Vietnamese and international human rights groups called this week on the government of Vietnam to end what they called an “unprecedented crackdown” on peaceful political expression that has seen at least 25 activists and bloggers jailed or exiled so far this year.
Writing in an open letter dated Oct. 16, the coalition—including Vietnam-based rights organizations and groups like Reporters Without Borders based in Western countries—said the ongoing campaign of persecution “violates international law, damages Vietnam’s reputation abroad, and limits the country’s progress.”
The government of Vietnam, a one-party communist state, “has resorted to unsubstantiated national security charges (especially Articles 79 and 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code) to justify repression of free expression, free information and peaceful advocacy,” the statement said.
“Vietnamese authorities continually resort to tactics of prosecution, arbitrary detention, abuse, and harassment to silence dissenting voices.”
Along with drawing attention to the plight of those sentenced or detained, the group says it aims “in a sustained campaign” to provide support to jailed activists and their families, and to push for diplomatic pressure on Hanoi “to ensure the release of all political prisoners.”
Other organizations signing the letter include the Bau Bi Tuong Than Association, the Brotherhood for Democracy, Chan Hung Nuoc Viet, Defend the Defenders, English PEN, Lawyers for Lawyers, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, the Viet Labor Movement, and Viet Tan.
Activist still missing
Meanwhile, Nguyen Bac Truyen, a member of the online Brotherhood for Democracy advocacy group, remains missing since his July 30 arrest in Vietnam in circumstances that his family members described as a “kidnapping.”
Group members also taken into custody were Protestant pastor Nguyen Trung Ton, 45, engineer Pham Van Troi, 45, and journalist Truong Minh Duc, 57, according to a statement on the website of Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security.
The four men were charged with “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 70 of Vietnam’s Penal Code and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Oct. 17, Truyen’s wife Kim Phuong said she has received no news of her husband since his arrest.
“Every time I try to visit him, I leave some things for him to have, but I never know if he has received them. I also don’t know how he is doing, or whether he has been tortured,” she said.
“The Ministry of Public Security once told me that he was being held at the B14 Detention Center in Hanoi, but I have no way of know if they’re telling me the truth.”
Summoned by police
Also speaking to RFA, Danang-based activist Khuc Thua Son said he has been continuously summoned by authorities for questioning and must now report to police on Oct. 20 to “clarify issues” relating to an unspecified case.
“The summons was not clear, and I asked them for further explanation, but they haven’t responded,” he said.
“Because I wasn’t at home, they came to bother my parents, leaving them frightened and depressed.”
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Richard Finney.