Vietnam Shows ‘Disturbing’ Disregard for Human Rights, Says U.S. Agency

A U.S. government body denounced Vietnam this past week for what it described as the continuation of a “disturbing” disregard for basic human rights.

Sun, Sep. 28, 2008 Posted: 09:28 AM EDT


A U.S. government body denounced Vietnam this past week for what it described as the continuation of a “disturbing” disregard for basic human rights.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)’s comments come as police in Vietnam continue to inflict violence against protestors at peaceful vigils on properties formerly owned by the Catholic Church of Vietnam.

Also, authorities had arrested religious freedom advocates and detained pro-democracy activists earlier this month.

“Too often in Vietnam, individuals who peacefully organize and express views about religious freedom and human rights – and the freedoms required to protect them – are detained, arrested, or intimidated,” said USCIRF Commission Chair Felice D. Gaer.

“As a member of the U.N. Security Council, Vietnam should be upholding human rights fully and should not view peaceful actions to advance religious freedom as a security threat,” she stated.

Since December, Catholics in Hanoi have been holding prayer vigils at Catholic church properties to demand they be return to the Church. The properties were seized by the communist government in the mid-1950s.

There have been brief clashes with police, but over the past three weeks police have detained as many as eight protestors at a former monastery, according to reports. Security personnel also used batons to break up a silent vigil seeking the release of those arrested.

At least 12 people were briefly detained following the vigil and one priest had serious injuries.

USCIRF said it received “disturbing” reports of the Vietnamese government’s accusations against Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, who it claims incited protests, and its threats to take “extreme actions” to end the peaceful vigils.

The U.S. agency in particular highlighted the case of Li Thi Cong Nhan, who met with USCIRF late last year.

“It is outrageous that Li Thi Cong Nhan was ever arrested in the first place, and that she hasn’t been released,” Gaer said. “She and all prisoners of concern in Vietnam should be released immediately, without conditions, and without the frequent follow-on sentence of house arrest that Vietnamese authorities use to restrict the freedom of rights advocates.”

The U.S. Commission calls on the State Department to re-designate Vietnam as one of the worst violators of religious freedom by labeling it a Country of Particular Concern, and to release unconditionally all prisoners of concern.

Ethan Cole
Christian Post Reporter

Vietnam Shows ‘Disturbing’ Disregard for Human Rights, Says U.S. Agency| Christianpost.com

50 Năm Hoàng Sa – Trường Sa

Đúng 50 năm sau ngày Phạm Văn Đồng ký công hàm xác nhận Hoàng Sa, Trường Sa là của Trung Quốc, toàn dân trong và ngoài nước đều lên tiếng phản đối.

Đòi hỏi lãnh đạo CSVN phải công khai hủy bỏ công hàm bán nước Phạm Văn Đồng!!!

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.

###

Vietnam: New Round of Arrests Targets Democracy Activists

Prominent Blogger Sentenced to Prison

(New York, September 12, 2008) – Human Rights Watch condemned a crackdown on democracy activists in Vietnam this week, coinciding with the visit of US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte for bilateral talks on security issues, economic ties, and human rights.
 

" Vietnam’s government is well-known for having zero tolerance for free expression. The current wave of arrests of democracy activists is a thinly veiled effort by the government to silence independent bloggers, journalists, and human rights defenders in Vietnam. "
Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch also called for the immediate release from prison of a prominent internet writer and activist, Nguyen Hoang Hai, known by his pen name Dieu Cay, who was sentenced to 30 months in prison on September 10, 2008. Following Dieu Cay’s closed-door trial, police detained and interrogated at least a dozen other democracy activists, bloggers, and human rights defenders.
 
“Vietnam’s government is well-known for having zero tolerance for free expression,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The current wave of arrests of democracy activists is a thinly veiled effort by the government to silence independent bloggers, journalists, and human rights defenders in Vietnam.”
 
Many of the activists detained this week, like Dieu Cay, have participated in protests against China’s claims to the disputed Spratly (Truong Sa) and Paracel (Hoang Sa) islands. It is thought that Vietnamese authorities are trying to prevent demonstrations on the issue planned for September 14. The authorities may also be trying to thwart high-profile activists from joining mass prayer vigils that have been staged since mid-August in Hanoi by thousands of Catholics, who want the government to return confiscated church land in Thai Ha Parish.
 
Dieu Cay (which means “the Peasant Water Pipe”), 56,  is known for his hard-hitting internet postings calling for greater democracy and human rights in Vietnam and his participation in protests in Vietnam against Chinese foreign policy. A former soldier with the People’s Army of Vietnam, Dieu Cay was one of the founding members of the Club of Free Journalists (Cau Lac Bo Nha Bao Tu Do) in 2006.
 
Anti-China Protests
Since December 2007, growing numbers of activists in Vietnam have joined rallies protesting China’s claims to the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands, over which both China and Vietnam assert sovereignty. The protests were sparked by China’s November 2007 announcement that it was placing the islands under the administration of a new government district.
 
In January 2008, Dieu Cay and six other activists unfurled banners in front of the Opera House in Ho Chi Minh City criticizing China for its claims to the disputed islands. On April 19, 2008, police arrested Dieu Cay in Dalat, a city in central Vietnam, shortly before the arrival of the Olympic Torch in Ho Chi Minh City, an event the Vietnamese authorities were determined to ensure was protest-free. Prior to his arrest, police had summoned Dieu Cay for interrogation at least 15 times.  
 
On September 10, a court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced Dieu Cay to two and half years in prison on charges of tax evasion on a rental property he owns. Dieu Cay’s lawyers argued that the renter, not Dieu Cay, was liable for back taxes owed on the property, because the rental contract provided for the renter to assume payment of all property taxes, which is allowable under Vietnamese law. 
 
 Police officers from the Internal Security and Counter-Espionage Departments (Cuc An Ninh Noi Chinh and Cuc Phan Gian) of the Ministry of Public Security in Ho Chi Minh City arrested Dieu Cay. This department is primarily responsible for monitoring and intervening in political cases. International press freedom organizations called the tax evasion charges a baseless pretext to punish Dieu Cay for his political activism.
 
“It’s bad enough that the Vietnamese government took an anti-China activist off the street only days before the Olympic torch passed through Ho Chi Minh City, but to imprison him now on questionable charges is a new low,” said Pearson.
 
Internet and media controls
Dieu Cay’s imprisonment fits a wider pattern of harassment and arrest by Vietnamese authorities of independent journalists, human rights activists, cyber dissidents, religious freedom advocates, and farmers protesting confiscation of their land. The Vietnamese government tightly controls the print and electronic media, as well as the internet in Vietnam, and is swift to prosecute dissidents and independent writers.
 
In May 2008, for example, police arrested two investigative reporters who had exposed a major corruption scandal in 2005. The reporters, Nguyen Viet Chien of Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper and Nguyen Van Hai of Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, were charged with “abusing their positions and powers while performing official duties.” After their newspapers publicly challenged the arrests, on August 1, the government revoked the press accreditation of four journalists from the two papers, including both publications’ deputy editors.
 
Vietnam’s Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a state party, grant citizens the right to exercise freedom of expression, assembly and association. 
 
“The Vietnamese government should take its own laws seriously and tolerate the expression of views it does not share,” Pearson said. “It’s time for Hanoi to cease harassing and arresting cyber dissidents, human rights defenders, and independent journalists.”
 
Background information
Activists arrested and detained by police on September 10 and 11 include:
*              Land rights protesters Lu Thi Thu Duyen, Lu Thi Thu Trang, and Hoac Kim Hoa, who were detained and interrogated by police in Ho Chi Minh City on September 10 after they tried to attend Dieu Cay’s trial;

*              Human rights defender Pham Van Troi, 35, an active member of the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam, who was arrested in Hanoi just before midnight on September 10;
*              Writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia, 58, a member of the executive board of the democracy movement known as Bloc 8406 (named after the April 8, 2006 date of its inception by Father Nguyen Van Ly) was arrested at his home in Haiphong just after midnight on September 11;
*              Land rights activist Pham Thanh Nghien, who was arrested by 10 police officers at 11 a.m. on September 11 at her home in Haiphong and taken to Hanoi for questioning by police. In June 2008, municipal authorities in Hanoi rejected an application submitted by Nguyen Xuan Nghia, Pham Van Troi and Pham Thanh Nghien to conduct a demonstration protesting China’s occupation of the Paracel and Spratly islands; 
*              Student Ngo Quynh and poet Tran Duc Thach, who were arrested in Hanoi on September 10 as they were on their way to Thai Ha parish, where a mass rally by Catholics protesting government policy is taking place;
*              Democracy activist Nguyen Van Tuc, a Bloc 8406 member, who was arrested in a midnight raid by dozens of police at his home in Thai Binh province on September 11;
*              Teacher Vu Hung, who was dismissed from his job as a high school physics teacher two months ago because of his contacts with Vietnamese democracy activists and who was arrested at his home in Ha Tay province at 8 p.m. on September 11; and
*              Bloggers Uyen Vu and Quynh Vi, who were summoned to the police station in Ho Chi Minh City for interrogation on September 11.
 
In addition, on September 10, authorities in Hanoi charged four Catholic protesters from Thai Ha Parish who were arrested on August 28: Nguyen Thi Nhi, Nguyen Dac Hung, Nguyen Thi Viet, and Thai Thanh Hai.
 
For more of Human Rights Watch’s work on Vietnam, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/doc?t=asia&c=vietna
 
For more information, please contact:
In New York, Elaine Pearson (English): +1-212-216-1213; or +1-646-291-7169 (mobile)
In London, Tom Porteous (English): +44-20-7713-2766; or +44-79-8398-4982 (mobile)
In Washington, DC, Tom Malinowski (English): +1-202-612-4358; or +1-202-309-3551 (mobile)
In Brussels, Reed Brody (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese): +32-2-737-1489; or +32-498-625786 (mobile)

Source: Human Rights Watch

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

Top Vietnamese Journalists Arrested

It is a classic case of shooting the messenger. On May 12, government security officers showed up at two of Vietnam’s most popular newspapers. They searched the offices and when they were done they led away two prominent Vietnamese journalists. Both were well known for their coverage of an embezzlement and bribery scandal that brought down a top government minister and put several people behind bars. Now Nguyen Van Hai and Nguyen Viet Chien are in jail themselves, ironically on charges similar to those filed against the officials they investigated: “the abuse of power for personal gain.”

The journalists’ newspapers quickly denounced the arrests. The daily Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper charged in an editorial that their reporter, Chien, is the victim of a witch hunt—an unusually confrontational tone for a communist country where the press is controlled by the state. Over the past year, Chien was repeatedly questioned about his sources by police “who twisted his reports,” the paper said. “(Chien) was not motivated by any personal motive or interest,” the paper said. “His motive was completely pure.” The Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper said that after the arrest of its reporter it was besieged by a record number of phone calls and e-mails from outraged readers.

The allegations lodged against the journalists are vague. But the real crime they committed was crossing an ever-shifting line of what the country’s media can and cannot report, says Shawn McHale, a professor of History and International Affairs at George Washington University who is in Vietnam on a Fulbright-Hays fellowship. Vietnam’s economy has been growing rapidly for the last several years as the authoritarian government gradually embraces free-market reforms. Institutions like the press would like to see a similar lifting of controls and have increasingly been pushing the limits of government tolerance.

A key source of friction between the press and the powerful has been Hanoi’s drive to root out rampant corruption among government officials. A scandal started brewing in early 2006 with the arrest of Bui Tien Dung, the former director of PMU18, a state road and bridge building division with a $2 billion annual budget that is largely funded by the World Bank and Japan. Dung and others were accused of embezzling millions of dollars, most of which was gambled away on European football matches, and spent on prostitutes and luxury cars, according to government investigators.

Dung’s arrest and the sensational details of the case—even the Prime Minister’s office was at one point under investigation—provided a field day for newspapers eager to give their readers something more than bland propaganda. Suddenly journalists were camped out at the homes of the accused, asking unauthorized questions and printing stories that they knew would embarrass the bureaucracy.

But while the Vietnamese press has enjoyed greater freedom of late, “The question is, how high up can you go?” says McHale. Apparently, not that high. Displeased with the coverage during the scandal, then-Prime Minister Phan Van Khai in 2006 called for news outlets to be prosecuted for “going too far.” And today, many see the hand of a higher power in the recent acquittal of the country’s deputy transport minister, the highest-ranking official charged in the Dung investigation, as well as in the arrest of the two reporters who wrote about him.

That’s not to say the press is blameless. Several senior journalists have raised questions about the ethics and reporting standards of Vietnam’s fledgling media. Veteran journalist Huy Duc condemned the arrest of his colleagues, but also noted in his popular blog that the careers of at least two officials in the Communist Party were damaged because of unfounded allegations raised by the press in their PMU18 coverage. “A lot of information printed in newspapers at the time had been made up,” Duc claimed, adding that reporters were used by party sources to destroy their political opponents. Duc blamed journalists for not verifying the accuracy of their information. Says Nguyen Van Phu, managing editor of the English-language Saigon Times: “Many so-called investigative stories were in fact written based on information fed to the reporters on purpose.”

The newspapers of the arrested reporters are urging government investigators to go after the police and officials who provided spurious information. That’s unlikely to happen. At best, the arrests will encourage reporters to “be more careful to double-check sources and do adequate attribution,” says Phu of the Saigon Times. At worst, the incident will discourage media coverage of corruption scandals in the future—which won’t help Vietnam’s leaders in their anti-graft campaign. McHale calls corruption a “cancer” that threatens to eat away at the country’s economic gains. “Billions of dollars of FDI (foreign direct investment) is going to go away” if the problem is not attacked and corrupt officials remain unexposed, McHale says. “There is an interest in having a press that addresses these issues.”

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1807113,00.html

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