge number of leaflets inciting riots … threatening the security of the state,” he added.

US citizen Nguyen Quoc Quan, 55, was sentenced to six months and ordered deported after serving his sentence.

He was expected to leave Vietnam in the coming days as he has already spent nearly six months in jail since being detained on November 17.

Vietnamese activist Nguyen The Vu, 31, was sentenced to five months and 26 days, which allows him to leave prison on Tuesday.

The third defendant, Nguyen Hai, 57, was handed a nine-month sentence and will remain behind bars for a further three months.

A US embassy spokeswoman welcomed Nguyen Quoc Quan’s release but expressed disappointment with the terrorism charge.

“We are not aware of any information that would support charges of ‘terrorism’ against Nguyen Quoc Quan,” the spokeswoman said.

“We object to the detention and prosecution of any individual for peacefully expressing his or her own views.”

About 100 police were deployed around the courthouse in the southern hub of Ho Chi Minh City, where foreign media were allowed to follow the proceedings on closed-circuit television.

The trio, all accused of being members of Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform Party) — regularly called a “terrorist” organisation by the authorities — were arrested in November after arriving in the former Saigon, state media said.

Three activists arrested with them — US citizen Leon Truong, French radio journalist Nguyen Thi Thanh Van and Vietnamese national Nguyen Trong Khiem — were released last year following international protests.

According to police newspaper Cong An Nhan Dan, the three on trial were assigned by Viet Tan to “enter Vietnam to conduct a terrorism plan to create social security disorder.”

Police “seized nearly 7,000 reactionary flyers, more than 8,000 envelopes and 3,775 stamps,” when the three were arrested, the newspaper said in its Monday edition.

Viet Tan said they were only “preparing to distribute leaflets promoting democracy through non-violent means.”

In court, Quan and Hai admitted to being members of Viet Tan, while Vu said he was simply helping his friends put together the flyers.

Quan told the court that he did “not commit terrorist offences.”

“The content (of the leaflets) does not encourage people to rise up or threaten anyone,” he said.

Vietnam’s state-controlled media has repeatedly accused Viet Tan activists of being “terrorists,” but the party says it is “committed to achieving democratic change through peaceful, non-violent means.”

The group also said that “the legal system in Vietnam is entirely under the control of the Vietnamese Communist Party and all decisions by the court are pre-determined according to political considerations.”

Vietnam, a one-party state, says it does not punish anyone for their political views and only prosecutes criminals for breaking the law.

AFP: Pro-democracy activists jailed in Vietnam

Capital-area man faces terror charge in Vietnam

By Stephen Magagnini – smagagnini@sacbee.com

May 10, 2008

Sacramento area engineer and pro-democracy activist Nguyen Quoc Quan is scheduled to go on trial in Vietnam on Tuesday on charges of terrorism.

He was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City in November for distributing pro-democracy leaflets and initially was held on immigration charges of entering Vietnam using a false passport.

Nguyen Quoc Quan, shown with his wife, Ngo Mai Huong, was arrested in November in Ho Chi Minh City (Sacramento Bee file, 2007)

His wife, who lives in Elk Grove, said Friday she’s relieved he finally is getting a trial but is alarmed by the terrorism charge.

“When I received the news I couldn’t sleep the whole night; I’m so nervous,” said Ngo Mai Huong. “I felt happy, but I’m worried they’re going to put him in jail for a couple of years.”

Nguyen, an engineer and father of two sons, went to Vietnam last November as a member of Viet Tan, the international Vietnamese Reform Party, which has been labeled a terrorist organization by Vietnam.

Nguyen, 54, and other Viet Tan members were planning to distribute 7,000 leaflets promoting nonviolent protest in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi and the pro-democracy movements that transformed Eastern Europe.

The Vietnamese government took the pamphlets and said in a statement Nguyen “was assigned by the Viet Tan … to conduct anti-government activities in association with other elements.”

Angela P. Aggeler, first secretary for press and cultural affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, told The Bee: “We were disappointed to learn that the charge against him is terrorism as we are unaware of any information that would support such a charge.

“U.S. officials both here in Vietnam and in Washington have repeatedly called for the release of any individual for peacefully expressing his or her views and we have urged them to release Dr. Quan and that he be allowed to return to the United States as swiftly as possible,” Aggeler said.

U.S. consular officials plan to attend the trial.

For weeks, the Vietnamese government held Nguyen without comment, then charged him with entering Vietnam on a forged Cambodian passport.

But this week, Vietnamese Forein Ministry Ministry spokesman Le Dung said Nguyen and two other Viet Tan activists would be tried on terrorism charges.

Angelina Trang Do, a Viet Tan activist based in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., said Nguyen would go on trial for Article 84, “terrorism and propaganda against the state.”

“They used the same article on other peaceful democracy activists in previous cases to put them behind bars,” said Do.

The best-case scenario is for Nguyen is to be deported to the United States, which the Vietnamese government has done in similar cases involving Vietnamese Americans, Do said.

“Leon” Van Ban Truong, a Viet Tan activist from Hawaii arrested in Ho Chi Minh City the same time as Nguyen, was released and deported Dec. 13 after 25 days in jail.

Another pro-democracy activist arrested for distributing about 4,000 leaflets in Ho Chi Minh City in August 2006, Do Thanh Cong of San Jose, was held for 38 days and then released without trial.

“I believe thy will release Dr. Nguyen soon – they charged me with the same charge,” Do said. “I went on a hunger strike for 38 days.”

Do said he’s the leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, which is sympathetic to Viet Tan. He said if Nguyen isn’t released, it’s because the Vietnamese government “wants to send a message, ‘Don’t mess with us’ – they won’t tolerate any opposition.”

News – Capital-area man faces terror charge in Vietnam – sacbee.com

Trial to begin in Vietnam for Sacramento-based activist

By Stephen Magagnini – smagagnini@sacbee.com

Friday, May 9, 2008

After six months in a Vietnamese prison, Sacramento pro-democracy activist Nguyen Quoc Quan will finally get his day in court Tuesday.

The news of Nguyen’s long-awaited trial was met with a combination of relief and anxiety by his wife in Elk Grove, Ngo Mai Huong, because Nguyen — held initially on immigration charges of entering Vietnam using a false passport — will be tried in Ho Chi Minh City for terrorism.

“When I received the news I couldn’t sleep the whole night, I’m so nervous,” Ngo said. “I felt happy, but I’m worried they’re going to put him in jail for a couple of years.”

Nguyen, an engineer and father of two sons from Elk Grove, went to Vietnam last November as a member of Viet Tan, the Vietnamese Reform Party labeled a terrorist organization by the Vietnamese government.

Nguyen, 54, and other Viet Tan members had planned to distribute 7,000 two-page leaflets promoting non-violent protest in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi and the pro-democracy movements that transformed Eastern Europe.

The Vietnamese government confiscated the pamphlets and said in a statement that Nguyen “…was assigned by the Viet Tan … to conduct anti-government activities in association with other elements.”

Angela P. Aggeler, first secretary for press and cultural affairs at the American Embassy in Hanoi, told The Bee, “We understand that Dr. Quan’s trial will begin on May 13. We were disappointed to learn that the charge against him is terrorism as we are unaware of any information that would support such a charge.

“U.S. officials both here in Vietnam and in Washington have repeatedly called for the release of any individual for peacefully expressing his or her views and we have urged them to release Dr. Quan and that he be allowed to return to the United States as swiftly as possible,” Aggeler said, adding that U.S. consular officials in Ho Chi Minh City plan to attend the trial.

Angelina Tang Do, a Viet Tan activist based in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., said the best-case scenario is for Nguyen to be deported to the United States, which the Vietnamese government has done in similar cases. But a prominent Viet Tan activist based in Vietnam got eight years, Do said.

Viet Tan’s ultimate goal “is to rebuild Vietnam, which has suffered much political and economic backwardness,” Do said. “Viet Tan holds that the Vietnamese people must solve the problems of Vietnam. Change, therefore, must come through the power of the people in the way of grassroots, peaceful means.”

Source: Sacbee.com

Vietnam to try U.S., Thai citizens for “terrorism” | Reuters

Thu May 8, 2008 7:00am EDT

HANOI (Reuters) – A U.S. citizen and a Thai citizen will be put on trial in Vietnam on charges of “terrorism”, a government spokesman said on Thursday, six months after they were arrested with leaflets calling for political change.

The pair and a third man, a Vietnamese citizen, are activists of the Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform Party), a U.S.-based group opposed to Communist Party rule.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Le Dung said at a regular news briefing that all three men would be tried in a court in Ho Chi Minh City on May 13 “on terrorism charges” under Vietnam’s criminal code.

Viet Tan, which is outlawed in Vietnam, says it does not support the use of violence and that pamphlets seized by police at the time of last November’s arrests promoted peaceful democratic change.

The ruling Communist Party rejects calls for a multi-party system and last year it arrested more than 30 political activists, diplomats and human rights groups said.

Some were put on trial for “spreading propaganda against the state,” a criminal offence in Vietnam and handed prison sentences of between three years and eight years.

(Reporting by Hanoi Newsroom; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Source: Reuters

Vietnam to try American for terrorism

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — A Vietnamese-American and two Vietnamese nationals will be put on trial on charges of terrorism for allegedly planning to distribute anti-government pamphlets in Vietnam, an official said Thursday.

Nguyen Quoc Quan, of Sacramento, and Vietnamese nationals Nguyen Hai and Nguyen The Vu face jail terms of up to seven years if convicted. Their trial begins Tuesday at the People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City, Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung said.

The three were arrested last November at a house in Ho Chi Minh City along with Truong Van Ba, an American, and Nguyen Thi Thanh Van, a French national. Authorities allegedly found them preparing to circulate anti-government pamphlets on behalf of Viet Tan, a California-based pro-democracy group that Vietnam considers a terrorist organization.

Viet Tan says it promotes nonviolent political change in Vietnam, and U.S. Ambassador Michael Michalak has said he has seen no evidence the group is engaged in terrorism.

Ba, whose American name is Leon Truong, and Van were released in December.

Vietnamese authorities have said Quan entered the country on a forged Cambodian passport.

Communist Vietnam does not tolerate any form of dissent, which it considers a threat against its one-party rule.

Source: The Associated Press

Vietnam detains anti-China activists before torch relay

Photo/AFP
HO CHI MINH CITY (AFP) — Police in Vietnam prevented major anti-Chinese rallies Tuesday with what activists said were scores of detentions ahead of the Ho Chi Minh City leg of the troubled Olympic torch relay.

The US-based pro-democracy group Viet Tan said it had confirmed more than a dozen detainees by name in Hanoi while several activists and bloggers claimed scores more had been taken into custody, including a group of fishermen.

Viet Tan, which is banned in communist Vietnam, said those detained after protesting at China’s human rights record and its claim to disputed islands in the South China Sea were students, teachers, artists and farmers.

Police would not confirm any detentions, but an AFP reporter witnessed one incident at a Hanoi market when two protesters were taken away after unfurling a banner showing the five Olympic rings rendered as handcuffs.

The Beijing Olympic flame was flown into Ho Chi Minh City — formerly known as Saigon — from North Korea late Monday.

The relay was scheduled to start in the southern port city at 6:30 pm amid tight security, with organisers anxious to avoid disruption by pro-Tibet and rights activists that has dogged earlier legs of the global journey.

Some 60 runners will carry the torch from the downtown Opera House along a secret route of some 10 to 13 kilometres (six to eight miles) to the Military Zone 7 Competition Hall stadium near the airport, officials said.

After Vietnam, the Olympic torch will be flown to Hong Kong and Macau, and from there into the Chinese mainland.

Ho Chi Minh City includes Vietnam’s largest ethnic Chinese community, and several youths were seen wearing T-shirts that said “Proud to be Chinese” and bore the Beijing Olympics logo “One World, One Dream, One China.”

While pro-Tibet rallies have dogged the relay in cities including London, Paris and Canberra, Vietnam’s mostly young and nationalist activists are more driven by the country’s own long-simmering dispute with its neighbour.

Beijing and Hanoi are among the claimants to the Spratly and Paracel island chains, in a dispute that late last year triggered a series of street rallies rarely seen in Vietnam, a one-party state.

The governments of Vietnam and China routinely stress their comradely ties, and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung last week promised China’s visiting Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to stage a trouble-free torch relay.

The premier warned that “hostile forces” would seek to disrupt the event, using a standard term from the communist lexicon for pro-democracy activists.

In both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, scores of riot police deployed outside Chinese diplomatic missions, where last December’s rallies started.

Police last week detained a blogger, accusing him of tax evasion, and also expelled a Vietnamese-American chemical engineer caught with T-shirts bearing slogans such as “A Gold Medal for Oppression.”

The banned People’s Democratic Party said university students here had also been detained for printing T-shirts that read, “Protest the torch relay” and “China invaded Vietnam’s Spratly and Paracel Islands.”

Vietnam was ruled as a vassal state by China for centuries and repeatedly invaded by successive Chinese dynasties, and most Vietnamese folk heroes are leaders who fought back the northern invaders.

China and Vietnam fought their last border war in 1979, but the leaders in Hanoi and Beijing, two of the world’s five remaining communist regimes, have since normalised relations and become strong economic partners.

29 April 2008

Source: AFP

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