Vietnam must end ‘thuggish’ repression, says rights group


Despite renewed economic growth and progress on a number of social indicators in 2015, the government of Vietnam continued to crack down on independent writers, bloggers, and rights activists deemed threatening to Communist Party rule, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2016.

Vietnam clamped down on basic rights, including freedoms of speech, opinion, press, association, and religion, the report states:

Pro-democracy activists and bloggers faced constant harassment and intimidation. Physical assaults on critics increased. The National Assembly passed a revised penal code widening the basis for criminal conviction of bloggers and rights activists. ….In November, Police General Tran Dai Quang publicly admitted that within the last three years the government had “received, arrested, and dealt with cases involving 2,680 people who violated national security” and noted that “opposition persons” had illegally established more than 60 human rights and democracy groups…..

With the spotlight on labor rights in the TPP negotiations, in June 2014, Vietnam released labor activist, Do Thi Minh Hanh, who was arrested and charged in 2010 under article 89 of the 2009 penal code for helping to organize a wildcat strike. Other labor activists, including Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung and Doan Huy Chuong, continued to serve harsh prison sentences. In November 2015, the police of Dong Nai province detained and assaulted Do Thi Minh Hanh for helping workers at Yupoong Company exercise their rights.

In 2015, at least 45 bloggers and rights activists were beaten by plainclothes agents. They included Pham Doan Trang, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, J.B Nguyen Huu Vinh, Tran Thi Nga, Nguyen Chi Tuyen, Trinh Anh Tuan, Dinh Quang Tuyen, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, Chu Manh Son, Dinh Thi Phuong Thao, Ta Tri Hai, Tran Minh Nhat, and Nguyen Van Dai. No one involved in the assaults was held accountable.

“Vietnam tried to minimize political trials and convictions in 2015 to gain favor during the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, but repression against activists remained firm, with beatings increasing,” said Brad Adams, HRW Asia director.

“As part of an international public relations campaign, the government appears to have changed tactics by arresting fewer critics and replacing prison with beatings,” said Adams. “A change from imprisonment to physical assault can hardly be called an improvement.”

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