Recent reports that the US monitored calls between members of President Trump’s campaign staff and Russian intelligence personnel have renewed controversy about the surveillance powers of the National Security Agency (NSA) and Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI), and how those bodies handle the information they collect. But anyone concerned about the scope or legality of the US government’s warrantless intelligence surveillance should also worry about the way these programs may affect the country’s border and immigrant communities.

A general view shows part of the Loma Blanca neighborhood as a section of the border fence marking the boundarie with El Paso, U.S. is seen on the background, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico January 18, 2017. 

© 2017 Reuters

The US currently has two main “foreign” surveillance powers it can—in practice—use to obtain and sift through information on people within its borders without a warrant. (We do not yet know whether either of these was the legal basis for intercepting the conversations with Trump’s campaign staff). 

The first, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is scheduled to expire at the end of this year, setting the stage for an intense debate in Congress about reforming surveillance. Under Section 702, the NSA (with telecommunications companies’ help) automatically searches virtually all the Internet communications flowing over the fiber optic cables that connect the US to the rest of the world—a practice known as “upstream” scanning. 

As of 2015, 26 percent of people in the United States were first- or second-generation immigrants.  Upstream monitoring, as we currently understand it, means that whenever any of these tens of millions of people—or anyone else in the US—sends an email to a friend or family member in another country, the US government is likely searching those communications to see if they contain e-mail addresses or other “selectors” of interest. This kind of suspicionless, warrantless, disproportionate monitoring violates human rights.

In addition to Section 702, Executive Order 12333 allows the NSA and other US agencies to vacuum up the communications of US citizens and lawful permanent residents in the course of foreign surveillance. Leaked documents indicate that pursuant to EO 12333, the US has grabbed records of potentially all telephone calls in countries including Mexico and the Philippines. In other words, if you are in El Paso, Texas and have called your mother in Juárez, Mexico, US intelligence agencies probably have a record of your call. They can use this data to map social networks—and share it for law enforcement purposes.

The US’ vast warrantless surveillance powers are not only an issue for legal wonks or the technically savvy: they may be affecting people and communities throughout the United States and the world. Congress and the judiciary should regard them as direct threats to both US democracy and human rights.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(New York) – The latest revisions to China’s Criminal Law impose up to seven years in prison for “spreading rumors” about disasters, Human Rights Watch said today. The revised law, which took effect November 1, 2015, does not clarify what constitutes a “rumor,” heightening concerns that the provision will be used to curtail freedom of speech, particularly on the Internet.

“The revised Criminal Law adds a potent weapon to the Chinese government’s arsenal of punishments against netizens, including those who simply share information that departs from the official version of events,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities are once again criminalizing free speech on the Internet, which has been the Chinese people’s only relatively free avenue for expressing themselves.”

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee approved the addition of a provision to article 291(1) of the Criminal Law (Criminal Law Amendment Act (9)), which states that whoever “fabricates or deliberately spreads on media, including on the Internet, false information regarding dangerous situations, the spread of diseases, disasters and police information, and who seriously disturb social order” would face prison sentences – with a maximum of seven years for those whose rumors result in “serious consequences.” The vagueness of the provision means that individuals doing nothing more than asking questions or reposting information online about reported local disasters could be subject to prosecution.

In the past, the Chinese government has detained netizens who questioned official casualty figures or who had published alternative information about disasters ranging from SARS in 2003 to the Tianjin chemical blast in 2015, under the guise of preventing “rumors.”

The revision was made in the context of a wider effort to rein in online freedom since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013:

  • In August 2013, the authorities waged a campaign against “online rumors” that included warning Internet users against breaching “seven bottom lines” in their Internet postings, taking into custody the well-known online commentator Charles Xue, and closing popular “public accounts” on the social media platform “WeChat” that report and comment on current affairs;
  • In September 2013, the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (the state prosecution) issued a judicial interpretation making the crimes of defamation, creating disturbances, illegal business operations, and extortion applicable to expressions in cyberspace. The first netizen who was criminally prosecuted after this took effect was well-known blogger Qin Huohuo, who was sentenced to three years in prison in April 2014 for allegedly defaming the government and celebrities by questioning whether they were corrupt or engaged in other dishonest behavior;
  • In July and August 2014, authorities suspended popular foreign instant messaging services, including KakaoTalk, claiming the service was being used for “distributing terrorism-related information”;
  • In 2015, government agencies such as the State Internet Information Office issued multiple new directives, including tightening restrictions over the use of usernames and avatars, and requiring writers of online literature in particular to register with their real names;
  • In 2015, the government has also shut down or restricted access to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), which many users depend on to access content blocked to users inside the country and also help shield user privacy;
  • In March 2015, authorities also deployed a new cyber weapon, the “Great Cannon,” to disrupt the services of GreatFire.org, an organization that works to document China’s censorship and facilitate access to information;
  • In July 2015, the government published a draft cybersecurity law that will requires domestic and foreign Internet companies to increase censorship on the government’s behalf, register users’ real names, localize data, and aid government surveillance; and
  • In August 2015, the government announced that it would station police in major Internet companies to more effectively prevent “spreading rumors” online.
     

Activists in China are regularly prosecuted for speech-related “crimes,” Human Rights Watch said. The best known of these crimes is “inciting subversion,” which carries a maximum of 15 years in prison. But authorities have also used other crimes such as “inciting ethnic hatred,” as in the case of human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, who has been detained since May 2014 for a number of social media posts questioning the government’s policies towards Uighurs and Tibetans.

While providing the public with accurate information during disasters is important, the best way to counter inaccurate information would be to ensure that official information is reliable and transparent, Human Rights Watch said.

Above all, journalists should have unimpeded access to investigate and inform the public about these events, and the wider public should have the freedom to debate and discuss disaster response.

“The casualties of China’s new provision would not be limited to journalists, activists and netizens, but the right of ordinary people and the world to know about crucial developments in China,” Richardson said. “The best way to dispel false rumors would be to allow, not curtail, free expression.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Imprisoned Uzbek labor activists Nuraddin Jumaniyozov (right), who died in prison on December 31, 2016, and Fahriddin Tillayev.

© 2014 Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights

(Bishkek) – The Uzbek government should immediately allow an independent investigation into the enforced disappearance and death in prison of a human rights and opposition activist, Human Rights Watch said today. On June 16, 2017, Nuraddin Jumaniyazov’s wife, Gulnora Rahmonova, reported that her husband had died in prison on December 31, 2016, from tuberculosis and diabetes-related complications.

Jumaniyazov was unlawfully imprisoned in 2014 on politically motivated charges. Uzbek authorities had refused to reveal his whereabouts or allow him any contact with his family or attorney since 2015, despite numerous calls by Human Rights Watch and other organizations to seek information about his situation. The refusal to provide information on the fate or whereabouts of a person deprived of their liberty constitutes an enforced disappearance, a crime under international law, and is prohibited in all circumstances.

“Nuraddin Jumaniyazov, who should have never been imprisoned, died in prison, hidden from his loved ones and the world,” said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The tragic death of this human rights defender in Uzbekistan casts serious doubt on the government’s claims that the country is undergoing meaningful reforms.”

Jumaniyazov, a rights activist and member of the opposition Erk (Freedom) party, was sentenced in March 2014 to eight years and three months in prison on human trafficking charges along with his fellow activist, Fakhriddin Tillaev, following a trial that did not meet international human rights standards. Jumaniyazov had also been a member of the Mazlum (The Oppressed) Human Rights Center since 2003. Jumaniyazov and Tillaev began advocating workers’ rights in 2005. In 2012, the two founded the Union of Independent Trade Unions, which protects the rights of migrant workers. Jumaniyazov headed its Tashkent chapter.

On December 28, 2013, Tashkent police interrogated Jumaniyazov after two Uzbek citizens, Farhod Pardaev and Erkin Erdanov, alleged that he and Tillaev arranged their employment in Kazakhstan, where they said they had been mistreated.

Jumaniyazov’s lawyer, Polina Braunerg, a well-known human rights attorney who had been denied permission to leave Uzbekistan to obtain medical treatment abroad for at least three years, died after suffering a stroke in May 2017. She earlier told Human Rights Watch that the investigation against Jumaniyazov and Tillaev was marred by serious procedural violations.

Police arrested them on January 2, 2014, and took them to a Tashkent prison, but falsified materials to indicate January 4 as the date of arrest. Investigators did not provide Tillaev’s or Jumaniyazov’s lawyers sufficient time to review the evidence in the case, conducting all interrogations, including of the defendants, in a single day before advancing the case to trial. The court completed the trial in just two hours, basing the conviction solely on the testimony of two witnesses who admitted that they had never seen the defendants nor had any relationship with them.

Braunerg said that police tortured both Jumaniyazov and Tillaev in pretrial custody. The police allegedly stuck needles between Tillaev’s fingers and toes, and forced him to stand for hours under a dripping faucet, causing a severe headache. No judicial or prison authorities meaningfully investigated the torture allegations.

Jumaniyazov was last seen in public at his appellate hearing in April 2014, during which he asked his lawyer to help him obtain medicine to treat his tuberculosis and diabetes. Both Jumaniyazov and Tillaev were sent to a prison in Navoi, southwestern Uzbekistan, to serve out their sentences, where Tillaev is currently being held.

Beginning in October 2014, Braunerg sought permission to visit with Jumaniyazov, but was repeatedly denied access by prison officials.

During a July 2015 review of Uzbekistan’s compliance with its commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the United Nations Human Rights Committee questioned members of the Uzbek government delegation about Jumaniyazov’s whereabouts and health condition, asking Tashkent to provide the information within two weeks. Uzbek authorities ignored the committee’s requests.

Prison officials again blocked Braunerg’s attempts to locate and meet with Jumaniyazov following the UN review, stating misleadingly that a meeting could only be granted if Jumaniyazov made a written request, in violation of article 10 of Uzbekistan’s Criminal Procedure Code.

In February 2017, two months after Jumaniyazov’s death in a Tashkent prison hospital, prison officials apparently agreed to Braunerg’s request to visit with her client in a prison hospital in the city of Qarshi, where she had been told Jumaniyazov was then being held. But when Braunerg arrived, officials told her he had been moved back to a prison in Navoi. However, officials at the Navoi prison denied holding a prisoner by that name.

The United Nations Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment provides that medical care and treatment shall be provided to detainees whenever necessary and free of charge. The Body of Principles also provide that a detainee “shall be entitled to communicate and consult with his legal counsel.” Whenever a person dies in detention, “an inquiry into the cause of death … shall be held by a judicial or other authority.” In addition, “[t]he findings of such inquiry … shall be made available upon request.”

“The cruel cat and mouse game Uzbek authorities played with Jumaniyazov’s lawyer and UN rights experts to hide his whereabouts and condition illustrates a shocking and callous disregard for the health and basic rights of detainees,” Swerdlow said. “The Uzbek government should get serious about implementing reforms, beginning with releasing wrongfully held activists and meaningfully investigating Jumaniyazov’s death.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Indonesia’s besieged Ahmadiyah religious community is fighting back.

The Ahmadiyah mosque in Depok, West Java ordered sealed by local police to "protect" Ahmadiyah from attacks by militant Islamists, June 2017.

© 2017 Phelim Kine/Human Rights Watch

Earlier this week, representatives of the religious minority from Manislor district in West Java’s Kuningan regency filed a formal complaint against a local government requirement that they renounce their faith to obtain national identification cards, critical to accessing a range of government services. They said lack of IDs meant Ahmadiyah community members were not able to register marriages or get treatment at a local hospital. An ombudsman office representative has criticized the ID requirement as “maladministration.”

The Ahmadiyah community in Manislor are victims of routine bureaucratic discrimination. Indonesia’s 1965 blasphemy law permits only six officially protected religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. All Indonesian citizens must obtain a national ID card at age 17 and they are essential to apply for official documents including birth, marriage, and death certificates. Indonesian law requires ID cards to state the holder’s religion. That requirement bars Ahmadiyah and other officially unrecognized religious minorities from receiving national ID cards.

Indonesia’s Ahmadiyah have been under threat since 2008 when the government of then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a decree ordering the Ahmadiyah community to “stop spreading interpretations and activities that deviate from the principal teachings of Islam.” Following the decree, militant Islamists launched several violent attacks against Ahmadiyah including an attack in Cikeusik in February 2011 that killed three Ahmadiyah men.

During Yudhoyono’s decade in power, militant Islamists with the complicity of local police and government officials forced the closure of more than 30 Ahmadiyah mosques, while other religious minorities, including the Shia and some Christian groups, were also targets of harassment, intimidation, and violence.

The frequency and severity of violent attacks on religious minorities have decreased since President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo took office in 2014, and he has pledged to protect religious minorities and fight religious intolerance. But Kandali Lubis, an Ahmadiyah spokesman, told Human Rights Watch that at least seven Ahmadiyah mosques remained closed in Indonesia under the 2008 anti-Ahmadiyah decree. They include an Ahmadiyah mosque in Depok, West Java that the local government sealed on the basis of “protecting” the Ahmadis from attack by militant Islamists.

Until Jokowi abolishes regulations that discriminate against the country’s religious minorities, the Ombudsman of the Republic of Indonesia can expect more demands from aggrieved communities such as the Ahmadiyah of Manislor village that the government respect, rather than deny their rights.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Statue of "Lady Justice" outside Bangladesh's Supreme Court building. 

© Public

During a recent visit to Bangladesh to revisit my years there as a student, a colleague suggested I meet Sultana Kamal, much admired for decades of work on justice as a human rights defender.

But Kamal was not making many public appearances, because of threats from militants.

The story that emerged is a tale of authorities who, while attempting to appease some hardline religious groups, ended up compromising basic human rights principles.

In May, prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s government, which has long claimed a commitment to secularism, caved to the extremist group Hefazat-e Islami’s demands to remove a statue representing “Lady Justice” in front of the Supreme Court in Dhaka because it was deemed to be an un-Islamic religious object.

On May 28, Kamal argued during a television debate that by this logic no mosques should be permitted on the court premises. That prompted the Hefazat spokesman to call for Kamal’s arrest, and threaten that if she came out on the streets they “would break every bone in her body.” Kamal has said that after the threat was made, abusive postings appeared on Facebook, including doctored images of her being lynched.

While Kamal has since received police protection, the government has yet to publicly condemn the threats. On June 18, a lawyer served legal notice seeking her arrest “for hurting religious sentiments of the Muslim majority in the country;” however, Kamal has not been arrested.

These threats and claims of hurt sentiments are not new. They follow several lethal attacks by extremist groups on bloggers and activists for promoting secularism. Rather than condemn the attacks and arrest those responsible, officials responded by warning that “hurting religious sentiments is a crime.”

All this is happening against a background of increasing attacks on free speech by the state. Over the past two years, the government has cracked down on media and civil society.

The authorities restored “Lady Justice” to another part of the Supreme Court complex. But Bangladesh is on a dangerous course. The government needs to do much more to protect rights activists like Kamal and promote an environment where they can carry out their work free from threats and attacks. Appeasing religious extremists and silencing dissent will only lead to more violence.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Moroccan activist Nasser Zefzafi gives a speech during a demonstration against injustice and corruption in the northern town of al-Hoceima, Morocco, May 18, 2017. 

© 2017 Reuters

(Tunis) – Police arrested and severely beat the de facto leader of ongoing social protests in Morocco’s Rif region, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today, based on an account the protest leader gave his lawyer. Authorities are investigating Nasser Zefzafi, the protest leader, on grave charges, including one that carries the death penalty and some that appear political in nature.

Zefzafi, 38, is the best-known of at least 127 protesters and activists jailed during a police crackdown on the mostly peaceful demonstrations in northern Morocco that began in late May, 2017. Zefzafi requested a medical exam to document the abuse when he appeared before a prosecutor on June 5. But the request has yet to be fulfilled, said Abdelaziz Nouaydi, one of Zefzafi’s lawyers, raising concerns about the court’s compliance with its duty to investigate allegations of police violence.

“Moroccan authorities should investigate the credible allegations of police violence against Zefzafi and refrain from filing any charges that stem from peaceful speech or protest,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch. “At this stage, the case looks like it’s more about throwing the book at a protest leader than punishing criminal behavior.”

Police arrested Zefzafi on May 29 in the village of Douar Lahrech, about 50 kilometers from al-Hoceima, the Rif’s main city. His arrest came three days after he had interrupted the Friday sermon at a mosque in al-Hoceima to defend the Rif protest movement after the imam, a state employee, had criticized it in his sermon.

At about 6:30 a.m. on May 29, a dozen police from the National Brigade of the Judiciary Police (BNPJ) broke down the door of the house where Zefzafi and two other activists, Fahim Ghattas and Mohamed Haki, were staying, Zefzafi told Nouaydi, on June 12 in Casablanca’s Oukacha prison. The police broke furniture and windows, and assaulted the three men even though they offered no resistance, Zefzafi said. He said he had a 1.5-centimeter cut on his scalp, another one below his left eye, and bruises on his back.

Protesters hold signs reading "We are all Zefzafi" during a demonstration in the northern town of al-Hoceima against official abuses and corruption in Morocco on May 30, 2017. 

© 2017 Reuters

The police insulted the three men in vulgar terms, pressing them to shout “Long live the king!” and calling them “separatists,” the account said. The police transported them to al-Hoceima and then flew them, hooded, and handcuffed, to Casablanca. There, the police took Zefzafi for medical care, including stitches to his scalp, and gave him clean clothes to replace his blood-stained ones.

Nouaydi told Human Rights Watch that he conducted a separate interview on June 12 with Ghattas, whose account of the arrest corroborated Zefzafi’s.

Zefzafi remained in pre-charge detention from May 29 until June 5, when he and the others were taken before the crown prosecutor of the Casablanca Court of Appeals. The Code of Penal Procedure allows pretrial detention to be extended to a maximum of eight days in cases involving state security offenses. Nouaydi, who was among the lawyers representing the defendants at the hearing, said Zefzafi detailed to the prosecutor the police conduct during the arrest operation and demanded a medical examination.

Morocco’s code of penal procedure obliges the prosecutor and the investigating judge, with narrow exceptions, to order a medical examination of a defendant who requests one, or if the prosecutor or judge observe signs of violence on the defendant.

The evening of the hearing, the crown prosecutor referred the defendants to the investigating judge. According to the prosecutor’s written referral, dated June 14 and published on the news website badil.info, the charges he asked the judge to investigate include one that carries the death penalty: “participation in harming internal state security by carrying out an attack the goal of which is to cause destruction and killing and theft in more than one region.”

The prosecutor also recommended charges of “participating in violence against state security forces that led to blood-letting;” “forming a plot to harm internal security;” “harming internal state security by receiving financial sums […] to finance activities and propaganda of a nature to harm the unity and sovereignty of the Kingdom of Morocco and shake the faith of citizens in the Moroccan state and the institutions of the Moroccan people;” “organizing unauthorized demonstrations and holding public gatherings without permission and participating in an armed gathering;” “insulting state institutions and the public security agents;” and “publicly inciting against the Kingdom’s territorial integrity.”

While the recommended charges that include acts of violence are recognizably criminal, many of the other charges either violate by their very nature basic rights (such as “insulting state institutions”) or are so broad and vague that authorities can easily use them to punish opponents for speaking or protesting peacefully. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Morocco ratified in 1979, and Morocco’s 2011 constitution, guarantee the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

The investigating judge sent Zefzafi, to pretrial detention. The evidence against him is not yet available. The government did not respond to requests from Human Rights Watch for information on the case.

The Rif has been rocked by protests since October 2016, after Mohsen Fikri, a fishmonger, was crushed to death in a garbage truck in which he had climbed to retrieve a valuable haul of swordfish that the authorities had confiscated from him on the grounds that it had been fished illegally. Zefzafi, an unemployed man, earned renown in the Rif for his fiery speeches about social justice, which were viewable on social media. He eventually became the main leader of street protests against the state’s perceived marginalization of the Rif, and in favor of more jobs and better social services in the region.

Though the demonstrations were mostly peaceful, there were incidents in which people described by the police as protesters threw rocks and set police housing and vehicles afire. Police began arresting activists on May 26. Since then, at least 83 were prosecuted in al-Hoceima, of whom 32 were sentenced to prison for between 2 and 18 months. Another group of at least 45, including Zefzafi, was transferred to Casablanca and currently await trial, said Driss Ouaali of Rabat, another defense lawyer for the group. A few were released pending trial, while the others remain in custody.

Defense lawyers said that Zefzafi is to appear before an investigative judge for further questioning on July 10.

Nouaydi, the defense lawyer, is a member of the advisory committee of the Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa division.

“Besides Zefzafi and Ghattas, many other Rif protesters and activists have reported police brutality following arrest,” said Heba Morayef, North Africa research director for Amnesty International. “To combat impunity and ensure fair trials, the courts in Casablanca and al- Hoceima should ensure prompt medical examinations of defendants and preserve all pertinent physical evidence.” 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

From L-R, (top) Ngo Hao, Nguyen Dang Minh Man, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, (bottom) Nguyen Cong Chinh, Nguyen Dinh Ngoc (also known as Nguyen Ngoc Gia), Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung, and Nguyen Huu Vinh (also known as Anh Ba Sam). All are currently serving prison terms for expressing political dissent.  

© Private

(New York) – Vietnam should immediately repeal a provision in its revised penal code that would hold lawyers criminally responsible for not reporting clients to the authorities for a number of crimes, Human Rights Watch said today. The revised code also contains a number of changes heightening criminal penalties against criticism of the government or Vietnam’s one-party state.

“Requiring lawyers to violate lawyer-client confidentiality will mean that lawyers become agents of the state and clients won’t have any reason to trust their lawyers,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Vietnam considers any criticism or opposition to the government or Communist Party to be a ‘national security’ matter – this will undermine any possibility of real legal defense in such cases.”

Vietnam considers any criticism or opposition to the government or Communist Party to be a ‘national security’ matter – this will undermine any possibility of real legal defense in such cases.

Brad Adams

Asia Director

On June 20, 2017, the Vietnamese National Assembly passed a revised penal code that will come into effect on January 1, 2018. Article 19, section 3 of the revised penal code states that, “[When] the person who does not report [on people] is a defender, he/she is not held criminally accountable in accordance with clause 1 of this article, except for not reporting on national security crimes or other especially serious crimes which the person he/she is defending is preparing to carry out, is carrying out, or has carried out and the defender clearly knows about it while carrying out his/her defense duty.”

Many Vietnamese lawyers publicly voiced their concerns about this new requirement. On June 12, the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association submitted a letter to the National Assembly urging it to drop the clause. According to the letter, the new clause conflicts with the revised Criminal Procedure Code and the Law on Lawyers, which requires legal defenders to keep information about their cases confidential. The letter states that this new clause is “a step back from the 1999 Penal Code.”

“Vietnam’s foreign investors and trading partners should be very concerned about laws that would require their lawyers to pass on confidential information to the authorities to avoid getting into trouble,” Adams said.

Of particular concern is that article 19 targets people accused of vaguely defined national security crimes, including “activities aiming to overthrow the people’s administration” (article 79), “undermining national unity policy” (article 87), “conducting propaganda against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (article 88) and “disrupting security” (article 89). Instead of repealing such laws that are often used to punish the exercise of freedom of association, assembly and speech, the government has now added even harsher punishments for bloggers and rights activists.

Among these are new clauses in article 109 (previously article 79), and article 117 (previously article 88) to the effect that whoever “takes actions in preparation of committing this crime shall be subject to between one and five years of imprisonment.” This means that one can be imprisoned up to five years for preparing to criticize the state or preparing to join an independent political group disapproved by the government. A number of vaguely-worded articles related to national security crimes are often used to prosecute people for exercising basic rights, and now they can be (mis)used in even more circumstances. Vietnam ought to have repealed and reformed these laws, not made them of wider application.

Vietnamese bloggers and rights activists are being beaten, threatened and intimidated with impunity. 

In most politically-motivated arrests and convictions in Vietnam, the authorities use article 79 to punish people for being affiliated with a particular group or organization disapproved by the ruling communist party. Article 87 is often used to punish people for participating in religious groups not sanctioned by the state. Article 88 is a tool to gag dissidents and bloggers critical of the party or the government. Article 89 is used to punish independent labor activists who help organize wildcat strikes.

“The revised penal code illustrates Vietnam’s lack of commitment to improve its abysmal human rights record,” said Adams. “If Vietnam sincerely wants to promote the rule of law, it should facilitate the work of lawyers instead of introducing new laws to make it impossible to do their jobs.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

A Muslim boy prays on the first Friday prayers of the holy month of Ramadan at a mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka June 2, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte

(New York) – The Sri Lankan government should immediately repudiate statements by the country’s justice minister threatening to disbar a prominent lawyer for speaking out against attacks on religious minorities, Human Rights Watch said today. The incident highlights the government’s failure to fully investigate and prosecute recent attacks on Muslims and Christians in the Buddhist-majority country.

On June 17, 2017, Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe threatened to “take necessary steps to remove Mr. Lakshan Dias from the legal profession” unless Dias apologized for remarks on a television program three days earlier about attacks on the Christian community. Dias had cited a report by church groups that there were nearly 200 attacks and other harassment against Christians and their places of worship since 2015. The government of President Maithripala Sirisena, which took office in January 2015, has failed to meet its pledge to protect the rights of religious minorities, Human Rights Watch said.

“The government needs to put a quick end to Justice Minister Rajapakshe’s attempts to bully Lakshan Dias, a leading human rights lawyer who stands up for Sri Lankans at greatest risk,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “By threatening Dias’s license, the government is threatening all marginalized groups that depend on him and other rights defenders for protection.”

By threatening Dias’s license, the government is threatening all marginalized groups that depend on him and other rights defenders for protection.

Brad Adams

Asia Director

Sri Lanka has witnessed a spate of attacks against Muslims and Christians in recent years, with the government doing little to stop the violence. On May 18, in Devinuwara in Matara district, for example, some 2,000 people, including about 30 Buddhist monks, protested against a Christian place of worship, according to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka. 

In June 2014, Buddhist militants attacked the Muslim community in Aluthgama, leaving four dead and nearly 80 injured, and many homes and businesses destroyed. The authorities have yet to arrest those responsible, although the leaders behind the attack are well known to the authorities. 

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka on May 31 expressed concern over “acts of violence and aggression” against Muslims, and urged law enforcement agencies to “take all necessary action” against the instigators and perpetrators of violence against religious minorities.

Lakshan Dias presenting at a Human Rights Movement event at the Sri Lanka Law College in Colombo. 

© 2017 Lakshan Dias

The Sri Lankan constitution grants everyone the right to freedom of religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, or teaching. The right is also protected in international human rights treaties to which Sri Lanka is a party, notably the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Human Rights Watch said.

Lawyers like Dias are protected by the right to freedom of expression. According to the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, lawyers “have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice, and the promotion and protection of human rights without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action.”

“Government inaction in the face of the justice minister’s threat to revoke the license of a prominent rights lawyer for speaking out on behalf of an embattled community will have reverberations beyond Sri Lanka,” Adams said. “Sri Lanka’s friends should be clear they are watching the government’s response closely.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

From L-R, photographs of (top) Nguyen Chi Tuyen, Nguyen Thi Thai Lai, La Viet Dung, Nguyen Van Thanh, (bottom) Tran Thi Nga, Dinh Quang Tuyen, and Le Dinh Luong after being assaulted by anonymous "thugs" in Vietnam. 

© 2017 Private

(New York, June 19, 2017) – Vietnamese bloggers and rights activists are being beaten, threatened, and intimidated with impunity, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The Vietnamese government should order an end to all attacks and hold those responsible accountable. Donor governments should tell the Vietnamese authorities to end the crackdown, and that repressing internet freedom, peaceful speech, and activism will carry consequences.

The 65-page report, “No Country for Human Rights Activists: Assaults on Bloggers and Democracy Campaigners in Vietnam,” highlights 36 incidents in which unknown men in civilian clothes beat rights campaigners and bloggers between January 2015 and April 2017, often resulting in serious injuries. Many victims reported that beatings occurred in the presence of uniformed police who did nothing to intervene.

“It’s bad enough that activists in Vietnam have to risk prison for speaking out, but now they have to risk their safety on a daily basis simply for exercising their basic rights,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Vietnamese government needs to make it clear that it will not tolerate this kind of behavior and bring to an end this campaign against rights campaigners.”

Vietnamese bloggers and rights activists are being beaten, threatened and intimidated with impunity. 

Human Rights Watch has documented a strategy of beating bloggers and rights activists across the country, including in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Nha Trang, and Vung Tau, as well as in provinces such as Quang Binh, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Binh Duong, Lam Dong, and Bac Giang.

This pattern of assaults on bloggers and activists is clearly intended to silence critics, who in many cases have no other way to voice legitimate concerns.

Brad Adams

Asia Director

In many cases, assaults have occurred in public view on Vietnam’s streets, such as in the beating of environmental activist La Viet Dung, in July 2016, who was attacked on his way home from a social event with the No-U Football Club in Hanoi. Unknown men struck Dung with a brick and fractured his skull.

In May 2014, unknown men beat rights activist Tran Thi Nga on the street in Hanoi with an iron rod, breaking her right knee and left arm. Assaults also occurred in public spaces such as in a café. In June 2016, an unknown man punched democracy campaigner Nguyen Van Thanh in the face in a café in Da Nang. When police arrived, instead of investigating the assault they detained Nguyen Van Thanh for several hours and questioned him about his political writings.

In other cases, unknown men took activists into cars or vans, beat them, and abandoned them in a deserted area. For instance, in April 2017 a group of men in civilian clothes wearing surgical masks abducted rights activists Huynh Thanh Phat and Tran Hoang Phuc in Ba Don (Quang Binh province), took them into a van and drove away. The men used belts and sticks to whip Phat and Phuc in the van and then abandoned them in a forest. In February 2017, a group of men in civilian clothes abducted rights activists Nguyen Trung Ton and his friend Nguyen Viet Tu, also in Ba Don, dragged them into a van and drove away. The men stripped off Ton’s and Tu’s clothes, covered their heads with their jackets, and then hit them with iron tubes before abandoning them in a forest. Nguyen Trung Ton suffered multiple injuries and underwent surgery in the hospital afterward.

“The fact that thugs abducted activists in broad daylight, forced them into vans, and beat them demonstrates the impunity with which activists are persecuted,” said Adams. “The Vietnamese government should understand that tolerance of these violent attacks will lead to lawlessness and chaos instead of the social order and stability it says it is striving for.”

Activists have also been beaten after participating in public events, such as pro-environment protests, demonstrations to call for the release of fellow activists, or human rights-related events. In December 2015, rights campaigner Nguyen Van Dai went to give a talk about human rights and the constitution at a parish in Nam Dan district (Nghe An). As Nguyen Van Dai and three fellow activists were leaving the area, a group of men wearing surgical masks stopped their taxi, dragged them out of the car, and beat them.

Even the act of showing solidarity by visiting the houses of former political prisoners or welcoming a political prisoner home has triggered violence against activists. In August 2015, a group of bloggers and activists including Tran Thi Nga, Chu Manh Son, Truong Minh Tam, Le Thi Huong, Phan Van Khanh, and Le Dinh Luong went to Lam Dong to visit former political activist Tran Minh Nhat after he was released following four years of imprisonment for allegedly being affiliated with a banned overseas political party. As the activists were leaving town in different buses, unknown men in civilian clothes got onto the buses, dragged them off, and beat them in public.

In all but one case included in this report, Human Rights Watch has found that no perpetrator has been identified and prosecuted – despite the fact that victims often report their beating to the police. On the contrary, some victims, including activists Nguyen Van Dai and Tran Thi Nga, were later arrested and charged with “conducting propaganda against the state” under article 88 of the penal code. This raises the question about the relationship the authorities have with the assailants in these cases, which range from apparent passive tolerance to active collaboration.

The report draws on incidents reported in foreign media including Radio Free Asia, Voice of America, the BBC, Saigon Broadcasting Television Network, social media including Facebook and YouTube, politically independent websites such as Dan Lam Bao (Citizen Journalism), Dan Luan (Citizen Discussion), Viet Nam Thoi Bao (Vietnam Times), Tin Mung Cho Nguoi Ngheo (Good News for the Poor), Defend the Defenders, and individual blogs. Many of the assaults included in this report have never been published in English. They are also not reported in Vietnamese state-affiliated media.

“State media censorship drives many peaceful critics in Vietnam to express their concerns online,” said Adams. “This pattern of assaults on bloggers and activists is clearly intended to silence critics, who in many cases have no other way to voice legitimate concerns.”

A recent increase in recorded beatings coincided with a temporary decrease in politically motivated arrests during the period in which Vietnam was negotiating with the United States over participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Vietnam’s human rights record was a major focus of the negotiations and US congressional debate. It is possible that the government of Vietnam wanted to show a decrease in political arrests and trials but still pursued measures to crack down on dissent. Ironically, many of the victims of beatings were former political prisoners, including Tran Minh Nhat, Nguyen Dinh Cuong, Chu Manh Son, and Mai Thi Dung. However, recent evidence suggests that a new surge of arrests has occurred in tandem with continued beatings of activists.

“These brave activists and bloggers suffer persecution on a daily basis, yet they do not give up their cause,” said Adams. “International donors and trade partners with Vietnam should support their struggle by urging the Vietnamese government to stop the beatings and to hold these violent assailants accountable.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Summary

In celebration of International Human Rights Day, on the morning of December 6, 2015, the prominent lawyer and human rights activist Nguyen Van Dai delivered a talk at Van Loc parish in Nam Dan district, Nghe An province, about the rights enshrined in Vietnam’s Constitution. That afternoon, he left for Hanoi, accompanied by fellow activists Ly Quang Son, Vu Van Minh (also known as Vu Duc Minh), and Le Manh Thang. During the course of the journey, their taxi was forcibly stopped by a group of roughly a dozen men wearing civilian clothing and disguised by surgical masks. Nguyen Van Dai says the men dragged them out of the taxi, beating them with wooden sticks on their thighs and shoulders, and forced him into their car. The beating continued inside the car:

They slapped me on my face continuously, and hit me on my ears and my mouth. Once the car arrived at Cua Lo beach, they stripped me of my jacket and shoes, pushed me out onto the beach and left.

The three other rights activists were also severely beaten. According to Ly Quang Son:

The thugs dragged Vu Van Minh out [of the car] and hit him repeatedly in the legs with a stick.… They also dragged Thang out of the car, hitting him in the chest with a stick. Minh tried to hold on to Thang and I tried to grab their sticks. Then another thug whipped me on my hand and I had to release the stick. I used my feet to kick them about the face and head, but they struck me on my ankles, shins, and calves. Minh was unable to hold on to Thang.

Vietnamese bloggers and rights activists are being beaten, threatened and intimidated with impunity. 

Ly Quang Son reported that the men drove Le Manh Thang away in a car to an unknown location, took his cell phone and wallet, and abandoned him by the side of the road. During the trip, the men punched Thang repeatedly in his face and body. According to Nguyen Van Dai and Ly Quang Son, the taxi driver was also beaten by the men.

The December 6 incident was not the first time Nguyen Van Dai had been attacked in this way. In May 2014, while in a café in Hanoi along with several rights activists, a group of men appeared, threw a glass at him, and beat him. In January and March 2015, groups of men attacked his house and tried to break down the door.

***

The attacks on Nguyen Van Dai and his colleagues illustrate a disturbing trend in Vietnam: physical assaults on activists by groups of men who appear to act at the direction of or with the acquiescence of officials. To date, most authoritative assessments of human rights conditions in Vietnam have relied on measures of formal judicial repression (data on arrests, trials, convictions, and sentences imposed by Communist Party-controlled courts or officials acting in their formal capacities), and give too little attention to the frequency and significance of the kind of attacks documented here, effectively a form of extra-judicial repression.

This report attempts to fill in the gap, documenting 36 recent cases in which human rights activists were beaten by “thugs” in Vietnam. All the accounts are based on online sources, including eyewitness accounts of assaults posted on Vietnamese-language blogs and social media, often with photographic evidence, as well as on foreign media accounts, cross-checked against other independent accounts of the same incidents wherever possible.

All the assaults documented here took place between January 2015 and April 2017. In many cases, the assaults took place in plain view of uniformed police officers who did not intervene. Some of the beatings took place in the presence of uniformed officers within the confines of a police station. In many of the cases, the assaults took place in tandem with and seemingly in support of official repressive measures against the activists in question. In almost all the cases, the activists targeted by “thugs” were also targeted for arrest and other forms of official repression.

While the precise links between the thugs and the government are usually impossible to pin down, in a tightly controlled police state there is little or no doubt that they are aligned with and serving at the behest of state security services.

Physical attacks against human rights activists and bloggers in Vietnam are not a new phenomenon. For example, upon returning to Vietnam in December 2005 from a trip to the United States for medical treatment, the late dissident Hoang Minh Chinh and his family were set upon by a mob of about 50 people. The mob cursed Hoang Minh Chinh for publicly criticizing rights violations in Vietnam while he was overseas. They used wooden sticks to break down the door and to smash the windows of his home; threw rotten shrimp paste, tomatoes, and eggs into his house; and kicked and hit members of his family. The family called the police; police officers came but simply witnessed the attack, doing nothing to stop it.

Other prominent rights bloggers and activists have suffered physical assault prior to the period covered by this report, including prominent former political prisoners Huynh Ngoc Tuan, Le Quoc Quan, Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Bac Truyen, Pham Ba Hai, Bui Thi Minh Hang, Pham Thanh Nghien, Do Thi Minh Hanh and Le Thi Cong Nhan, and activists Nguyen Hoang Vi, Le Quoc Quyet, Duong Thi Tan, Ngo Duy Quyen, Pham Le Vuong Cac, Huynh Thuc Vy, and many others.

Information about these kinds of attacks is incomplete because of limitations on access to Vietnam and censorship of the media. Human Rights Watch research has found that in 2013, Vietnam convicted at least 65 rights activists and bloggers and sentenced them collectively to several hundred years in prison. During that same year, according to a report issued by the Association of Former Prisoners of Conscience (Hoi Cuu Tu nhan Luong tam), at least 18 physical attacks were carried out against 71 rights campaigners.

In 2014, during an especially contentious phase of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership between Vietnam and the United States, the number of people convicted for political crimes in Vietnam decreased to 31. However, according to the Association of Former Prisoners of Conscience, the number of physical attacks increased to at least 31 incidents targeting 135 rights bloggers and activists.

In 2015, the number of reported convictions continued to decrease, with only seven activists convicted throughout the year. On the other hand, according to research by Human Rights Watch, roughly 50 bloggers and activists reported that they were assaulted in 20 separate incidents. In 2016, at least 21 rights campaigners were convicted while at least 20 physical assaults were carried out against more than 50 people.

Physical attacks against rights campaigners usually take place in four different situations. The first is an attack against a single individual, either at home or on the street. Examples include attacks against Father Nguyen Van The in May 2016, Nguyen Van Thanh in June 2016, La Viet Dung in July 2016, and Nguyen Trung Ton in February 2017.

A second situation is when a group of rights activists suffers an attack, often for carrying out acts in support of fellow activists, such as visiting a recently released political prisoner or attending a wedding of a rights campaigner. Examples of these attacks include assaults against visitors of political prisoners Tran Anh Kim in January 2015 and Tran Minh Nhat in August 2015.

A third situation involves attacks against activists for participating in public events such as pro-environment protests, or demonstrations outside local police stations demanding the release of fellow activists.

A fourth context is inside police stations, as with the reported beatings of Tran Thi Hong and Truong Minh Tam in April 2016 while they were being detained for interrogation.

In many incidents, assailants are reported to have worn surgical masks. In some cases, as noted above, activists report that uniformed police were present, but did nothing to stop the attack. In almost all cases, no one is held responsible for the attacks. Many activists have made reports to the police about the attacks, but few if any investigations seem to have been carried out; Human Rights Watch is aware of only one case in which the attackers and local police leaders alleged to be responsible for the assault were investigated.

Despite great risks to their personal safety and freedom, the community of rights bloggers and activists continues to grow bigger and stronger in Vietnam. Aided by the internet, particularly social networks such as Facebook and YouTube, rights campaigners increasingly are in contact and support one another in their struggles for political freedom and basic rights.

Numerous rights groups have been founded within the last five years, including the pro-democracy No-U Football Club, the Association of Gourd and Squash Mutual Assistance (Hoi Bau bi Tuong than), Vietnamese Women for Human Rights (Hoi Phu nu Nhan quyen Viet Nam), the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (Hoi Nha bao Doc lap Viet Nam), Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience (Hoi Cuu Tu nhan Luong tam Viet Nam), the Brotherhood for Democracy (Hoi Anh em Dan chu), and the Association for Support of Victims of Torture (Hoi Ho tro Nan nhan Bao hanh).

In addition to carrying out traditional rights activities such as staging peaceful protests, publishing writings critical of the government, and signing open petitions, bloggers and activists visit families of political prisoners or activists in need and provide small but meaningful financial support. They wait at airports to welcome home fellow activists who return from advocacy trips abroad and are frequently detained by police. They go to police stations to demand the release of fellow activists detained for participating in peaceful protests. Brutal repression, including the physical attacks documented in this report, have certainly deterred some in Vietnam from activism, but many others have courageously continued to call for the creation of a rights-respecting democracy.

Key Recommendations

To the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

  • Leaders at national, provincial, and local levels should publicly and unambiguously condemn physical assaults and other forms of harassment and retaliation against rights bloggers and activists, emphasizing that such acts are illegal and will not be tolerated, and that anyone involved in ordering or facilitating such attacks will be held responsible.
  • Leaders should immediately order thorough and impartial investigations of all cases in which rights bloggers and activists are assaulted, intimidated, or threatened; prosecutors should bring charges against all persons credibly implicated in the attacks and other criminal acts.
  • Leaders at the national level should hold provincial and local leaders accountable for acts of violence against rights bloggers and activists that occur under their watch.

To the Vietnamese National Assembly (VNA)

  • The VNA should issue a resolution that publicly and unambiguously condemns physical assaults and other forms of harassment and retaliation against rights bloggers and activists, emphasizing that such acts are illegal and will not be tolerated.
  • The VNA should repeal or amend provisions in the penal code that criminalize peaceful dissent on the basis of imprecisely defined “national security” crimes, as detailed in the full recommendations section at the end of this report.

Methodology

The data presented here on physical assaults against rights bloggers and activists in Vietnam during the roughly 27-month period between January 2015 and April 2017 was obtained (and cross-checked when possible) from four kinds of sources accessed primarily through the internet:

  1. foreign news services;
  2. social media websites such as Facebook and YouTube;
  3. independent blogs and websites based inside Vietnam; and
  4. independent blogs and websites based outside of Vietnam.

These sources include a mix of anonymous and named sources. Human Rights Watch has taken pains to verify cases by cross-checking claims by victims and witnesses wherever possible with other eyewitness accounts of the same incidents reported in the media or posted on other blogs, websites, or social media.

Foreign news services used as sources in this report include Radio Free Asia (RFA), Voice of America, the BBC, Radio France Internationale, Nguoi Viet, and Saigon Broadcasting Television Network. While these news sources do not generally have staff on the ground in Vietnam, they do conduct extensive interviews through telephone and the internet with victims and eyewitnesses.

Facebook and YouTube have emerged as the key social media platforms that activists use to describe episodes of abuse and mistreatment. Among the most important independent blogs and websites outside of Vietnam are Dan Lam Bao (Citizen Journalism), Dan Luan (Citizen Discussion), and Ba Sam.

Reliable blogs and websites based in Vietnam (or run by people who live in Vietnam) include Thanh nien Cong giao (Catholic Youth), Tin mung cho nguoi ngheo (Good News for the Poor), Defend the Defenders, and Thoi bao Viet Nam.

A note on terminology: the unidentified male assailants responsible for the attacks in the cases described in this report are commonly referred to by Vietnamese sources using the Vietnamese term “con do,” which we have translated as “thug.” Human Rights Watch’s use of the term is not meant to imply any particular profile, or identify any particular individual. Following local Vietnamese usage, Human Rights Watch uses the generic term “stick” (“gay” in Vietnamese) to refer to the weapon of choice employed by assailants. The term covers a range of informal implements including makeshift clubs, wooden rods, and bamboo rods.

I. Background

A Long History of Repression

Since the communist government was founded in 1945, it has always dealt harshly with its critics.[1] When fighting against France during the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Communist Party eliminated thousands of fellow Vietnamese who failed to support its war effort.[2] After the end of French colonialism and the establishment of an independent state in northern Vietnam in 1954, the Party killed thousands of “class enemies” as part of a notoriously brutal land reform program and cracked down on dozens of reformist intellectuals who called for modest political liberalization.[3]

During the civil war against the U.S.-backed Republic of Vietnam during the 1960s and 70s, the northern government ordered the assassination of tens of thousands of civilian “traitors” and “puppets” in the southern half of the country.[4] The communist government was almost continuously at war during the first several decades of its existence, was ideologically opposed to liberalism, and thus tolerated little or no domestic political dissent.

With the end of the war in 1975 and the creation of a unified state, the victorious government in Hanoi engaged in harsh repression of dissidents and exercised a large program for the forced “re-education” of former soldiers, civil servants, and government officials in the South.[5] With the introduction of economic reforms in the late 1980s, government repression of dissident voices decreased, but when economic liberalization began to trigger calls for parallel reforms in the political sphere in the 1990s, the Party clamped down again.[6]

Repression has been carried out in part through a legal system that protects the Party’s absolute authority and denies basic civil rights to Vietnamese citizens. The Constitution categorically affirms the supreme leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam over both the state and the people. All basic rights including freedom of speech, opinion, press, assembly, and association are restricted. Independent unions are prohibited. Religious organizations must register with the government and operate under strict bureaucratic supervision. Socio-political groups disliked by the government can be easily shut down.

The authorities use various means to curb political activism, including physical and psychological harassment, police surveillance, extra-judicial house arrest, and the application of pressure on employers, landlords, and family members of activists.[7] State agents have been known to pressure spouses, parents, and siblings to persuade rights bloggers and activists to stop their activities. Police often subject rights campaigners to lengthy, bullying interrogation sessions. The authorities frequently detain rights advocates for long periods without access to legal counsel or family visits.

The government also takes advantage of vaguely worded provisions in its penal codes to imprison peaceful political and religious dissidents. These laws target people for “aiming to overthrow the people’s administration” (penal code article 79, penalty up to death sentence); “undermining national unity policy” (article 87, penalty up to 15 years in prison); “conducting propaganda against the State” (article 88, penalty up to 20 years); and “disrupting security” (article 89, penalty up to 15 years). It also employs “supplemental punishments” which strip former prisoners convicted of “national security” crimes of certain rights, puts them on probation, and allows the confiscation of their property (article 92). Other articles in the penal code used to target peaceful dissenters include sanctions against “abusing rights of democracy and freedom to infringe upon the interests of the State” (article 258) or “disrupting public order” (article 245).  Bogus charges of tax evasion are also commonly used against political dissidents. In November 2015, the National Assembly passed revisions to the penal code. [8] Instead of repealing articles contrary to human rights standards, lawmakers introduced even harsher provisions, such as adding a new punishment to several of these articles that states, “The person who takes actions in preparation of committing this crime shall be subject to between one and five years of imprisonment.” As of March 2017, the revised penal code has not come into force.

As of the time of writing there were approximately 110 known political prisoners in Vietnam. During 2016, at least 21 critics and activists were convicted for carrying out peaceful acts of free expression. Sentences ranged from three to 13 years in prison. Those imprisoned include prominent bloggers Nguyen Huu Vinh (also known as Ba Sam) and Nguyen Dinh Ngoc (also known as Nguyen Ngoc Gia), and activists Tran Anh Kim, Le Thanh Tung and Can Thi Theu.[9] At least 14 other rights activists and bloggers, including the lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and fellow activist Le Thu Ha, bloggers Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, Ho Van Hai, and Tran Thi Nga were detained but had not yet faced trial as of March 2017.[10]

II. Beating of Bloggers and Activists

This chapter provides descriptions of 36 cases in which political bloggers and activists were physically assaulted by anonymous “thugs” during the 27-month period between January 2015 and April 2017. The accompanying photographs attest to the gravity of the assaults. With the exception of the case of Father Dang Huu Nam, there is no evidence in any of the cases that investigations were undertaken by the police, let alone that perpetrators were punished.

Attacks on Huynh Thanh Phat and Tran Hoang Phuc, April 13, 2017

Rights activist Huynh Thanh Phat, 18, and Tran Hoang Phuc, 23, were waiting at a bus stop in Ba Don (Quang Binh province) when a group of men in civilian clothes wearing surgical masks attacked them. The men used shirts to cover the faces of Huynh Thanh Phat and Tran Hoang Phuc, pushed them into a small van, and drove them away. During the ride, the men continuously beat Phat and Phuc. Phat recalled:

They beat us once about every 10 minutes while the car was moving. They hit us on our ears, temples, heads, ribs, backbone, and chest.[11]

Tran Hoang Phuc after being assaulted in Quang Binh on April 13, 2017. Photo taken from a YouTube video posted by Dan Lam Bao.

© 2017 Private/Dan Lam Bao; Huynh Thanh Phat

Phuc wrote on his Facebook page that, “They slapped me, punched me in my ribs and thighs.”[12] The two activists were taken to a deserted area in the forest where according to Phuc, the men “used bamboo sticks and belts to whip them.”[13] The men took the activists’ wallets and cell phones and abandoned them there.[14]

Huynh Thanh Phat after being assaulted in Ho Chi Minh City on May 10, 2016. 

© 2016 Private

This was not the first time Huynh Thanh Phat had been beaten. On May 10, 2016, he was detained by the police of Ward 1, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, and interrogated without legal counsel or any family representative present. Phat was 17 at the time. He was questioned about his alleged involvement in pro-environment protests on May 1 and May 8.[15] Phat was released around 11 p.m. On his way home, two men wearing surgical masks and in civilian clothing stopped Phat and attacked him.[16] He suffered cuts over and under his left eye.

In December 2015, Huynh Thanh Phat and other activists went to Hoa Thanh police station to demand the release of fellow activist Hoang Duc Binh, who had been detained earlier that day for distributing workers’ rights leaflets. Huynh Thanh Phat told a reporter at Radio Free Asia (RFA) what happened when they arrived at the Hoa Thanh police station:

Many traffic police, mobile police, members of the civilian defense force, and security agents in civilian clothing prevented us from entering. We tried to enter. They said: “We are common people.” Then they began to beat us freely in front of the police [in uniform]. These people started to beat me outside alley No.70 all the way to the nearby police station, about 50 meters away. Once I was inside [the police station], they handcuffed me, pushed me against a wall, and beat me again. There were between a dozen and 20 men, tall and big, who kept saying “I am a common person” and beat me without telling me the cause. I did not understand why the men in civilian clothing who called themselves “common people” had handcuffs to handcuff me while the police were watching. One police officer in uniform also joined them to beat me. I recall his name being Pham Khac Dong.[17]

Huynh Thanh Phat has also previously been detained by the police and assaulted on two other occasions. The first time was in January 2016 when he tried to attend a public commemoration of the naval battle between South Vietnam and China over the Paracel Islands in 1974. This event was organized by rights activists at the Tran Hung Dao monument in Ho Chi Minh City.[18] Huynh Thanh Phat told a freelance reporter:

A number of agents in civilian clothing rushed over and struck me on my face and my body. They held me by my neck, pulled me into a car, and took me to a police station.[19]

The second attack was on May 1, 2016, when Phat was attending a pro-environment protest in Ho Chi Minh City.[20] Several men snatched and threw his glasses onto the ground, dragged him by his hair into a car, and took him to the police station of Ward 7, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City.[21] According to Phat, at the police station a man named Huynh Van Phuc beat him with his hand and with a book.[22] On May 14, 2016, the police of Ho Chi Minh City held a press conference and accused Phat and other protesters with being “enticed” by the outlawed political party Viet Tan. The accusation was published widely in state media. After Phat called a reporter at Tuoi Tre newspaper to protest the publication of his name in the article, Tuoi Tre revised its article and removed Phat’s name.[23]

Attacks on Nguyen Trung Ton and Nguyen Viet Tu, February 27, 2017

Nguyen Trung Ton after being assaulted in Quang Binh on February 27, 2017. 

© 2017 Private/ Brotherhood for Democracy

Nguyen Trung Ton and his feet after being assaulted in Quang Binh on February 27, 2017. 

© 2017 Private/ Brotherhood for Democracy

On February 27, 2017, Nguyen Trung Ton and Nguyen Viet Tu were taking a bus from Quang Thing commune, Thanh Hoa province to Ba Don town, Quang Binh province. Upon arrival, a group of seven or eight young men in civilian clothing dragged them into a van. According to Nguyen Trung Ton:

The men took our belongings, stripped our clothes off, covered our heads with our jackets and beat us repeatedly with iron tubes. They did not tell us any reason. The van moved and they continued to beat us [in the van]. There was a driver and at least six other men. Three beat me and three beat Nguyen Viet Tu. I did not know which direction the van went, but it stopped at a deserted area. The men dragged us out of the van. I saw that it was by the side of a mountain, next to a cement drainage ditch. They continued to use iron tubes to beat me and used their shoes to crush my toes. They used iron sticks to strike my feet until they bled.[24]

The men later abandoned Nguyen Trung Ton and Nguyen Viet Tu in a deserted forest in Ha Tinh province.[25]

Nguyen Trung Ton is a Protestant pastor and a blogger whose writing focuses on the lack of religious freedom in Vietnam and other rights issues. He has written about local land confiscation and corruption that has driven many peasants into landlessness. He has complained about the government wasting tax money on what he considered to be frivolous festivals instead of building infrastructure, schools or helping the poor. He has supported fellow religious activists including Hoa Hao Buddhist leader Le Quang Liem and Mennonite pastor Duong Kim Khai. In addition, Nguyen Trung Ton has written about police harassment and assaults against him and his family. In June 2010, his teenage son Nguyen Trung Trong Nghia was beaten on his way to school by five anonymous men after his father exposed police abuses.

Nguyen Trung Ton’s 15-year-old son Nguyen Trung Trong Nghia after being assaulted in Thanh Hoa on June 28, 2010.

© 2010 Private/Hung Viet

Nguyen Trung Ton was arrested in January 2011 for “conducting propaganda against the state” under article 88 of the penal code. He was sentenced to two years in prison. After completing his prison term in January 2013, he served two additional years on probation that restricted his movement to his residential commune. He currently serves as the representative for the Brotherhood for Democracy (Hoi Anh em Dan chu), a pro-democracy group whose founding member Nguyen Van Dai was arrested in December 2015.

Attack on Nguyen Thi Thai Lai, February 12, 2017

On February 12, 2017, pro-environment activist Nguyen Thi Thai Lai and a friend were leaving a restaurant in Van Thanh ward, Nha Trang. A group of four men in civilian clothing blocked their way and started beating her. She said:

Four young men, like four water buffalo, blocked our motorbike. They grabbed me by my neck and threw me on the ground. They beat me until I fainted. They kicked me in the face – look at my [bruised] face. They kicked me in the face. They kicked me and beat me until I fainted.[26]

Nguyen Thi Thai Lai suffered swollen lips, a severely bruised face, and a bruised arm. She reported the assault to the police headquarters of Van Thanh ward but no arrests were made.[27]

Nguyen Thi Thai Lai after being assaulted in Nha Trang on February 12, 2017. 

© 2017 Private

Nguyen Thi Thai Lai participated in protests against the Taiwanese steel company Formosa for causing an environmental disaster in April 2016. She also protested against China and voiced support for fellow activists including Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (also known as Mother Mushroom), Tran Thi Nga, Can Thi Theu, and Nguyen Dang Minh Man, all of whom have been imprisoned for exercising their rights. Nguyen Thi Thai Lai was interrogated by the police in June 2016 for her alleged posts on Facebook about the late President Ho Chi Minh. In November 2016, she was questioned by the police regarding her connection with blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, who was arrested a month earlier for her blogging activities.

Attack on Nguyen Ho Nhat Thanh, December 26, 2016

In the afternoon of December 26, 2016, Nguyen Ho Nhat Thanh was sitting in a café in Ho Chi Minh City when a group of men in civilian clothing approached and assaulted him.[28] They bent his arms behind his back and struck him in the head, chest, and back. They then covered his head with a jacket, dragged him to a car, and took him to the police headquarters of Tan My ward, district 7, Ho Chi Minh City, where they detained him for several hours.[29] Nguyen Ho Nhat Thanh was released that night at about 11:30 p.m. While taking a taxi home, a group of men on motorbikes surrounded the taxi and forced it to stop. They dragged Nguyen Ho Nhat Thanh out of the taxi and beat him.[30] He said:

They dragged me out [of the taxi] and beat me in the middle of the road. They beat me for about five minutes; many beat me at the same time, continuously. I lost consciousness for a couple of minutes.[31]

Nguyen Ho Nhat Thanh is a pro-democracy activist who has participated in protests against China and held informal classes to teach young people about civil society, human rights, and citizen rights. His wife, Trinh Kim Tien, is also a rights activist who has campaigned against police violence. Her father was killed by the police in 2011 due to a traffic violation.[32] Both Nguyen Ho Nhat Thanh and Trinh Kim Tien have suffered numerous cases of police harassment and intimidation.

Attack on Nguyen Van Dung, December 23, 2016

Nguyen Van Dung (also known as Dung Aduku) after being assaulted in Thanh Hoa on December 23, 2016.

© 2016 Private/Viet Nam Thoi Bao

On December 23, 2016, Nguyen Van Dung (also known as Dung Aduku) was driving a motorbike in Tinh Gia district, Thanh Hoa province when six men on three motorbikes approached him and knocked his motorbike over.[33] The men wore civilian clothing and surgical masks. They tore his jacket off, covered his head and helmet and dragged him into a van.[34] In the van, the men:

Stripped my pants and shoes off and struck me on my shoulders, chest, stomach, and thighs. They used belts to whip my thighs. They turned me face-down, removed my jacket, helmet, and glasses. They covered my head with my wool shirt, pulled my underwear down and hit me on my back, hip, behind and thigh. They used belts to whip me on my hip and behind. Then they turned me over, touched and felt my chest, chose a spot and hit me again and again on that spot, which caused me great pain and difficulty breathing.[35]

The men later abandoned Nguyen Van Dung in a small pond with his wool shirt still covering his head.[36] Nguyen Van Dung suffered many bruises all over his body. He reported the assault to the nearby police of Hai Binh commune, Tinh Gia district, Thanh Hoa province.

Nguyen Van Dung is a member of Brotherhood for Democracy (Hoi Anh em Dan chu). He has participated in anti-China protests and went to near the courts during the trials of fellow activists to show solidarity.

Attack on Truong Minh Huong, December 22, 2016

Truong Minh Huong after being assaulted in Ha Nam on December 22, 2016. 

© 2016 Private

On December 22, 2016, Truong Minh Huong went to have lunch with a group of land rights petitioners in the town of Phu Ly, Ha Nam province. When he was taking a taxi with human rights lawyer Ha Huy Son to Hanoi, traffic police stopped the taxi and forced them out.[37] Men in civilian clothing punched and kicked Truong Minh Huong in front of lawyer Ha Huy Son and two police officers. According to Ha Huy Son:

Six or seven security agents in civilian clothing rushed in, kicked Huong and punched him in the face. He fell down by the side of the road, witnessed by two traffic police officers who stopped our taxi. I tried to stop them to no avail, and asked the traffic police officers to protect citizens and to stop the men from beating Huong. The traffic police officers ignored me and left.[38]

Truong Minh Huong told a reporter:

The people who lived in the neighborhood told me that one of the men who beat and injured me was a police officer named Long who works at the police branch of Phu Ly, Ha Nam province.[39]

Truong Minh Huong became a land rights activist in 2007 after his family land was confiscated by the local government for a tourist project. He and his family have faced many examples of intimidation, harassment, and physical assault. In December 2014, three men in civilian clothing stopped him on the street, beat and injured him.[40] In September 2015, dozens of men in civilian clothing threw rocks into his house and broke his windows.[41]

Attack on Nguyen Cong Huan, December 2, 2016

On December 2, 2016, Nguyen Cong Huan (also known as Nguyen Thanh Huan) was taking a bus from Yen Thanh to Vinh in Nghe An province to attend the wedding party of former political prisoner Nguyen Dinh Cuong.[42] A group of men in civilian clothing dragged him out of the bus to the side of the road and beat him.[43] The men kicked his face, head, and body until he was unconscious.[44] They dragged him into a van, drove to a deserted area, took his cell phone and other belongings, and left him by the side of the road.[45] He suffered many bruises on his face and body. Nguyen Cong Huan told a reporter:

They whipped me repeatedly with their belts. One man kicked me on my face and ribs. They struck my chest and on other parts of my body.[46]

Nguyen Cong Huan after being assaulted in Nghe An on December 2, 2016. 

© 2016 Private

Nguyen Cong Huan is a human rights activist who protested against the Taiwanese steel company Formosa for causing an environmental disaster in April 2016. He has also voiced support for pro-democracy fellow activists and political prisoners.

Attack on Dinh Hong Quyen, December 2, 2016

Dinh Hong Quyen after being assaulted in Ha Dong on December 2, 2016.

© 2016 Private

Dinh Hong Quyen is a human rights activist who protested against the Taiwanese steel company Formosa for causing an environmental disaster in April 2016. Dinh Hong Quyen went to the area outside the People’s Court of Hanoi to show support for land rights activist Can Thi Theu during her appeal trial on November 30, 2016.[47]

Two days later, on December 2, 2016, Dinh Hong Quyen was attacked in Yen Nghia ward (Ha Dong) by a group of men in civilian clothing. He suffered injuries to his nose.[48]

Attacks on To Oanh, July 13, 2016 and April 24, 2015

A retired teacher, To Oanh became a pro-democracy blogger and participant in anti-China and pro-environment protests.[49] He gave testimony on freedom of the press in Vietnam to the US House of Representatives in April 2014.[50] Upon returning to Vietnam, he was detained at Noi Bai airport and interrogated for many hours.

On the morning of July 13, 2016, blogger To Oanh and his wife Hoang Thi Nhu Hoa were driving a motorbike when a man in civilian clothing followed them home.[51] When they were about 60km from their house in Bac Giang province, the man cut in front of To Oanh’s motorbike, forcing him to turn sharply and crash.[52] After the crash, the man drove away. According to To Oanh’s wife, he suffered “blood clots in his head and broken cheek bones” as well as many bruises.[53] He was taken to the hospital in Bac Giang province for treatment.[54] His wife suffered a minor cut.

This was not the first time To Oanh has been attacked. On April 24, 2015, he was driving a motorbike to visit villagers of Xuan Quan commune in Van Giang district, Hung Yen province, when an unknown man crashed a motorbike into him and then drove away. To Oanh was injured on his right elbow and knee.[55] He had to abort his trip.

To Oanh after being assaulted in Bac Giang on July 13, 2016. 

© 2016 Private

Attacks on La Viet Dung, July 10, 2016 and May 7, 2016

On the afternoon of July 10, 2016, La Viet Dung attended a soccer game and then joined a gathering with other members of the No-U Football Club in Hanoi.[56] On the way home, he was attacked by three or four men in civilian clothing who struck him with a brick and seriously fractured his skull.[57] La Viet Dung was taken to the hospital for emergency treatment.[58]

La Viet Dung after being assaulted in Hanoi on July 10, 2016.

© 2016 Private/Dan Lam Bao

La Viet Dung had also been attacked two months earlier. On May 7, 2016, men threw rocks and broke the front window of his car in an attempt to intimidate him and dissuade him from participating in a pro-environment protest the next day.[59] He was then accused on national television of being a subversive reactionary.[60] On May 29, 2016, La Viet Dung was briefly detained by the police for staging a silent protest in public demanding that the government publish the results of an investigation into mass fish deaths in central Vietnam, which had caused a major health scare for consumers of fish.[61]

Members of the No-U Football Club, established in October 2011 as an informal soccer club, meet weekly to play soccer, discuss politics, support human rights activists, and participate in social activities, including anti-China and pro-environment protests.[62] The club has been placed under close police surveillance and constant harassment. During a party to commemorate the club’s fourth anniversary in October 2015 at a restaurant in Hanoi, men in civilian clothing broke in, destroyed tables and chairs, and assaulted participants.[63]
 

Attacks on Do Duc Hop, June 25, 2016 and May 8, 2016

Do Duc Hop after being attacked in Ho Chi Minh City on May 8, 2016. 

© 2016 Private

On June 25, 2016, rights activist Do Duc Hop and his wife Tran Thi Thuoc drove a motorbike home after attending the wedding of fellow activist Huynh Cong Thuan. A group of men in civilian clothing stopped the couple and assaulted Do Duc Hop. One man used a knife to threaten Do Duc Hop’s wife and told her not to call for help.[64]

He suffered bruises on his forehead and in the corner of his right eye.

Do Duc Hop after being attacked in Ho Chi Minh City on June 25, 2016.

© 2016 Private

This was not the first time Do Duc Hop was attacked. On May 8, 2016, he was assaulted outside the police station of Ben Nghe ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. That morning agents in civilian clothing blocked his house to prevent him from joining a pro-environment protest during which a number of protesters were detained. In the afternoon, Do Duc Hop went to the police station of Ben Nghe ward to show solidarity with detained fellow activists. Upon seeing a protester taken away in a car outside the police station, he took a couple of photos. About six or seven men in civilian clothing rushed to beat him and dragged him into the police station. In a video clip published by Dan Lam Bao, Do Duc Hop said that he “suffered many punches and kicks.”[65] He said:

They punched and kicked me, on my face and my body; they bent my wrists and hit me directly on my lips. I tried to cover my face but they bent my hands so they could punch me.… Another person kicked me in my ribs.[66]

Do Duc Hop was released later the same evening. He suffered many bruises. On May 1, 2016, men in civilian clothes detained and beat Do Duc Hop, his fellow activist Duong Thi Tan, former political prisoners Huynh Anh Tu and Pham Thanh Nghien, to prevent them from participating in a pro-environment protest.

Do Duc Hop after being attacked in Ho Chi Minh City on May 8, 2016.

© 2016 Private

Attack on Mai Thi Dung, June 22, 2016

On the morning of June 22, 2016, police prevented former political prisoner Mai Thi Dung from attending the anniversary of the founding of Hoa Hao Buddhism at Quang Minh Tu, an independent Hoa Hao Buddhist pagoda in Cho Moi district, An Giang province. According to Mai Thi Dung’s husband Vo Van Buu, also a former political prisoner, Mai Thi Dung and their daughter Vo Thi Tuyet Linh left their house in Cho Moi district for Quang Minh Tu pagoda, but dozens of men stopped them on their way and forced them to turn back to their house.[67]

“Four or five persons surrounded and beat my wife. Her lips are swollen. They also used helmets to hit her from behind.”[68]

Mai Thi Dung is a Hoa Hao Buddhist activist who has joined many protests against the repression of religious groups that are not approved by the government. During the crackdown on independent Hoa Hao Buddhist groups in 2005, the government convicted her of disrupting public order under article 245 of the penal code and sentenced her to five years in prison. In 2007, while she was in prison, the People’s Court of Vinh Long tried her for involvement in a protest by independent Hoa Hao Buddhist groups in 2001 and sentenced her to an additional six years in prison, again for violating article 245. In April 2015, under international and domestic pressure, she was released. Her husband Vo Van Buu was also arrested in 2005 and sentenced to seven years in prison. He completed his prison term in August 2012. Both husband and wife are under constant police surveillance.

Attacks on Nguyen Van Thanh, June 5, 2016 and August 4, 2015

Nguyen Van Thanh after being assaulted in Da Nang on June 5, 2016.

© 2016 Private

On the morning of June 5, 2016, Nguyen Van Thanh was in a café outside the Economic University of Da Nang when an unknown young man came and snatched the bag in which he kept printed copies of his political writings.[69] The assailant punched him in the face. A little while later, a large group of police in uniform, security agents in civilian clothing, and members of the civilian defense force arrived and escorted Nguyen Van Thanh to the police station of My An ward, Da Nang, where he was detained for a couple of hours.[70] At the police station, he did not receive any medical treatment. Instead, the police interrogated him about the contents of his political writing.[71] After being released, he sought treatment at the Da Nang Hospital for multiple bruises on his face.[72]

This was not the first time Nguyen Van Thanh has been attacked. On August 4, 2015, he was driving his motorbike in Khue My ward, Da Nang, when five unknown men attacked him. The attackers grabbed his collar and punched and kicked him repeatedly.[73] Nguyen Van Thanh reported the attack to the police of Khue My ward.[74]

Nguyen Van Thanh after being assaulted in Da Nang on August 4, 2015.

© 2015 Private/Thanh’s Blog

Nguyen Van Thanh is a chemical engineer who has lived in Da Nang since 2002. In 2010, he began to blog critical commentaries on social and political issues. He also published his writing on independent websites such as Bauxite Vietnam and Dien dan Xa hoi Dan su(Social Civilian Forum). Nguyen Van Thanh suffers constant harassment and intimidation, including household registration checks at nights, intimidation of his family members in order to convince him to stop his activism, and even pressure on his landlord to evict him. He has been assaulted four other times, on December 10, 12, and 18, 2013, and on February 16, 2014.
 

Threats and Attacks on Hoa Hao Buddhists, June 2-3, 2016

On June 2, 2016, Hoa Hao Buddhist followers Nguyen Van Dien and Nguyen Van Tho were on their way home after visiting former religious prisoner Nguyen Van Lia at his house in Cho Moi district, An Giang province, when unknown men stopped and threatened to kill them.[75]

That night and in the early morning of June 3, a different group of unknown men threw rotten shrimp paste into the house of Nguyen Ngoc Tan and rocks into the house of Nguyen Van Hau in Vinh Long province.[76] Both are independent Hoa Hao Buddhist followers.

Communist antipathy towards the Hoa Hao dates from the first Indochina war (1946-1954) when many members of the Hoa Hao community opposed the communist-led Viet Minh after the spiritual leader of the religion, Huynh Phu So, was assassinated by communist forces.[77] During the second Indochina war (1954-1975), Hoa Hao zones in the western Mekong delta continued to resist the Viet Cong insurgency.[78] Hostility between the Hoa Hao community and the Communist Party continued after the end of the war in 1975. In 1999, the Vietnamese government recognized Hoa Hao Buddhism as a religion.[79] However, many followers refused to join the state-sanctioned Hoa Hao Buddhist Church and are subject to intrusive surveillance and repression.[80]

Attack on Nguyen Phuong, May 19, 2016

On the evening of May 19, 2016, rights activist Nguyen Phuong left his house on motorbike in Chau Duc district in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province for Ho Chi Minh City.[81]

According to Nguyen Phuong:

When I left my house, two security agents followed me [on a motorbike]. At the area of Nghia Thanh commune, they drove right next to me. The person in the back used his helmet to hit me. I was able to avoid the blow. I turned back to flee and called my two younger brothers to escort me back to Ba Ria where we encountered these two thugs again. This time, there were traffic police accompanying them. I was beaten in front of traffic police, witnessed by many bystanders, but the traffic police did nothing to stop them.[82]

Nguyen Phuong after being assaulted on May 19, 2016, in Ba Ria – Vung Tau.

© 2016 Private

Police then detained Nguyen Phuong and escorted him to the police headquarters of Chau Duc district, Ba Ria-Vung Tau province.[83] He was released a few hours later.

Nguyen Phuong is a rights activist who participated in pro-environment protests in Ho Chi Minh City in May 2016. He has openly supported political prisoners Tran Huynh Duy Thuc[84] and Can Thi Theu,[85] and boycotted the national election in May 2016.[86]

Attacks on Tran Thi Hong, March 30, April 14, and May 13, 2016

On March 30, 2016, Tran Thi Hong planned to attend a meeting with US Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein and other staff from the US Embassy and Consulate to talk about the situation of the “Lutheran church in the highlands” and “the repression of ethnic prisoners of conscience.”[87] On her way to the hotel where the meeting was to be held, men in civilian clothing stopped her motorbike and asked her to go to the police station. When she refused to comply, the men twisted her arms, grabbed her hair, and dragged her.[88] They then took away her motorbike and sent her home in a taxi. Upon hearing that Tran Thi Hong had been prevented from attending the meeting, Ambassador Saperstein and other members of the US delegation went to her house to meet her.[89]

On April 14, the authorities summoned Tran Thi Hong to the headquarters of the People’s Committee of Hoa Lu ward in the city of Pleiku, Gia Lai province, to question her about her meeting with the US delegation.[90] When she refused to go, four persons carried her by her legs and arms and took her to the headquarters by car. They carried her to a room on the third floor where a woman slapped her.[91] According to Ms. Hong, two women dragged her by her hair. They trampled on her feet and punched her.[92] She was detained for a couple of hours and then released.

On May 11, 12, 13 and 14, 2016, authorities repeatedly went to Ms. Hong’s house and forced her to go to the headquarters to question her about the March 30 meeting again. She says that on May 13 she was assaulted at Hoa Lu ward police headquarters.[93]

Her family has long suffered official repression. Her husband, Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, was arrested in April 2011 and charged with “undermining national great unity” under article 87 of the penal code. He is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence. He reportedly has suffered numerous rights violations in prison, including being beaten by prison inmates with the knowledge of prison staff.

Attack on Nguyen Van The, May 7, 2016

Father Nguyen Van The of the Dong Chuong parish, Bac Ninh diocese, was on his way from Hop Hoa commune to Son Duong town in Son Duong district, Tuyen Quang province, on May 7, 2016, when he was attacked by four men wearing surgical masks and helmets. Father Nguyen Van Phong told RFA that these men “hit [Father The] on his face, head, arms, legs, and body.”[94] In an interview on the Vietnamese website Tin mung cho nguoi ngheo (Good News for the Poor), Father Nguyen Van The told a reporter that the men “beat me repeatedly.”[95] Father The thought that the cause of the beating might be because he “intervened in the illegal exploitation of sand from Lo river and condemned the authorities of Son Duong district for intentionally seizing the land of the parish.”[96]

Father Nguyen Van The was badly injured in the attack and was taken to Hung Vuong hospital in Phu Tho province for treatment. He had many cuts and bruises on his arms, hands, and right knee. The incident was reported to the local police.

Attack on Nguyen Ngoc Tan and Nguyen Thi Lien, April 22, 2016

Independent Hoa Hao Buddhist followers Nguyen Ngoc Tan and Nguyen Thi Lien were on the way home after attending a prayer session at the home of fellow Hoa Hao Buddhist activist Le Van Soc in Binh Minh, Vinh Long province, on April 22, 2016, when they were attacked by men in civilian clothing. Le Van Soc told RFA Vietnamese that the men separated Nguyen Ngoc Tan and Nguyen Thi Lien from a group of six people and attacked them.[97]

“They kicked the motorbike. When it fell, four people jumped in to beat her [Nguyen Thi Lien] and Nguyen Ngoc Tan. Two men kicked her.”[98]

Nguyen Ngoc Tan suffered many bruises and Nguyen Thi Lien was taken to the hospital for emergency treatment.[99] On June 3, 2016, unknown men threw rotten shrimp paste into Nguyen Ngoc Tan’s house in Binh Minh, Vinh Long province.

Attack on Nguyen Dinh Cuong, April 14, 2016

Former political prisoner Nguyen Dinh Cuong was on his way home on April 14, 2016, from a wedding engagement ceremony when he was stopped by the police and taken to the police headquarters of Dien Dong commune, Dien Chau district, Nghe An province. He told a freelance reporter with Thanh nien Cong giao (Catholic Youth) that at the police station:

Several police in civilian clothing beat and punched me repeatedly on my neck, head, and body. They even used a mug to strike my head.[100]

He claimed that the police also tore off the “No China” t-shirt he was wearing.

Nguyen Dinh Cuong had previously been arrested in December 2011 for allegedly “carrying out activities that aim at overthrowing the people’s administration” and sentenced to four years in prison. He is currently serving four years’ probation, which restricts his movement within his residential commune.

Attack on Truong Van Dung, Trung Nghia, Tu Anh Tu, and Can Thi Theu, April 8, 2016

Tu Anh Tu after being assaulted in Hanoi on April 8, 2016.

© 2016 Private/Tin Mung Cho Nguoi Ngheo

On April 8, 2016, several dozen rights activists gathered at a café near the US Embassy in Hanoi to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the pro-democracy Bloc 8406. The participants decided to march to demand the release of prominent lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and fellow activist Le Thu Ha who were arrested in December 2015 and charged with conducting propaganda against the state. The police dispersed the march and detained seven activists.

A witness named Mai Phuong Thao (also known as Thao Teresa) reported that she saw many men in civilian clothing hit activist Truong Van Dung. The men also grabbed activist Trung Nghia by the neck, choking him, then dragged him into a bus used by the police to transport detainees and took him to a police station. Land rights activist Can Thi Theu reported that men in civilian clothing slammed the back of her neck against the side of the bus.[101] Rights activist Tu Anh Tu described the incident to a freelance reporter:

Today is the 10th anniversary of Bloc 8406. A number of us decided to meet at a café [to celebrate] and also called for the freedom of Nguyen Van Dai. We sat for about 30 minutes until the police asked the café owner to close its door and began to arrest people. I saw the police arrest my friend Thai Van Dung. I rushed over to hold onto my friend to no avail. The police teamed up to beat me. They dragged me to the ground and kicked me in the face. I am suffering a severe headache.[102]

Attacks on Hoa Hao Buddhist followers, April 2, 2016

Many independent Hoa Hao Buddhist followers were assaulted on April 2, 2016, when they went to Quang Minh Pagoda in Long Hoa 2 hamlet, Long Dien A commune, Cho Moi district in An Giang province to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Hoa Hao Buddhist founder Huynh Phu So. Nguyen Van Lia, a former political prisoner sentenced for his religious beliefs, was stopped on the way and punched in the face by men in civilian clothing.[103] A group of 14 Hoa Hao Buddhist activists including Dinh Thi Hong Trang and Cao Van Hung went to help Nguyen Van Lia and were attacked by a group of about 40 people in civilian clothing.[104]

Attack on Tran Minh Nhat, February 22, 2016

Former political prisoner Tran Minh Nhat and his family were attacked on the evening of February 22, 2016 by a group of men in civilian clothing who had gathered outside his house and were cursing at them. When Tran Minh Nhat opened the door to see who was outside, a man threw a rock at him, striking him in the head and fracturing his skull.[105] When his family tried to take him to the hospital, the men blocked their way and threatened to beat them. Nhat’s family took him to his brother’s house instead.

Tran Minh Nhat after being assaulted in Lam Dong on February 22, 2016. 

© 2016 Private/Dan Lam Bao

This was not the first time Tran Minh Nhat had been assaulted. On November 8, 2015, he took a bus home to Lam Dong province after a visit to Ho Chi Minh City where he had gone for a medical checkup and to meet with officials at the US Consulate. Security agents stopped the bus at Dinh Van town (Lam Ha district, Lam Dong province) and arrested him. One man grabbed him by the hair and removed the crucifix he was wearing around his neck. The others grabbed his legs and arms and dragged him off the bus. When Nhat screamed for help, security agents slapped, gagged, choked, and kicked him into submission and forced him to the police station in Dinh Van town.[106] The police accused him of violating the terms of his probation by going to Ho Chi Minh City.[107]

Tran Minh Nhat said he was beaten again during his detention: “Major Le Van Huong slapped my head, pinched my ear, and pressed my head down.”[108] He also said that officers named Minh and Long choked him, bending his left hand and punching him in the stomach.[109] He filed a complaint with Lam Dong province police, but to no avail. Nine days later when Tran Minh Nhat and his father went to a clinic in Lam Ha district the police detained him again for violating probation. During the arrest, officer Minh choked Nhat and forcefully pressed him against a tree.[110] On April 16, 2016, security agents broke into Nhat’s garden and assaulted him and his brothers.

Tran Minh Nhat after being assaulted in Lam Dong on November 8, 2015.

© 2015 Private/Defend the Defenders

Tran Minh Nhat had initially been arrested in August 2011 for his alleged affiliation with the banned overseas political party Viet Tan. He was charged with “carrying out activities that aim to overthrow the people’s administration” under article 79 of the penal code, ended up spending four years in prison and was sentenced to three additional years of probation after he was released in August 2015. Since his release, his family has suffered numerous instances of harassment and intimidation. Anonymous thugs have thrown rocks into their house, poisoned their chickens, sprayed chemicals and killed their pepper and tea trees, and destroyed their coffee and avocado garden. Tran Minh Nhat and his family have reported this to the local authorities to no avail.[111]
 

On April 7, 2016, Tran Minh Nhat said that a foreign diplomat canceled a meeting with him in Da Lat, Lam Dong province, reportedly owing to a safety warning from the Vietnamese government.[112] According to Tran Minh Nhat, on the day the visit was scheduled security agents guarded all routes and prevented Nhat from leaving his house. A large pile of gravel was dumped on the road outside Nhat’s house to prevent visitors from getting to the house.[113]

Attack on Tran Thi Nga, February 21, 2016

In May 2014, activist Tran Thi Nga (also known as Tran Thuy Nga) was assaulted by a group of five men who used iron rods to beat her. She was taken to the hospital later and reported to have a broken arm and broken knee.[114]

Thugs engaged in a milder form of assault on February 21, 2016, when they threw rotten shrimp paste at Tran Thi Nga and her sons, five-year-old Phu and three-year-old Tai, as the three were heading home from a supermarket in the city of Phu Ly, Ha Nam province.[115] Tran Thi Nga suffered an eye injury from the shrimp paste; Phu had an allergic reaction.[116]

Tran Thi Nga after being assaulted in Hanoi on May 25, 2014. 

© 2014 Private/Dan Lam Bao

Tran Thi Nga is a longtime labor rights activist. In 2003, she went to Taiwan to work. In 2005, she was injured in a traffic accident and did not receive any help from the Vietnamese government or her company. From 2005 to 2008, as she was pursuing medical treatment and a legal claim related to the accident, she received help from an NGO in Taiwan and learned about labor law and workers’ rights. In 2008, Tran Thi Nga went back to Vietnam and became active in helping workers who suffered similar mistreatment. She participated in anti-China and pro-environment protests, went to trials of bloggers and rights activists, and visited the houses of political prisoners to show solidarity. She also served as an executive board member for the Vietnamese Women for Human Rights, founded in November 2013.

Tran Thi Nga has suffered repeated intimidation, harassment, detention, interrogation, and physical assault because of her activism.[117] In March 2015, she was detained in Hanoi by men in civilian clothing who she believed were security agents and taken back to her hometown in Ha Nam province. During the trip, one man twisted her neck and gagged so she could not call for help. Two other men restrained her hands and legs while the fourth man slapped and punched her.[118]

In January 2017, the police of Ha Nam province arrested Tran Thi Nga and charged her with conducting propaganda against the state under article 88 of the penal code.

Attack on Father Dang Huu Nam, December 31, 2015

In the evening of December 31, 2015, Father Dang Huu Nam of Phu Yen Parish (Vinh diocese) was attacked by men outside the headquarters of the People’s Committee of An Hoa commune, Quynh Luu district, Nghe An province. Father Nam later told a reporter at the Saigon Broadcasting Television Network that:

A thuggish group of about 10 people stopped my car. They jumped in, kicked me down onto the road and continued to beat me. Then they kicked me into a channel by the side of the road. This incident was witnessed by the police of An Hoa commune. The police did not intervene. They simply watched the thugs assaulting and beating me.[119]

Upon learning of the attack, Catholics from the area immediately came to the scene to help Father Nam. They were able to apprehend one of the men, who was taken away by the police of Quynh Luu district.[120] Father Nam suspected that the attack was revenge for a sermon he performed at Xuan Kieu parish in October 2015 in which he advised Catholic attendants not to believe communists.[121]

In a rare example of accountability for such attacks, on January 19, 2016, the police of Quynh Luu district informed Father Dang Huu Nam that they had initiated a case of “disrupting public order” against three of the men involved in the incident and a case against chief of police Ho Ngoc Trung and deputy chief of police Pham Ngoc Huu for “failing to carry out responsibilities resulting in serious consequences.”[122] Both Ho Ngoc Trung and Pham Ngoc Huu were suspended from work.

Later, the leaders of Nghe An province and Quynh Luu districts, as well as two perpetrators, went to Phu Yen Parish to apologize. Father Dang Huu Nam agreed to forgive the men, withdrew his complaints, and asked that they not be prosecuted. The two police officers involved were later transferred to police forces in other communes.

Attacks on Nguyen Van Dai, Ly Quang Son, Vu Van Minh (also known as Vu Duc Minh), and Le Manh Thang, December 6, 2015

Ly Quang Son’s foot after being assaulted in Nghe An on December 6, 2015.

© 2015 Private

Prominent rights campaigner Nguyen Van Dai and three other activists were brutally attacked on the morning of December 6, 2015. To celebrate International Human Rights Day, Nguyen Van Dai gave a talk about human rights enshrined in Vietnam’s Constitution, followed by an open discussion, at the Van Loc parish in Nam Dan district, Nghe An province. In the afternoon, Nguyen Van Dai left for Hanoi, accompanied by fellow activists Ly Quang Son, Vu Van Minh (also known as Vu Duc Minh), and Le Manh Thang. Their taxi was stopped by a group of about a dozen men in civilian clothing wearing surgical masks. Nguyen Van Dai told a reporter at RFA that the men dragged him out of the taxi, beating him with wooden sticks on his thighs and shoulders, and then dragged him into their car.[123] The beating continued inside the car:

They slapped me on my face continuously, and struck my ears and mouth. Once the car arrived at Cua Lo beach, they stripped me of my jacket and shoes, pushed me out onto the beach and left.[124]

The three other activists were also severely beaten. According to Ly Quang Son:

The thugs dragged Vu Van Minh out [of the car] and hit him repeatedly in the legs with a stick.…[125] They also dragged Thang (next to the left door) out of the car, hitting him in the chest with a stick. Minh tried to hold on to Thang and I tried to grab their stick. Then another thug whipped my hand and I had to release the stick. I used my feet to kick them about face and head, but they struck me on my ankles, shins, and my calves. Minh was unable to hold on to Thang.[126]

Ly Quang Son reported that the men took Le Manh Thang away in a car to an unknown location, took his cell phone and wallet, and abandoned him by the side of the road.

During the trip, the men punched Thang in the face and body.[127] According to Nguyen Van Dai and Ly Quang Son, the taxi driver was also beaten by the men.

Nguyen Van Dai after being assaulted in Nghe An on December 6, 2015.

© 2015 Private/Tin Mung Cho Nguoi Ngheo

On December 16, 2015, the police arrested Nguyen Van Dai and fellow activist Le Thu Ha and charged them with “conducting propaganda against the state” under article 88 of the penal code. By early May 2017, he remained in police detention pending investigation.

Nguyen Van Dai after being assaulted in Hanoi on May 8, 2014.

© 2014 Private

The December 6th incident was not the first time Nguyen Van Dai had been attacked in this way. In May 2014, while in a café in Hanoi along with several rights activists, a group of men appeared, threw a glass at him, and beat him.[128] In January and March 2015, groups of men attacked his house and tried to break down the door.[129]

Nguyen Van Dai, 47, was a human rights lawyer who supported the formation of many rights groups, including the Vietnam Independent Union and the pro-democracy Bloc 8406. He was arrested in March 2007 and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. In November 2007, an appeals court reduced his sentence to four years.[130]

In April 2013, Nguyen Van Dai helped found Brotherhood for Democracy “to defend human rights recognized by the Vietnam Constitution and international conventions” and “to promote the building of a democratic, progressive, civilized and just society for Vietnam.”

Nguyen Van Dai was awarded a Hellman Hammett grant in 2007.[131]

Attack on Nguyen Nang Tinh, November 24, 2015

Nguyen Nang Tinh after being assaulted in Nghe An on November 24, 2015.

© 2015 Private

Eight men in civilian clothing attacked Catholic activist Nguyen Nang Tinh on November 24, 2015, at Ben Thuy bridge, which connects Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces.

The men stole Tinh’s cell phone and wallet and beat him.[132]

This was not the first time Nguyen Nang Tinh had been assaulted. In May 2014, he was stopped by a member of the civilian defense force in the city of Vinh, Nghe An province. A group of men in civilian clothing then surrounded and beat him in front of many uniformed police officers who did not intervene.[133] The men hit him in the face and bloodied his mouth. Nguyen Nang Tinh reported the beating to the police.[134]

Attack on Trinh Anh Tuan, October 30, 2015

Blogger Trinh Anh Tuan (also known as Gio Lang Thang) was assaulted on the afternoon of October 30, 2015, when approximately 10 men in civilian clothing blocked his house and prevented him from leaving. When he tried to leave, a man who he believed was a member of the civilian defense force cursed him and scratched his face and neck.[135] According to blogger Pham Doan Trang, among the men who witnessed the beating was a local ward police officer named Huy.[136]

Trinh Anh Tuan after being assaulted in Hanoi on April 22, 2015.

© 2015 Private

This was not the first time Trinh Anh Tuan had been attacked. On the morning of April 22, 2015, three unknown men knocked him off his motorbike and beat him near his house in Long Bien district, Hanoi.[137] He told a reporter at RFA, “Being beaten, I tried to run away, but they chased after me and continued to beat me. They knocked me down, took a brick, struck me on my head, and bloodied it.”[138] He reported the attack to the police of Long Bien district. Less than four months later, the police informed him that they had temporarily ceased investigation” because they “could not pin down the perpetrator.”[139]

Trinh Anh Tuan was also attacked in March 2014 after attending a discussion on the right to freedom of movement organized by the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers at a café in Hanoi.[140] Upon leaving the discussion, he was followed by three men in civilian clothing who knocked him off his motorbike and beat him in the middle of the street.[141] He suffered multiple scratches and bruises.[142] His cell phone was also smashed and destroyed.

Attacks on Chu Manh Son, Tran Thi Nga, Truong Minh Tam, Le Thi Huong, Phan Van Khanh, and Le Dinh Luong, August 28, 2015

Chu Manh Son after being assaulted in Lam Dong on August 28, 2015.

© 2015 Private/Dan Lam Bao

On the morning of August 28, 2015, a group of six people—former political prisoner Chu Manh Son, activists Tran Thi Nga, Truong Minh Tam, Le Thi Huong and her husband Phan Van Khanh, and Le Dinh Luong—were assaulted after paying a visit to Tran Minh Nhat at Lam Ha district, Lam Dong province, shortly after he was released after completing a four-year sentence for allegedly being involved in the foreign-based political party Viet Tan. Atotal of about a dozen bloggers and activists went to his house to welcome him home.[143]

Truong Minh Tam after being assaulted in Lam Dong on August 28, 2015.

© 2015 Private/Dan Lam Bao

The next morning Truong Minh Tam, Tran Thi Nga, and Chu Manh Son took a bus to the city of Da Lat.[144] Their bus was stopped by a group of 20 men in civilian clothing, three of whom boarded the bus and dragged them out. One man covered Tran Thi Nga’s mouth, punched her, and kicked her.[145] Four men kicked Chu Manh Son to the ground, punched him, and kicked him in the head. Several other men attacked Truong Minh Tam.[146]

A second group of activists left the house and boarded a bus to Ho Chi Minh City; their bus was also stopped and they too were assaulted. Activists reported being beaten include Le Thi Huong, her husband Phan Van Khanh, and fellow activist Le Dinh Luong.[147] 

Le Thi Huong told a freelance journalist that four men boarded the bus and struck her and her husband “repeatedly on our heads, faces, and bodies.” The abuse did not stop there. As she described it:

Then they dragged me and Khanh off the bus, kicked me in the stomach and in the back. They even stomped on my head with their black shoes after I fell onto the ground. They sprayed tear gas in my husband’s face. They beat us for about 10 minutes and then left. Today, my head and my face are still swollen and my body hurts.[148]

The men also dragged Le Dinh Luong off the bus and hit him repeatedly. He described the attack:

They snatched my tablet and smashed it against the side of the bus. They hit me repeatedly in my face, punched me in the ribs, and kicked me in the head. They beat me for about five minutes in the bus, then dragged me off the bus and beat me for another 10 minutes. I have many bruises and swollen spots; I am in a lot of pain.[149]

Tran Thi Nga and Chu Manh Son went to the Lam Dong province police headquarters to report the attack.[150]

Le Dinh Luong after being assaulted in Lam Dong on August 28, 2015.

© 2015 Private/Dan Lam Bao

Attacks on Truong Minh Tam, August 24 and 28, 2015

On the afternoon of August 24, 2015, rights activist Truong Minh Tam (also known as Truong Ba Khong) was on the way home from Prison No.5 in Thanh Hoa province where he had gone to pick up paperwork regarding his 2013 conviction and one-year imprisonment for alleged fraud when two men in civilian clothing attacked him.[151] One of the men held Truong Minh Tam while the other snatched his paperwork and his iPad and threw them into a nearby stream.[152] Four days later, he was beaten after visiting former political prisoner Tran Minh Nhat and suffered multiple cuts and bruises on his face and neck.[153]

Truong Minh Tam was also detained from April 28 to May 4, 2016 by the police of Ha Tinh province for carrying out a video interview with villagers at Ky Anh district, Ha Tinh province, about the mass die-off of fish that had occurred at the beginning of April.[154] He told a reporter:

During these six days, I was beaten, sometimes I was stripped of my clothes and forced to make statements the way they wanted.[155] I found myself being treated like an animal in front of government officials. Why did I say so? Because when I was being interrogated, they requested that I wear absolutely nothing. Which meant, to be honest, I was interrogated while being naked. I found that horrifying in a civilized society.[156]

In an interview with a different journalist, Truong Minh Tam recalled:

They hit me and kicked me while I had not a shred of clothes to cover my body. They beat me at about 3 a.m. on April 29, 2016.[157]

Attacks on Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Others, June 25, 2015

Trinh Ba Tu after being assaulted in Nghe An on June 25, 2015.

© 2015 Private/Dan Lam Bao

Several dozen land rights activists and bloggers went to Prison No. 6 in Nghe An province on June 25, 2015 to welcome land rights activist Trinh Ba Khiem, who was released that day.[158] Blogger Nguyen Tuong Thuy told a reporter at RFA:

There were many thugs, more than the number of villagers from Duong Noi ward, wearing civilian clothing. We thought they were policemen in civilian clothes, or thugs. They surrounded us and beat many of us brutally. Many of us suffered injuries. Most of those who accompanied Duong Noi people were beaten, including Truong Van Dung, Ms. Mai Thanh and myself. Trinh Ba Khiem’s two sons were brutally beaten; Trinh Ba Tu was bloodied and had a swollen eye. They even beat women. Extremely cruel.[159]

Several activists had to seek medical treatment at Tan Ky hospital in Nghe An province.[160]

Attack on Dinh Quang Tuyen, May 19, 2015

Activist Dinh Quang Tuyen (also known as Tuyen xich lo) was attacked by two unknown men in Ho Chi Minh City on the morning of May 19, 2015. He was riding a bicycle to exercise when the two, wearing surgical masks, stopped him and punched him in the face.[161] The attackers fled the scene soon afterward.[162] Dinh Quang Tuyen suffered a broken nose and had to undergo an operation a few days later.[163]

Dinh Quang Tuyen after being assaulted in Ho Chi Minh City on May 19, 2015.

© 2015 Private/Dan Lam Bao

Dinh Quang Tuyen became known in the summer of 2014 through his anti-China activism. In June 2014, he was briefly detained by the police for carrying out an individual protest outside the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City urging the Vietnamese government to file a lawsuit against China over a territorial dispute.[164] He was detained again in April 2015 for a few hours, during which a police officer reportedly threatened to shoot and kill him.[165]

Attack on Nguyen Chi Tuyen, May 11, 2015

Activist Nguyen Chi Tuyen (also known as Anh Chi) was assaulted in Hanoi on the morning of May 11, 2015 after taking his son to elementary school. On the way home, Nguyen Chi Tuyen was beaten near his house by a group of five unknown men. He told a reporter at RFA that the men blocked his way and attacked him. “They used some tools that I could not identify right away, instead of using hands and feet to punch and kick, and struck me on my head and my face.”[166] A friend who visited Tuyen at the hospital after the attack said, “Tuyen’s head had a 6 cm wound.… His arms, legs, and face were all bruised. There was a contusion on his eye and bad bruises behind his right ear, which caused him great pain to the touch.”[167] He was reported with injuries on his head, left eye, right ear, and lip and had six stiches.[168]

Nguyen Chi Tuyen after being assaulted in Hanoi on May 11, 2015.

© 2015 Private/Dan Luan

Nguyen Chi Tuyen is a rights campaigner who has participated in many anti-China and pro-environment protests over the last five years.[169] He has repeatedly faced police intimidation, harassment, detention, and interrogation.

Attacks on Nguyen Hong Quang, March 25, 2015

Nguyen Hong Quang after being assaulted in Binh Duong on January 18, 2015.

© 2015 Private/Viet Nam Thoi Bao

Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang was assaulted on March 25, 2015, when he, Le Quang Du, and three other people, including Quang’s son Nguyen Quang Trieu, went to a rental house in the town of Ben Cat, Binh Duong province, to retrieve their belongings.[170] According to Nguyen Hong Quang, a group of about seven or eight men approached them, kicked them, and used iron stools to hit them. He said:

They beat my son [Nguyen Quang Trieu], then hit Y Thieu on his head. They tried to beat pastor Du but he was able to flee. Then 20 other people joined them; they beat us repeatedly, viciously kicking us and threatening to kill us. Nguyen Quang Trieu was beaten the hardest. They used iron rods to hit him on his arms, shins, and head and spilled his blood. I had a finger crushed and suffered five injuries on my face and my head.[171]

On January 18, 2015, Mennonite Pastor Huynh Thuc Khai visited Quang. As Khai left, he was attacked by unknown men and dropped his glasses.[172] When Quang went outside to help him look for the glasses, the men attacked him, too.[173] According to Quang, a uniformed police officer witnessed the attack but left the scene without saying or doing anything. Quang was hospitalized with a broken nose and reported with blood clots in his belly.[174] Quang reported the attack to the police of Thanh Loc ward.

Nguyen Quang Trieu after being assaulted in Binh Duong on March 25, 2015.

© 2015 Private/Dan Lam Bao

On January 1, 2015, members of an independent Mennonite house church attempted to gather at Pastor Quang’s house, but the meeting was dispersed with force by the police, members of the local civilian defense force, and security agents in civilian clothing. Many people including Pastor Quang were reportedly beaten.[175]

Nguyen Hong Quang and Le Quang Du belong to independent Mennonite house churches in Ho Chi Minh City.

Attacks on Nguyen Thanh Ha and Lai Son Tien, March 18, 2015

On March 18, 2015, activists Nguyen Thanh Ha and Lai Son Tien went to visit a number of poor children in Duong Noi ward, Ha Dong district, Hanoi. On their way home, they were followed by four men who used sticks to hit Lai Son Tien, who was driving the motorbike.[176] After the motorbike crashed, the attackers used sticks and helmets to beat the two activists.[177] According to Nguyen Thanh Ha:

Lai Son Tien after being assaulted in Hanoi on March 18, 2015.

© 2015 Private/Dan Lam Bao

Tien fainted. There was blood coming out from his mouth. They beat and bruised his face. He was driving and could not react to such thuggish action. They beat me with sticks on my nape and my shoulders. My hand was sprained when I tried to ward off their beating. I shouted “robbers, robbers,” and people came over. Only then the thugs fled.[178]

Nguyen Thanh Ha and Lai Son Tien did not report the incident to the police because they believed that it would be covered up by the police.[179]

Attacks on Nguyen Thi Luyen, Pham Thi Nhuong, and Suot, February 17, 2015

Land rights activists Nguyen Thi Luyen, Pham Thi Nhuong, and a woman named Suot were assaulted on the morning of February 17, 2015. The three women and two other women went to the house of the chairman of Bac Giang province to plead their cases. The police detained them and accused them of disrupting public order. They were taken to the police headquarters of Hoang Van Thu ward in the city of Bac Giang.[180]

That afternoon they were released. As soon as Pham Thi Nhuong walked out of the police station, she was attacked by a group of men including people she recognized as members of the civilian defense force, police in uniform, and security agents in civilian clothing. They slapped her repeatedly and bloodied her mouth.[181] On their way home, Nguyen Thi Luyen and Suot were attacked by four men in raincoats who had their faces covered.[182] They used sticks to hit the two women repeatedly. After they left, the women were taken to a nearby hospital.[183]

Attack on Huynh Cong Thuan, January 26, 2015

Huynh Cong Thuan after being assaulted in Ho Chi Minh City on September 8, 2011.

© 2011 Private/Dan Lam Bao

On January 25 and 26, 2015, two unknown men blocked the house of land rights activist Huynh Cong Thuan and prevented him from leaving his house. As  Huynh Cong Thuan tried to leave his house on January 26, one of the men burst in and attacked him.[184] He reported the case to the  police.[185]

This was not the first time Huynh Cong Thuan had been attacked. In September 2011, he was attacked in a café by a group of three unknown men.[186] He heard the café owner call one of them “police officer Tam.” The other two struck him on the head with a bottle.[187] Huynh Cong Thuan was taken to the hospital for urgent treatment. He reported the incident to the police.[188]

III. Recommendations

To the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

  • Leaders at national, provincial, and local levels should publicly and unambiguously condemn physical assaults and other forms of harassment and retaliation against rights bloggers and activists, emphasizing that such acts are illegal and will not be tolerated, and that anyone involved in ordering or facilitating such attacks will be held responsible.
  • Immediately order thorough and impartial investigations of all cases in which rights bloggers and activists are assaulted, intimidated, or threatened; prosecutors should bring charges against all persons credibly implicated in the attacks and other criminal acts.
  • Leaders at the national level should hold provincial and local leaders accountable for acts of violence against rights bloggers and activists that occur under their watch.
  • Hold accountable all officials found responsible for ordering, facilitating, or tolerating violence against or intimidation of rights bloggers and activists through prosecutions or dismissal, as appropriate.
  • Allow journalists to investigate and report freely on attacks against rights bloggers and activists.

To the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security

  • Publicly and unambiguously condemn physical assaults and other forms of harassment and retaliation against rights bloggers and activists, emphasizing that such acts are illegal and will not be tolerated.
  • Create an independent investigatory taskforce with the resources necessary to conduct thorough, impartial, and transparent investigations of all physical assaults and other forms of harassment and retaliation against rights bloggers and activists, and bring to account all people, including police officials, responsible for such acts.
  • Hold police responsible when they are present but fail to intervene to stop assaults on rights activists and bloggers, or fail to investigate rigorously allegations of violence against such individuals.
  • Launch an investigation aimed at identifying the causes for and individuals behind physical attacks on rights activists and bloggers and develop recommendations for preventing and responding more systematically and effectively to such assaults.

To the Vietnamese National Assembly

  • The VNA should issue a resolution that publicly and unambiguously condemns physical assaults and other forms of harassment and retaliation against rights bloggers and activists, emphasizing that such acts are illegal and will not be tolerated.
  • Hold public hearings on physical assaults and other forms of harassment of and retaliation against rights bloggers and activists, and invite testimony from the public, victims, and witnesses, while ensuring that those who come forward are protected from any intimidation or retaliation.
  • Repeal or amend vaguely worded “national security” provisions in the penal code that are being used to criminalize peaceful dissent. These include: “activities aiming to overthrow the people’s administration” (penal code article 79, penalty up to death sentence); “undermining national unity policy” (article 87, penalty up to 15 years in prison); “conducting propaganda against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (article 88, penalty up to 20 years); “disrupting security” (article 89, penalty up to 15 years); and “supplemental punishment” which strips former prisoners convicted of “national security” crimes of certain rights, puts them on probation for up to five years, and allows confiscation of part or all of their property (article 92); and “abusing rights to democracy and freedom to infringe upon the interests of the State and the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and citizens” (article 258, penalty up to seven years).

To Donor Agencies and Concerned Countries including the US, the EU, the UK, Japan, Australia, the UN, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank

  • Publicly and privately express strong concerns to Vietnamese officials about physical assaults and other forms of harassment and retaliation against rights bloggers and activists, emphasizing that such assaults and misconduct violate both Vietnamese and international law and that perpetrators should be punished.
  • Raise the duty to prevent, investigate, and punish physical assaults and other forms of harassment and retaliation against citizens with Vietnamese authorities in legal reform and security sector training programs, including relevant educational initiatives.

Acknowledgments

This report was researched and written by an Asia Division researcher at Human Rights Watch. It was edited or reviewed by Brad Adams, Asia director, Dinah PoKempner, general counsel, and Joseph Saunders, deputy program director. Production assistance was provided by Seashia Vang, associate with the Asia division; Olivia Hunter, publications and photography associate; and Fitzroy Hepkins, administrative manager.

We would like to thank all the human rights activists, supporters, and dissidents who courageously shared with us their experiences for this report.

 

[1] David Marr, Vietnam: State, War, and Revolution (1945-1946) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013), pp. 383-441.

[2] Nguyen Cong Luan, Nationalist in the Vietnam Wars: Memoirs of a Victim Turned Soldier (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2012). See also Francois Guillemot, “Autopsy of a Massacre: On a Political Purge in the Early Days of the Indochina War (Nam Bo 1947),” European Journal of East Asian Studies, vol. 9.2 (2010), pp. 225-265.

[3] Alec G. Holcombe, “Socialist Transformation in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam” (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2014). See also Alex-Thai D. Vo, “Nguyen Thi Nam and the Land Reform in North Vietnam, 1953,” Journal of Vietnamese Studies, vol.10, issue 1 (Winter 2015), pp. 1-62; “Forum: Memories of Land Reform,” Journal of Vietnamese Studies, vol. 2, issue 2 (Summer 2007), pp. 231-297; Peter Zinoman, “Nhan Van Giai Pham and Vietnamese ‘Reform Communism’ in the 1950s: A Revisionist Interpretation,” Journal of Cold War Studies, vol. 13, no. 1 (Winter 2011), pp.80-100; Kim N.B. Ninh, World Transformed: The Politics of Culture in Revolutionary Vietnam, 1945-1965 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002).

[4] Stephen T. Hosmer, Viet Cong Repression and Its Implications for the Future (Santa Monica: RAND, 1970). See also Guenter Lewy, America in Vietnam (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), p.88; Nha Ca, Mourning headband for Hue (Giai khan so cho Hue) (Saigon: Dat Lanh, 1971).

[5] Huy Duc, “Chapter 2: Reeducation” (“Chuong 2: Cai tao”), in The Winning Side: I. Liberation (Ben thang cuoc: I. Giai phong) (Los Angeles: OsinBook, 2012), pp. 29-70. See also Nguyen Van Canh, Vietnam under Communism, 1975-1982 (Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 1983).

[6] Robert Templer, Shadows and Wind: A View of Modern Vietnam (New York: Penguin Books, 1999). See also Human Rights Watch, Rural Unrest in Vietnam (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1997), https://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/1997/vietnm/.

[7] “Vietnam: Stop Cyber Attacks Against Online Critics,” Human Rights Watch news release, May 26, 2010, https://www.hrw.org/news/2010/05/26/vietnam-stop-cyber-attacks-against-online-critics.

[8] In November 2015, the National Assembly passed a revised penal code which includes even harsher provisions for some offenses, including offenses under article 109 (originally article 79); article 117 (originally article 88); and article 118 (originally article 89). Each has a clause that states, “The person who takes actions in preparation of committing this crime shall be subject to between one and five years of imprisonment.” However, the revisions were not in effect at time of writing.

[9] “Vietnam: 7 Convicted in One Week,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 4, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/04/04/vietnam-7-convicted-one-week; “Banned, Censored, Harassed, and Jailed,” Human Rights Watch news release, October 13, 2009, https://www.hrw.org/news/2009/10/13/banned-censored-harassed-and-jailed; “Vietnam: Drop Charges and Free Land Rights Activist,” Human Rights Watch news release, September 17, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/09/17/vietnam-drop-charges-and-free-land-rights-activist.

[10] “Vietnam: Hold Elections for Country’s Leaders,” Human Rights Watch news release, January 19, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/01/19/vietnam-hold-elections-countrys-leaders; “Vietnam: Reform Criminal Law to Respect Rights,” Human Rights Watch news release, October 17, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/10/17/vietnam-reform-criminal-law-respect-rights; “Vietnam: New Wave of Arrests of Critics,” Human Rights Watch news release, January 27, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/01/27/vietnam-new-wave-arrests-critics.

[11] “Two young social activists were kidnapped by ‘police thugs’ and brutally assaulted” (“Hai thanh nien hoat dong xa hoi tre tuoi bi ‘con an’ bat coc va hanh hung da man”), “Dan lam bao” (blog), April 21, 2017, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2017/04/hai-thanh-nien-hoat-ong-xa-hoi-tre-tuoi.html (accessed April 24, 2017).

[12] Tran Hoang Phuc, “How was I beaten” (“Minh bi dap nhu the nao”), posted on Tran Hoang Phuc’s Facebook page, April 14, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/phuctranbb123/posts/742207192623116?pnref=story (accessed April 24, 2017).

[13] “Two young social activists were kidnapped by ‘police thugs’ and brutally assaulted.”

[14] Ibid.

[15] Nguyen Tuan Khanh, “What do we share online?” (“Chia se tren mang de lam gi?”), post to “Nguyen Tuan Khanh” (blog), May 31, 2016, https://nhacsituankhanh.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/chia-se-tren-mang-de-lam-gi/ (accessed June 1, 2016).

[16] Ibid. See also Nhat ky Yeu nuoc group’s Facebook page on May 11, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/nhatkyyeunuoc1/photos/pcb.1372868659406544/1372866426073434/?type=3 (accessed June 6, 2016). Huynh Thanh Phat also posted a photo of himself after the beating to his Facebook page on May 12, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=826334880804175&set=a.372803222824012.1073741827.100002830128087&type=3&theater (accessed June 6, 2016).

[17] Tuong An, “Being brutally beaten for distributing leaflets which quoted the prime minister’s statement” (“Bi danh da man vi phat to roi trich loi cua thu tuong”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, December 26, 2015, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/vta122615-12262015153906.html (accessed February 5, 2016). See also Dan lam bao, “Many activists in Saigon were brutally beaten by the police” (“Nhieu nha hoat dong tai Sai Gon bi CA danh dap da man”), “Dan lam bao” (blog), December 27, 2015, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2015/12/bi-bat-vi-trich-dan-loi-thu-tuong.html (accessed December 27, 2015).

[18] Dan lam bao, “Saigon: Three rights activists were detained for participating in the Commemoration of the Paracel Islands’ navy battle” (“Sai Gon: Ba nha hoat dong nhan quyen bi bat khi di tham du Le Tuong niem Hai chien Hoang Sa”), post to “Dan lam bao” (blog), January 20, 2016, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2016/01/sai-gon-ba-nha-hoat-ong-nhan-quyen-bi.html (accessed January 21, 2016).

[19] Ibid.

[20] For a detailed description of his May 1 arrest, see Huynh Thanh Phat’s Facebook post on May 2, 2016, “What happened at the police station?” (“Chuyen tai don?”): https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=821372987967031&set=a.372803222824012.1073741827.100002830128087&type=3&theater (accessed June 6, 2016).

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Anh Ba Sam, “Journalist Vien Su of Tuoi Tre newspaper: Publish news provided by the police, but not responsible for its content” (“Nha bao Vien Su, bao Tuoi Tre: Dua tin cua Cong an, nhung khong chiu trach nhiem noi dung”), post to “Anh Ba Sam” (blog), May 15, 2016, https://anhbasam.wordpress.com/2016/05/15/8288-nha-bao-vien-su-bao-tuoi-tre-dua-tin-cua-cong-an-nen-khong-chiu-trach-nhiem-noi-dung/ (accessed June 1, 2016). See also N.V., “Ho Chi Minh City Police confirmed that ‘Viet Tan was behind the disturbance’” (“Cong an TP HCM khang dinh ‘Viet Tan to chuc gay roi’”), Tuoi tre, May 14, 2016, http://tuoitre.vn/tin/chinh-tri-xa-hoi/20160514/cong-an-tphcm-khang-dinh-viet-tan-to-chuc-gay-roi/1100962.html (accessed June 1, 2016).

[24] Nguyen Trung Ton’s Facebook page, “Reporting the assault” (“Don trinh bao”), March 3, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/nguyentrung.ton.5/posts/713838685464545 (accessed March 3, 2017).

[25] “Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton was ‘assaulted by secret police’” (“MS Nguyen Trung Ton bi ‘mat vu cong an hanh hung’”), Voice of America, March 2, 2017, http://www.voatiengviet.com/a/muc-su-nguyen-trung-ton-mat-vu-cong-an-hanh-hung-chung-toi/3745817.html (accessed March 3, 2017). See also “Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton was kidnapped and beaten” (“Muc su Nguyen Trung Ton bi bat coc va danh dap”), Radio Free Asia, February 28, 2017, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/vietnamnews/pastor-nguyentrungton-beaten-by-thug-02282017094332.html (accessed February 28, 2017).

[26] Nguyen Thi Thai Lai’s live video clip on Facebook, February 13, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/100008324985598/videos/1853636721590476/ (accessed February 13, 2017).

[27] “The person who spoke up about Formosa was assaulted” (“Nguoi len tieng vu Formosa bi hanh hung”), Radio Free Asia, February 13, 2017, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/vietnamnews/formosa-critic-beaten-02132017075819.html (accessed February 13, 2017).

[28] An Ton, “A Vietnamese activist was assaulted after America passed Magnitsky law” (“Mot nha hoat dong VN bi hanh hung sau khi My thong qua luat Magnitsky”), Voice of America, December 29, 2016, http://www.voatiengviet.com/a/mot-nha-hoat-dong-vn-bi-hanh-hung-sau-khi-my-thong-qua-luat-magnitsky/3655590.html (accessed February 14, 2017).

[29] Nguyen Ho Nhat Thanh’s Facebook page, “Violence cannot stop us” (Bao luc khong lam ta khuat phuc”), December 28, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/paulothanhnguyen/posts/1358012037576369 (accessed February 14, 2017).

[30] Ibid.

[31] An Ton, “A Vietnamese activist was assaulted after America passed Magnitsky law,” Voice of America. See also Nguyen Ho Nhat Thanh’s Facebook page, “A report and a denunciation” (“Don Trinh bao va To cao”), January 2, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/paulothanhnguyen/posts/1363297287047844?pnref=s... (accessed Feb 14, 2017).

[32] For more on the death of Trinh Kim Tien’s father Trinh Xuan Tung at the hands of police, see Human Rights Watch report Public Insecurity: Death in Custody and Police Brutality in Vietnam, (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2014), https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/09/16/public-insecurity/deaths-custody-and-police-brutality-vietnam.

[33] Han Giang, “Police robbed and brutally assaulted activist Nguyen Van Dung” (“Cong an cuop tai san va hanh hung da man nha hoat dong Nguyen Van Dung”), Viet Nam Thoi Bao, December 29, 2016, http://www.ijavn.org/2016/12/vntb-cong-cuop-tai-san-va-hanh-hung-da_29.html (accessed March 3, 2017).

[34] Ibid.

[35] Nguyen Van Dung, “A report on the assault I suffered on December 23, 2016” (“Bao cao vu viec toi bi dan ap ngay 23/12/2016”), Nguyen Van Dung’s Facebook page, December 31, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/aduku.uganda/posts/229188490863040 (accessed March 3, 2017).

[36] Ibid. See also Nguyen Nguyen, “Activist Dung Aduku was robbed and assaulted by police thugs” (“Nha hoat dong Dung Aduku bi con an danh dap cuop tai san”), Saigon Broadcasting Television Network, December 23, 2016, http://www.sbtn.tv/nha-hoat-dong-dung-aduku-bi-con-an-danh-dap-cuop-tai-san/ (accessed March 3, 2017).

[37] Ha Huy Son’s Facebook page, December 22, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/huyson.ha.3/posts/1012667732212251?pnref=story (accessed February 15, 2017).

[38] Ibid.

[39] Nguyen Nguyen, “Activist Trinh Van Huong was assaulted by the police of Ha Nam” (“Nha hoat dong Trinh Van Huong bi cong an Ha Nam hanh hung”), Saigon Broadcasting Television Network, December 22, 2016, http://www.sbtn.tv/nha-hoat-dong-trinh-van-huong-bi-cong-an-ha-nam-hanh-hung/ (accessed Feb 25, 2017).

[40] Nguyen Tuong Thuy, “Mr. Truong Van Huong was brutally beaten” (“Ong Truong Van Huong bi danh dap da man”), post to “Nguyen Tuong Thuy” (blog), December 11, 2014, https://nguyentuongthuy2012.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/ong-truong-van-huong-bi-danh-dap-da-man/ (accessed Feb 25, 2017).

[41] Truong Minh Huong’s Facebook page, “Is the government under the pretense of thugs and Mafia” (“Co phai con do, xa hoi den dang doi lot chinh quyen”), October 7, 2015, https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1675726136002099&id=100006941862550 (accessed Feb 25, 2017). See also Nguyen Tuong Thuy, “Mr. Truong Minh Huong continues to be terrorized” (“Ong Truong Minh Huong tiep tuc bi khung bo”), Radio Free Asia, September 24, 2015, http://www.rfavietnam.com/node/2811 (accessed Feb 25, 2017).

[42] Nguyen Nguyen, “Nghe An police thugs assaulted rights activist Nguyen Thanh Huan” (“Con an Nghe An hanh hung nha hoat dong Nguyen Thanh Huan”), Saigon Broadcasting Television Network, December 2, 2016, http://www.sbtn.tv/con-an-nghe-an-hanh-hung-nha-hoat-dong-nguyen-thanh-huan/ (accessed Feb 16, 2017).

[43] Ibid. See also Le Van Son’s Facebook page, December 2, 2016, “SOS: Nghe An police kidnapped and beat a citizen, causing serious injuries” (“SOS: Cong an Nghe An bat coc va danh dan gay thuong tich nghiem trong”), https://www.facebook.com/paulusleson.89/posts/377438555937673 (accessed Feb 16, 2017).

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid. See also “Another activist was assaulted” (“Them mot nha hoat dong bi hanh hung”), Radio Free Asia, December 2, 2016, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/vietnamnews/activist-and-facebooker-attacked-12022016091909.html (accessed Feb 16, 2017).

[46] “Nghe An police brutally beat a citizen, robbed his belongings, and stripped his clothes” (“Cong an Nghe An danh dan tan bao, cuop tai san, lot quan ao”), Tin mung cho nguoi ngheo, December 2, 2016, http://www.tinmungchonguoingheo.com/blog/2016/12/02/cong-an-nghe-an-danh-dan-tan-bao-cuop-tai-san-lot-quan-ao/ (accessed Feb 16, 2017).

[47] “Vietnam: Drop Charges and Free Land Rights Activist,” Human Rights Watch news release, September 17, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/09/17/vietnam-drop-charges-and-free-land-rights-activist.

[48] See “Hanoi Police Suspected of Beating Activist, Attacking Private Residence of Blogger with Dirty Mess,” Defend the Defenders, news release, December 3, 2016, http://www.vietnamhumanrightsdefenders.net/2016/12/03/hanoi-police-allegedly-beat-activist-attack-private-residence-of-blogger-with-dirty-mess/ (accessed January 21, 2017). See also Vu Hang’s Facebook page, December 2, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=231320413966733&id=100012663270142 (accessed Jan 21, 2017).

[49] Thanh Lan, “Blogger To Oanh was attacked by ‘thugs’” (“Blogger To Oanh bi ‘con do’ tan cong”), Saigon Broadcasting Television Network, April 24, 2015, http://www.sbtn.tv/vi/tin-viet-nam/blogger-oanh-bi-con-do-tan-cong.html (accessed April 27, 2015).

[50] Chan Nhu, “A conversation with blogger Nguyen T. Thuy and freelance journalist To Oanh” (“Buoi tro chuyen voi blogger Nguyen T. Thuy va nha bao tu do To Oanh”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, May 9, 2014, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/interw-to-oanh-tthuy-05092014111422.html (accessed April 27, 2015).

[51] Hoa Ai, “We do not want to become slaves for the Chinese enemy” (“Chung toi khong muon lam no le cho Han tac”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, July 15, 2016, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/we-don-t-want-to-be-cn-s-slaves-ha-07152016134246.html (accessed July 15, 2016).

[52] Ibid. See also Han Giang, “Which man ‘in civilian clothing’ had brutally attacked civil activist To Oanh?” (“Ke ‘mac thuong phuc’ nao tan cong da man nha hoat dong dan su To Oanh?”), Viet Nam Thoi bao, July 15, 2016, http://www.ijavn.org/2016/07/vntb-ke-mac-thuong-phuc-nao-tan-cong-da.html (accessed July 16, 2016).

[53] Ibid. See also Le Lan’s Facebook page, July 14, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/manhhung.bui.1232/posts/1769416433274686?pnref=story (accessed July 14, 2016).

[54] Ibid.

[55] Chau Van Thi, “A person who testified before the US Congress about Freedom of press was attacked” (“Nguoi tung tham gia Dieu tran ve Tu do bao chi tai Hoa Ky bi tan cong”), Dan luan, April 24, 2015, https://www.danluan.org/tin-tuc/20150424/nguoi-tung-tham-gia-dieu-tran-ve-tu-do-bao-chi-tai-hoa-ky-bi-tan-cong (accessed April 27, 2015).

[56] Dao Tien Thi’s Facebook page, “La Viet Dung is loved and respected by his comrades and country fellows” (“La Viet Dung trong tinh yeu thuong, cam phuc cua dong chi, dong bao”), reposted to Bauxite Vietnam, July 12, 2016, http://boxitvn.blogspot.com/2016/07/la-viet-dung-trong-tinh-yeu-thuong-cam.html (accessed August 3, 2016).

[57] Ibid. See also “Thugs threw rocks and broke La Viet Dung’s head” (“Con do nem da vo dau ong La Viet Dung”), “Dan lam bao” July 11, 2016, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2016/07/con-o-nem-vo-au-anh-la-viet-dung.html (accessed August 3, 2016).

[58] Ibid. See also Nguyen Thien Nhan, “Activist La Viet Dung is barbarously attacked by the police again” (“Nha hoat dong La Viet Dung lai bi cong an tan cong man ro”), Viet Nam Thoi bao, July 11, 2016, http://www.ijavn.org/2016/07/vntb-nha-hoat-ong-la-viet-dung-lai-bi.html (accessed August 3, 2016).

[59] La Viet Dung’s Facebook page, May 7, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/lavietdung/posts/10154164882512328 (accessed August 3, 2016).

[60] La Viet Dung’s Facebook page, “A thank you note” (“Thu cam on”), May 15, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/lavietdung/posts/10154184444592328 (accessed August 3, 2016).

[61] “Arrested for sit-in pro-environment protest” (“Bi bat vi toa khang bao ve moi truong”), post to “Dan lam bao” (blog), May 29, 2016, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2016/05/bi-bat-vi-toa-khang-bao-ve-moi-truong.html (accessed August 3, 2016).

[62] Simon Denyer, “Vietnamese soccer team’s goal isn’t on the field; it’s in politics,” Washington Post, December 20, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/a-soccer-team-in-vietnam-doubles-as-a-club-for-dissidents/2015/12/19/4bed4fef-4eab-4940-841d-fcecec107440_story.html (accessed August 3, 2016).

[63] Luu Van Minh, “Police and thugs attacked No-U’s birthday party” (“Cong an va con do tan cong sinh nhat No-U”). Originally posted on Luu Van Minh’s Facebook page, reposted by Dan luan, October 31, 2015, https://www.danluan.org/tin-tuc/20151030/luu-van-minh-con-do-tan-cong-sinh-nhat-no-u (accessed August 3, 2016).

[64] Do Duc Hop’s live videos on his Facebook page, June 25, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/
tung.do.581/videos/1038091966276869/ (accessed June 25, 2016). See also Dung Mai’s Facebook page, June 26, 2016,
https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=259092104468148&id=100011020819260%20 (accessed June 26, 2016).

[65] Dan Lam Bao, “Being tortured by the police for bringing medicine to protesters” (“Bi cong an tra tan vi mang thuoc chua thuong cho nguoi bieu tinh”), post to “Dan lam bao” (blog), May 10, 2016, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2016/05/bi-ca-tra-tan-vi-mang-thuoc-chua-thuong.html (accessed May 10, 2016).

[66] Ibid. See also Nhat ky Yeu nuoc’s Facebook page, May 8, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/nhatkyyeunuoc1/photos/a.551760078184077.148040.114731331886956/1371179142908829/?type=3&theater (accessed May 8, 2016).

[67] Gia Minh, “The government again prevented Hoa Hao Buddhist followers to commemorate” (“Tin do Phat giao Hoa Hao lai bi chinh quyen ngan chan to chuc le”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, June 22, 2016, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/non-state-hoa-hao-buddhists-beaten-on-anniversary-gm-06222016082134.html (accessed June 22, 2016).

[68] Ibid.

[69] Nguyen Van Thanh’s Facebook page, “Video in the police station” (“Video trong don cong an”), June 5, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/nguyenvanthanhvn12/videos/vb.100003945036031/741199259354902/?type=2&theater (accessed June 5, 2016). See also a photo of Nguyen Van Thanh at the Da Nang hospital that he posted on his Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=741249742683187&set=a.272507426224090.1073741828.100003945036031&type=3&theater (accessed June 5, 2016).

[70] Ibid.

[71] “Nguyen Van Thanh talked about being beaten when he distributed leaflets of his writing ‘A tree with many worms’” (“Nguyen Van Thanh ke chuyen bi danh khi phat to roi bai viet ‘Cay lam sau’”), June 6, 2016, video clip, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rq7Oc3zfPxw (accessed September 19, 2016).

[72] Ibid.

[73] An Thien, “Thugs sponsored by police attacked blogger Nguyen Van Thanh the 5th time” (“Cong an bao ke con do tan cong blogger Nguyen Van Thanh lan thu 5”), Saigon Broadcasting Television Network, August 7, 2015, http://www.sbtn.tv/vi/tin-viet-nam/cong-bao-ke-con-do-tan-cong-blogger-nguyen-van-thanh-lan-thu-5.html (accessed June 5, 2016).

[74] Nguyen Van Thanh, “Writing a report to the police of Khue My ward” (“Viet don trinh bao cong an phuong Khue My”), post to “Nguyen Van Thanh” (blog), August 7, 2015, http://www.thanhblog.org/2015/08/viet-on-trinh-bao-cong-phuong-khue-my.html (accessed May 22, 2016).

[75] Paul Minh Nhat, “Members of the Central Committee of the Pure Hoa Hao Buddhist Church were assaulted and intimidated” (“Cac thanh vien Trung uong GHPGHHTT bi hanh hung va de doa”), Tin mung cho nguoi ngheo, June 3, 2016, http://www.tinmungchonguoingheo.com/blog/2016/06/03/cac-thanh-vien-trung-uong-ghpghhtt-bi-hanh-hung-va-de-doa/ (accessed June 4, 2016).

[76] Ibid.

[77] Christopher Goscha, The Penguin History of Modern Vietnam. (New York: Penguin Books, 2016), p.224.

[78] Alexander B. Woodside, Community and Revolution in Modern Vietnam. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976), p.278.

[79] The Government Committee for Religious Affairs. “Hoa Hao Buddhism – Activities and Development” (“Dao Phat giao Hoa Hao – Hoat dong va phat trien”), http://btgcp.gov.vn/Plus.aspx/vi/News/38/0/162/0/1071/Dao_Phat_giao_Hoa_Hao_Hoat_dong_va_phat_trien (accessed September 21, 2016).

[80] “Vietnam: Release Hoa Hao Buddhist Activist,” Human Rights Watch news release, December 12, 2011, https://www.hrw.org/news/2011/12/12/vietnam-release-hoa-hao-buddhist-activist.

[81] Dan luan’s Facebook page, “A pro-environment activist accused the police of attacking him” (“Nguoi hoat dong vi moi truong cao buoc bi an ninh tan cong”), May 19, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/danluan.org/photos/a.403967392985945.89162.401392156576802/1012848762097802/?type=3&theater (accessed May 20, 2016).

[82] Ibid. See also Nguyen Phuong’s Facebook page, May 19, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=5450647
75666593&set=a.196901990482875.1073741830.100004892255580&type=3&theater
(accessed May 20, 2016).

[83] Ibid. See also a video account narrated by rights activist Nguyen Huu Tinh, posted on Nguyen Phuong’s Facebook page, May 20, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/phuong.duy.3386/videos/vb.100004892255580/545335308972873/?type=2&theater (accessed May 20, 2016).

[84] See Nguyen Phuong’s Facebook page, May 23, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=546706365502434&set=a.196901990482875.1073741830.100004892255580&type=3&theater (accessed September 21, 2016).

[85] See Nguyen Phuong’s Facebook page, September 20, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=603677476471989&set=a.102659029907172.5194.100004892255580&type=3&theater (accessed September 21, 2016).

[86] See Nguyen Phuong’s Facebook page, May 21, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=545934468912957&set=a.196901990482875.1073741830.100004892255580&type=3&theater (accessed September 21, 2016).

[87] Huyen Trang, “Security agents assaulted Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh’s wife” (“An ninh hanh hung phu nhan Muc su Nguyen Cong Chinh”), Tin mung cho nguoi ngheo, March 31, 2016, http://www.tinmungchonguoingheo.com/blog/2016/03/31/an-ninh-hanh-hung-phu-nhan-muc-su-nguyen-cong-chinh/ (accessed March 31, 2016). For more information on this incident, see “Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh’s wife was prevented from meeting with an US State Department’s delegation” (“Vo MS Nguyen Cong Chinh bi ngan can gap phai doan cua Bo Ngoai giao Hoa Ky”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, April 1, 2016, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/vietnamnews/pastor-nguyencongchinh-wife-harrasted-04012016092351.html (accessed April 2, 2016).

[88] Ibid.

[89] Ibid.

[90] Mac Lam, “Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh’s wife was assaulted” (“Vo MS Nguyen Cong Chinh bi hanh hung”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, April 14, 2016, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/wife-of-dissident-pastor-attacked-after-an-us-delegate-visiting-her-ml-04142016145951.html (accessed April 16, 2016).

[91] Ibid.

[92] Ibid.

[93] Tran Thi Hong’s Facebook page, “A report of being harassed for four consecutive days by the Pleiku police” (“Tuong trinh su viec bi cong an Pleiku sach nhieu 4 ngay lien tiep”), reposted on Father Dinh Huu Thoai’s Facebook page on May 15, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/dinh.h.thoai/posts/10204879402905402?pnref=story (accessed May 15, 2016). See also Gia Minh, “Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh’s wife was summoned by the police for meeting with a US delegation” (“Vo cua MS Nguyen Cong Chinh bi cong an moi vi tiep xuc phai doan My”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, May 12, 2016, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/feeble-wife-of-jailed-pastor-interrogated-due-meet-us-delegates-gm-05122016075105.html (accessed May 15, 2016).

[94] “A Catholic priest was attacked by thugs” (“Mot linh muc bi con do tan cong”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, May 9, 2016, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/catholic-priest-brutally-beaten-by-thugs-05092016083309.html (accessed May 10, 2016).

[95] Paul Minh Nhat, “Father Giuse Nguyen Van The from Bac Ninh Diocese was assaulted by thugs” (“Cha Giuse Nguyen Van The Giao phan Bac Ninh bi con do hanh hung”), Tin mung cho nguoi ngheo, May 10, 2016, http://www.tinmungchonguoingheo.com/blog/2016/05/10/cha-giuse-nguyen-van-the-giao-phan-bac-ninh-bi-con-do-hanh-hung/ (accessed June 3, 2016).

[96] Ibid.

[97] “Hoa Hao Buddhist followers were attacked” (“Tin do Phat giao Hoa Hao bi tan cong”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, April 22, 2016, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/vietnamnews/hoahao-followers-attack-b-plainclothes-policemen-04222016150028.html (accessed June 5, 2016).

[98] Ibid.

[99] Ibid.

[100] Thien Vinh, “The police threatened to “eliminate” former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Dinh Cuong: I do not give a damn about the law” (“Cong an doa ‘tieu diet’ cuu TNLT Nguyen Dinh Cuong: Tao dech can luat”), Thanh nien Cong giao, April 14, 2016, http://thanhnienconggiao.blogspot.com/2016/04/cong-doa-tieu-diet-cuu-tnlt-nguyen-inh.html (accessed May 4, 2016).

[101] “On the 10th anniversary of Bloc 8406, at least 7 people were beaten and detained” (“Ky niem 10 nam khoi 8406, it nhat 7 nguoi bi bat bo & danh dap”), Saigon Broadcasting Television Network, April 9, 2016, http://www.sbtn.tv/vi/phong-su-tu-viet-nam/ky-niem-10-nam-khoi-8406-it-nhat-7-nguoi-bi-bat-bo-danh-dap.html (accessed June 16, 2016). See also “Gathering to support lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, many people were detained” (“Tap trung ung ho LS Nguyen Van Dai, nhieu nguoi bi bat giu”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, April 8, 2016, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/activists-detained-while-protesting-in-front-of-us-embassy-04082016094800.html (accessed June 16, 2016).

[102] Huyen Trang, “Hot news: Many citizens were beaten and detained by the police during the 10th anniversary of Bloc 8406” (“Tin nong: Nhieu cong dan bi cong an danh dap, bi bat trong ngay ky niem 10 nam thanh lap Khoi 8406”), Tin mung cho nguoi ngheo, April 8, 2016, http://www.tinmungchonguoingheo.com/blog/2016/04/08/tin-nong-nhieu-cong-dan-bi-cong-an-danh-dap-bi-bat-trong-ngay-ky-niem-10-nam-thanh-lap-khoi-8406/ (accessed April 9, 2016).

[103] Tam Nhu, “The government suppressed Hoa Hao Buddhist followers participating in the commemoration of the day our virtuous founder was killed” (“Chinh quyen dan ap tin do PGHH tham du le tuong niem ngay Duc Huynh Giao Chu tho nan”), post to “Truyen thong Phat giao Hoa Hao” (blog), April 3, 2016, http://truyenthongphatgiaohoahao.blogspot.com/
2016/04/chinh-quyen-ap-tin-o-pghh-tham-du-le.html#more
(accessed June 4, 2016).

[104] Ibid. See also “The police cracked down on the 69th commemoration of the day the Hoa Hao Buddhist founder Huynh Phu So was murdered” (“CA xua quan dan ap le tuong niem 69 nam ngay Duc Huynh Giao chu bi sat hai”), post to “Dan lam bao” (blog), April 3, 2016, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2016/04/ca-xua-quan-ap-le-tuong-niem-69-nam.html (accessed April 6, 2016). On April 2, in order to prevent independent Hoa Hao Buddhist followers from gathering and commemorating the anniversary of the death of the founder of Hoa Hao Buddhism, Huynh Phu So, police and security agents prevented people from going into or out of Quang Minh pagoda in Cho Moi district, An Giang province. According to former political prisoner Vo Van Thanh Liem who presided at the pagoda, security agents repeatedly beat him and other Hoa Hao Buddhist followers with sticks. As a form of extreme protest against government repression, Vo Thi Thu Ba used a knife to cut her neck. Ibid. See also Nguyen Bac Truyen’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/bactruyen.nguyen/posts/1993038827588634 (accessed May 5, 2016).

[105] Dan lam bao, “The police threw a rock and fractured Tran Minh Nhat’s head” (“Cong an nem da vo dau anh Tran Minh Nhat”), post to “Dan lam bao” (blog), February 23, 2016, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2016/02/con-gia-tang-khung-bo-gia-inh-cuu-tnlt.html (accessed February 23, 2016).

[106] Paul Tran Minh Nhat, “The police of Lam Ha district choked, beat and insulted former prisoner of conscience Tran Minh Nhat” (“Cong an Lam Ha bop co, danh, si va cuu TNLT Tran Minh Nhat”), Tin mung cho nguoi ngheo, November 10, 2015, http://www.tinmungchonguoingheo.com/blog/2015/11/10/cong-an-lam-ha-bop-co-danh-si-va-cuu-tnlt-tran-minh-nhat/ (accessed November 10, 2015). See also Chu Manh Son, “Police of Lam Ha district behaved like thugs against patriots” (“Cong an huyen Lam Ha hanh xu kieu con do doi voi nguoi yeu nuoc”), Tin mung cho nguoi ngheo, November 10, 2015, http://www.tinmungchonguoingheo.com/blog/2015/11/10/cong-an-huyen-lam-ha-hanh-xu-kieu-con-do-doi-voi-nguoi-yeu-nuoc/ (accessed November 10, 2015).

[107] Gia Minh, “The police policy of intimidating, harassing and beating still exists” (“Chinh sach ham doa, sach nhieu danh dap cua cong an con ton tai den bao gio”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, November 9, 2015, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/tor-threat-harras-use-agn-activ-11092015051410.html (accessed November 9, 2015).

[108] Paul Tran Minh Nhat, “The police of Lam Ha district choked, beat and insulted former prisoner of conscience Tran Minh Nhat” (“Cong an Lam Ha bop co, danh, si va cuu TNLT Tran Minh Nhat”), Tin mung cho nguoi ngheo.

[109] Ibid.

[110] Tran Minh Nhat, “A report of abuse inflicted by the police of Dinh Van town, Lam Ha district” (“Tuong trinh nhung bao hanh cua cong an thi xa Dinh Van, huyen Lam Ha”), Tin mung cho nguoi ngheo, November 20, 2015, http://www.tinmungchonguoingheo.com/blog/2015/11/20/tnlt-tran-minh-nhat-tuong-trinh-nhung-bao-hanh-cua-cong-an-thi-xa-dinh-van-huyen-lam-ha/ (accessed April 5, 2016).

[111] Tran Minh Nhat, “An emergency call for help regarding Tran Minh Nhat’s family being harassed and harmed” (“Thu keu cuu ve viec gia dinh Tran Minh Nhat bi sach nhieu va pha hoai”), post to “Dan lam bao” (blog), February 17, 2016, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2016/02/thu-keu-cuu-ve-viec-gia-inh-tran-minh.html (accessed May 6, 2016).

[112] An Thien, “The police prevented members of the US Consulate from visiting former prisoner of conscience Tran Minh Nhat” (“Cong an ngan chan Toa lanh su Hoa Ky den tham cuu TNLT Tran Minh Nhat”), Saigon Broadcasting Television Network, April 6, 2016, http://www.sbtn.tv/vi/tin-viet-nam/cong-ngan-chan-toa-lanh-su-hoa-ky-den-tham-cuu-tnlt-tran-minh-nhat.html (accessed June 7, 2016).

[113] Ibid. See also “The US Consulate cancelled a meeting with Minh Nhat’s family due to fear about security” (“Toa Tong Lanh su quan My huy bo cuoc gap gia dinh Minh Nhat vi lo ngai an toan”), Tin mung cho nguoi ngheo, April 7, 2016, http://www.tinmungchonguoingheo.com/blog/2016/04/07/toa-tong-lanh-su-quan-my-huy-bo-cuoc-gap-gia-dinh-minh-nhat-vi-lo-ngai-an-toan/ (accessed April 16, 2016).

[114] “Thugs beat Tran Thi Nga and broke her arm and leg” (“Chi Tran Thi Nga bi con do danh vo xuong tay va chan”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, May 25, 2014, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/vietnamnews/activi-inju-by-thugs-05252014105452.html (accessed July 5, 2016). See also Ngoc Nhi Nguyen et al., “Police disguised as thugs attacked Tran Thi Nga and broke her arm and leg” (“Chi Tran Thi Nga bi con an gia dang con do truy sat, danh vo xuong tay va chan”), post to “Dan lam bao” (blog), May 26, 2014, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2014/05/chi-tran-thi-nga-bi-con-o-truy-s... (accessed July 5, 2016).

[115] “Rights activist Tran Thi Nga continues to be harassed by the police” (“Nha hoat dong Tran Thi Nga tiep tuc bi CA sach nhieu”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, February 23, 2016, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/vietnamnews/activist-continually-harassed-02232016105753.html (accessed July 5, 2016).

[116] Ibid. See also An Thien, “Police thugs threw shrimp paste at pro-democracy activist Tran Thi Nga and her sons” (“Me con nha hoat dong dan chu Tran Thi Nga bi con an nem mam tom vao nguoi”), Saigon Broadcasting Television Network, February 21, 2016, http://www.sbtn.tv/vi/tin-viet-nam/me-con-nha-hoat-dong-dan-chu-tran-thi-nga-bi-con-nem-mam-tom-vao-nguoi.html (accessed July 5, 2016). This was not the first time thugs threw shrimp paste at Tran Thi Nga and her sons. Late in the evening of December 25, 2015, Tran Thi Nga and Phu were on the way home when thugs threw shrimp paste at them, resulting in a bad rash for Phu. “Human rights activist Tran Thi Nga faces constant harassment” (“Nguoi dau tranh nhan quyen Tran Thi Nga lien tuc bi sach nhieu”), Dan luan, January 24, 2016, https://www.danluan.org/tin-tuc/20160124/nguoi-dau-tranh-nhan-quyen-tran-thi-nga-lien-tuc-bi-sach-nhieu (accessed July 5, 2016).

[117] For a detailed report of police abuse that Tran Thi Nga has been subjected to since 2010, see Tran Thi Nga’s 95-page record of incidents, supported by photos, printed documents, and video clips, “A personal record of Tran Thi Nga” (“Ho so ca nhan Tran Thi Nga”). Originally posted to Tran Thi Nga’s blog on November 16, 2015, updated on June 6, 2016, http://mephu.blogspot.com/2015/11/ho-so-ca-nhan-tran-thi-nga.html (accessed July 5, 2016). See also “Tran Thi Nga and her sons’ lives are under threat” (“Tinh mang hai me con ba Tran Thi Nga bi de doa”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, March 25, 2012, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/ha-nam-police-harassed-tran-thi-nga-mlam-03252012161400.html (accessed July 5, 2016).

[118] “Tran Thi Nga was kidnapped; Vietnamese communist madly terrorized people during the 132nd IPU conference” (“Chi Tran Thi Nga bi bat coc, CSVN dien cuong khung bo tai hoi nghi IPU 132”), post to “Dan lam bao” (blog), March 30, 2015, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2015/03/chi-tran-thi-nga-bi-bat-coc-csvn-gia.html (accessed July 5, 2016).

[119] An Thien, “Priest Anton Dang Huu Nam was assaulted by thugs in Nghe An” (“Linh muc Anton Dang Huu Nam bi con do hanh hung o Nghe An”), Saigon Broadcasting Television Network, January 1, 2016, http://www.sbtn.tv/vi/tin-viet-nam/linh-muc-anton-dang-huu-nam-bi-con-do-hanh-hung-tai-nghe.html (accessed April 5, 2016).

[120] Ibid. See also Minh Nhat, “The police of Nghe An province sponsored thugs to assault priest An-Ton Dang Huu Nam to revenge?” (“Cong an Nghe An bao ke con do hanh hung linh muc An-Ton Dang Huu Nam de tra thu?”), Tin mung cho nguoi ngheo, January 1, 2016, http://www.tinmungchonguoingheo.com/blog/2016/01/01/cong-an-nghe-an-bao-ke-con-do-hanh-hung-linh-muc-an-ton-dang-huu-nam-de-tra-thu/ (accessed April 5, 2016).

[121] Ibid. See also a video clip of Father Dang Huu Nam preaching at Xuan Kieu parish, posted by “Dan lam bao” on November 1, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1S96X-DK9E (viewed April 5, 2016).

[122] Thai Van Dung, “The police of Quynh Luu district rejected the incident of Father Anton Dang Huu Nam assaulted by thugs” (“Cong an huyen Quynh Luu choi bo vu viec con do hanh hung cha Anton Dang Huu Nam”), Tin mung cho nguoi ngheo, January 21, 2016, http://www.tinmungchonguoingheo.com/blog/2016/01/21/cong-an-huyen-quynh-luu-choi-bo-vu-viec-con-do-hanh-hung-cha-anton-dang-huu-nam/ (accessed April 5, 2016). See also Minh Nhat, “The police of Quynh Luu district ‘shifts the blame,’ the people protested” (“Cong an Quynh Luu ‘gap lua bo tay nguoi,’ dan phan doi”), Tin mung cho nguoi ngheo, January 21, 2016, http://www.tinmungchonguoingheo.com/blog/2016/01/21/cong-an-quynh-luu-gap-lua-bo-tay-nguoi-dan-phan-doi/ (accessed April 5, 2016).

[123] Chan Nhu, “Being beaten by security agents after a discussion of Human rights” (“Bi an ninh vay danh sau cuoc thao luan ve Nhan quyen”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, December 6, 2015, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/human-rights-activists-attacked-in-vinh-12062015234336.html (accessed December 9, 2015).

[124] “Nghe An: the police brutally beat lawyer Nguyen Van Dai” (“Nghe An: CA danh dap da man luat su Nguyen Van Dai”), post to “Dan lam bao” (blog), December 6, 2015, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2015/12/nghe-ca-anh-ap-da-man-luat-su-nguyen.html (accessed December 6, 2015).

[125] Chan Nhu, “Being beaten by security agents after a discussion of Human rights” (“Bi an ninh vay danh sau cuoc thao luan ve Nhan quyen”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese.

[126] Ly Quang Son, “An account of ‘the collision with thugs from the homeland of Uncle Ho’” (“Tuong thuat vu ‘va cham voi giang ho que Bac’”), Tin mung cho nguoi ngheo, December 8, 2015, http://www.tinmungchonguoingheo.com/blog/2015/12/08/ly-quang-son-tuong-thuat-vu-va-cham-voi-giang-ho-que-bac/ (accessed December 8, 2015).

[127] Ly Quang Son, “How was Le Manh Thang beaten in Nghe An” (“Le Manh Thang bi danh ra sao o Nghe An”), Vietnam Human Rights Defenders, December 10, 2015, http://www.vietnamhumanrightsdefenders.net/2015/12/10/le-manh-thang-bi-danh-ra-sao-tai-nghe-an/ (accessed December 10, 2015).

[128] “Lawyer Nguyen Van Dai was assaulted” (“Luat su Nguyen Van Dai bi hanh hung”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, May 8, 2014, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/vietnamnews/lawyer-nguyenvandai-attacked-05082014152111.html (accessed May 8, 2014).

[129] Nguyen Van Dai’s Facebook post, “‘Thugs’ attacked my private residence” (“‘Con do’ tan cong nha rieng cua toi”), https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=329543640586877&set=a.123882327819677.1073741828.100005937302699&type=1&theater (accessed December 8, 2015). See also Nguyen Tuong Thuy, “Lawyer Nguyen Van Dai suffers continuous harassment and terrorization” (“Luat su Nguyen Van Dai lien tuc bi khung bo, sach nhieu”), post to Radio Free Asia Vietnamese (blog), March 7, 2015, http://www.rfavietnam.com/node/2486 (accessed December 8, 2015).

[130] “Vietnam: Democracy Activists Should Be Released,” Human Rights Watch news release, November 28, 2007, https://www.hrw.org/news/2007/11/28/vietnam-democracy-activists-should-be-released

[131] The Hellman/Hammett grants were administered by Human Rights Watch and given to writers around the world who were targets of political persecution. The grant program began in 1989, when the American playwright Lillian Hellman stipulated in her will that her estate should be used to assist writers in financial need as a result of expressing their views; “Vietnam: Dissidents Struggle to Exercise Free Speech,” Human Rights Watch news release, February 6, 2007, https://www.hrw.org/news/2007/02/06/vietnam-dissidents-struggle-exercise-free-speech

[132] Dau Van Duong’s Facebook page, “SOS: Violence increases in Vietnam” (“SOS Bao luc gia tang tai Viet Nam”), https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=507264909442142&id=100004759125130 (accessed November 25, 2015).

[133] T. Lan, “A lecturer from an art school in Nghe An province was set up and beaten by the police” (“Thay giao truong nghe thuat Nghe An bi cong an dan canh danh”), Saigon Broadcasting Television Network, June 6, 2014. Originally published on Truyen thong Chua Cuu, http://www.sbtn.tv/vi/tin-vi%E1%BB%87t-nam/th%E1%BA%A7y-gi%C3%A1o-tr%C6%B0%E1%BB%9Dng-ngh%E1%BB%87-thu%E1%BA%ADt-ngh%E1%BB%87-b%E1%BB%8B-c%C3%B4ng-d%C3%A0n-c%E1%BA%A3nh-%C4%91%C3%A1nh.html (accessed November 24, 2015).

[134] Ibid.

[135] An Thien, “The police attacked Blogger Trinh Anh Tuan and many pro-democracy activists” (“Cong an tan cong Blogger Trinh Anh Tuan va nhieu nha dau tranh dan chu”), Saigon Broadcasting Television Network, October 30, 2015, http://www.sbtn.tv/vi/tin-viet-nam/cong-tan-cong-blogger-trinh-anh-tuan-va-nhieu-nha-dau-tranh-dan-chu.html (accessed November 25, 2015).

[136] Pham Doan Trang, “Police and thugs, again, in the name of ‘the people,’ beat blogger Gio Lang Thang” (“Cong an va con do lai nhan danh ‘quan chung’ danh blogger Gio Lang Thang”), post to “Blog Doan Trang” (blog), October 31, 2015, http://www.phamdoantrang.com/2015/10/cong-va-con-o-lai-nhan-danh-quan-chung.html (accessed November 25, 2015).

[137] “Thugs assaulted blogger Trinh Anh Tuan and injured his head” (“Blogger Trinh Anh Tuan bi danh hoi dong vo dau”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, April 22, 2015, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/vietnamnews/activ-brut-beate-04222015095116.html (accessed May 12, 2015).

[138] Ibid. See also status posted by blogger Doan Trang on his Facebook page, April 22, 2015, https://www.facebook.com/pham.doan.trang/posts/10153460128183322?pnref=story (accessed April 22, 2015).

[139] A copy of the police notice was posted on blogger Pham Doan Trang’s Facebook page, January 8, 2016, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10154083701608322&set=pb.641613321.-2207520000.1467178494.&type=3&theater (accessed June 29, 2016).

[140] Quoc Phuong, “Diplomats attended human rights discussion at a café in Hanoi” (“Ngoai giao du café nhan quyen o Ha Noi”), BBC Vietnamese, March 21, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/vietnamese/vietnam/2014/03/140320_vn_human_right_cafe_hanoi (accessed March 22, 2014).

[141] “Hanoi: An account of the discussion on the Rights to freedom of movement by the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers” (“Ha Noi: Tuong thuat buoi thao luan cua MLBVN ve Quyen tu do di lai”), post to “Dan lam bao” (blog), March 21, 2014, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2014/03/ha-noi-tuong-thuat-buoi-thao-luan-cua.html (accessed March 22, 2014).

[142] See Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, “A blogger was beaten for attending a human rights discussion at a café” (“Blogger bi danh vi tham gia café nhan quyen”), Video interview was posted on Youtube, March 20, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDl4S7Rtklc (accessed March 22, 2014). See also BBC Vietnamese, “Attacked after attending a human rights discussion at a café” (“Bi tan cong sau khi du café nhan quyen”), BBC Vietnamese, March 21, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/vietnamese/multimedia/2014/03/140321_cafe_nhanquyen_hanoi (accessed March 22, 2014).

[143] Gia Minh, “Why did the police use force against the people?” (“Vi sao cong an dung vu luc voi dan?”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, August 28, 2015, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/activists-beaten-after-visit-newly-released-political-prisoner-gm-08282015081116.html (accessed September 4, 2015).

[144] Ibid. See also “Lam Dong police thugs beat and injured visitors of prisoner of conscience Tran Minh Nhat” (“Con an Lam Dong danh do mau nhung nguoi di tham TNLT Tran Minh Nhat”), post to “Dan lam bao”(blog), August 30, 2015, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2015/08/con-lam-ong-o-mau-nhung-nguoi-i-tham.html (accessed September 6, 2015).

[145] Ibid. See also Tran Thi Nga, “We were severely beaten and injured by Lam Dong province’s police” (“Chung toi bi cong an Lam Dong danh trong thuong”), post to “Dan lam bao”, August 29, 2015: http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2015/08/chung-toi-bi-cong-lam-ong-anh-trong.html (accessed September 6, 2015).

[146] Ibid.

[147] Ibid.

[148] Cong Nguyen, “An account of Lam Dong province’s police attacking dissidents who went to visit Tran Minh Nhat” (“Tuong trinh su viec cong an tinh Lam Dong tan cong nhung nguoi bat dong chinh kien khi den tham Tran Minh Nhat”), Dan luan, August 30, 2015, https://www.danluan.org/tin-tuc/20150830/cong-nguyen-tuong-trinh-su-viec-cong-an-tinh-lam-dong-tan-cong-nhung-nguoi-bat-dong (accessed September 6, 2015).

[149] Ibid.

[150] Tran Thi Nga, “We were severely beaten and injured by Lam Dong province’s police” (“Chung toi bi cong an Lam Dong danh trong thuong”).

[151] According to Truong Minh Tam, the arrest and conviction were bogus. During the investigation, he says, police asked him many questions about his social and human rights activism. His trial in October 2013 was closed to the public. None of his family members were allowed to attend. See also Gia Minh, “An anti-China activist completed his prison term” (“Mot thanh nien hoat dong chong Trung Quoc man han tu”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, October 7, 2014, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/jail-acti-free-fr-prison-10072014055207.html (accessed September 6, 2015). Truong Minh Tam went on a tour to campaign for the releases of political prisoners in the summer of 2015. He testified before the US Congress on June 11, 2015. See also TN, “Vietnam’s prisoners of conscience testified about human rights before the US Congress” (“Tu nhan luong tam Viet Nam dieu tran nhan quyen tai Quoc hoi My”), Nguoi Viet, June 11, 2015, http://www.nguoi-viet.com/absolutenm2/templates/viewarticlesNVO.aspx?articleid=208647&zoneid=431 (accessed September 6, 2015); Dang Hoai An, “Former prisoner Truong Minh Tam was despicably revenged” (“Cuu tu nhan Truong Minh Tam bi tra thu hen ha”), post to “Dan lam bao (blog), August 26, 2015, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2015/08/cuu-tu-nhan-truong-minh-tam-bi-tra-thu.html (accessed September 6, 2015).

[152] Ibid. See also An Thien, “Police thugs beat Truong Minh Tam and destroyed his belongings” (“Anh Truong Minh Tam bi con an danh dap va huy hoai tai san”), Saigon Broadcasting Television Network, August 24, 2015, http://www.sbtn.tv/vi/tin-viet-nam/anh-truong-minh-tam-bi-con-danh-dap-va-huy-hoai-tai-san.html (accessed September 6, 2015).

[153] For more on this, see the case of attack against activists and bloggers on August 28, 2015 in this report.

[154] Tuyet Thanh, “Discovering those who incited the people about the dead fish in the Central region” (“Phat hien doi tuong giat day kich dong vu ca chet o mien Trung”), Viet Nam Tin Nhanh, May 2, 2016, http://vntinnhanh.vn/tin-24h/nong-phat-hien-doi-tuong-phan-dong-viet-tan-giat-day-kich-dong-vu-ca-chet-o-mien-trung-99551 (accessed May 2, 2016).

[155] Ibid.

[156] Hoa Ai, “Former prisoner of conscience Truong Minh Tam: ‘I want to flee from my country’” (“Cuu tu nhan luong tam Truong Minh Tam: ‘Toi muon tron chay khoi dat nuoc minh’”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, May 9, 2016, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/former-prisoner-conscience-truong-minh-tam-wants-flee-country-ha-05082016092112.html (accessed May 9, 2016).

[157] Huyen Trang, “To provide news about dead fish in the central coast, many journalists were arrested, detained and beaten” (“Dua tin ve ca chet o mien Trung, nhieu phong vien bi bat, tam giu, danh dap”), Tin mung cho nguoi ngheo, May 6, 2016, http://www.tinmungchonguoingheo.com/blog/2016/05/06/dua-tin-ve-ca-chet-o-mien-trung-nhieu-phong-vien-bi-bat-tam-giu-danh-dap/ (accessed May 6, 2016).

[158] Trinh Ba Khiem is a land rights activist. He was arrested in April 2014 and charged with “resisting those who are on public duty” in accordance with article 257 of the 2009 penal code. In September 2014, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison. In November 2014, during an appeal trial, his sentence was reduced to 15 months. In prison, his prison term was reduced by another month.

[159] Gia Minh, “Welcoming prisoner of conscience Trinh Ba Khiem and were assaulted” (“Di don tu nhan luong tam Trinh Ba Khiem bi danh hoi dong”), Radio Free Asia, June 25, 2015, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/activ-brut-beaten-06252015070744.html (accessed September 6, 2015).

[160] Chau Van Thi, “Thugs attacked those who went to receive prisoner of conscience Trinh Ba Khiem” (“Con do tan cong nhung nguoi di don TNLT Trinh Ba Khiem”), Dan luan, June 25, 2015, https://www.danluan.org/tin-tuc/20150624/con-do-tan-cong-nhung-nguoi-di-don-tnlt-trinh-ba-khiem (accessed September 6, 2015). See also “The police of prison No. 6 (Nghe An) beat and spilled blood of a member of land petitioner Trinh Ba Khiem” (“Cong an trai giam so 6 (Nghe An) danh do mau gia dinh dan oan Trinh Ba Khiem”), post to “Dan lam bao” (blog), June 25, 2015, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2015/06/cong-trai-giam-so-6-nghe-an-ap-gia-inh_25.html (accessed September 6, 2015).

[161] Chau Van Thi, “Rights activist Dinh Quang Tuyen was attacked in Ho Chi Minh City” (“Nha hoat dong Dinh Quang Tuyen bi tan cong o TpHCM”), Dan luan, May 19, 2015, https://www.danluan.org/tin-tuc/20150518/nha-hoat-dong-dinh-quang-tuyen-bi-tan-cong-o-tphcm (accessed May 20, 2015). Also see “Another activist was severely beaten by thugs” (“Them mot nha hoat dong bi con do danh trong thuong”), RFA Vietnamese, May 19, 2015, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/vietnamnews/one-more-activi-beaten-05192015084833.html (accessed May 20, 2015); and “Them mot nha hoat dong ‘bi hanh hung’ [Another activist was ‘assaulted’].” BBC Vietnamese, May 20, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/vietnamese/vietnam/2015/05/150520_dinh_quang_tuyen_interview (accessed May 22, 2015).

[162] “Dinh Quang Tuyen was beaten by thuggish secret agents and his blood was spilled” (“Anh Dinh Quang Tuyen bi con an mat vu danh do mau”), “Dan lam bao” May 20, 2015, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2015/05/anh-inh-quang-tuyen-bi-con-mat-vu-anh-o.html (accessed May 20, 2015).

[163] Hoa Ai, “Beating people by security agents who disguised as thugs was a bad solution” (“An ninh gia danh con do danh dan la ha sach”), RFA Vietnamese, June 16, 2015, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/vn-use-more-plnclothe-bea-peop-06162015065942.html (accessed June 16, 2015).

[164] Gia Minh, “Ho Chi Minh City: Being arrested for shouting anti-China slogans” (“TPHCM: Bi bat vi ho khau hieu chong Trung Quoc”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, June 22, 2014, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/anti-cn-indivi-detain-06222014050442.html (accessed June 16, 2015).

[165] “Dinh Quang Tuyen is currently under police arrested” (“Sai Gon: Anh Dinh Quang Tuyen dang bi CA bat”), post to “Dan lam bao” (blog), April 4, 2015, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2015/04/sai-gon-anh-inh-quang-tuyen-bi-ca-bat.html (accessed May 20, 2015).

[166] “Human rights activist Nguyen Chi Tuyen was assaulted” (“Nha hoat dong nhan quyen Nguyen Chi Tuyen bi hanh hung”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, May 11, 2015, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/vietnamnews/activis-atk-by-thugs-05112015084528.html (accessed May 12, 2015).

[167] Mac Lam, “From prison to assault on the street” (“Tu nha giam toi hanh hung tren duong pho”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, May 12, 2015, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/from-prison-to-stree-assault-05122015051939.html (accessed May 12, 2015).

[168] “The public was outraged when blogger Nguyen Chi Tuyen was attacked by ‘thugs’” (“Du luan phan no khi Blogger Nguyen Chi Tuyen bi ‘con do’ tan cong”), post to “Tin mung cho nguoi ngheo” (blog), May 11, 2015, http://www.tinmungchonguoingheo.com/blog/2015/05/11/du-luan-phan-no-khi-blogger-nguyen-chi-tuyen-bi-con-do-tan-cong/ (accessed May 12, 2015).

[169] Chau Van Thi, “Human rights activist Nguyen Chi Tuyen was brutally assaulted” (“Nha hoat dong nhan quyen Nguyen Chi Tuyen bi hanh hung mot cach da man”), Dan luan, May 11, 2015, https://www.danluan.org/tin-tuc/20150510/nongnha-hoat-dong-nhan-quyen-nguyen-chi-tuyen-bi-hanh-hung-mot-cach-da-man (accessed May 12, 2015).

[170] Duc Thien, “Two pastors were assaulted, but the police only made a record” (“Hai muc su bi hanh hung nhung cong an chi lap bien ban”), Chua Cuu The, March 27, 2015, http://www.chuacuuthe.com/2015/03/hai-muc-su-bi-hanh-hung-nhung-cong-an-chi-lap-bien-ban/ (accessed May 12, 2015).

[171] Ibid. See also “Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang continues to be assaulted by police” (“Muc su Nguyen Hong Quang tiep tuc bi CA hanh hung”), post to “Dan lam bao” (blog), March 25, 2015, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2015/03/muc-su-nguyen-hong-quang-tiep-tuc-bi-ca.html (accessed March 25, 2015).

[172] Gia Minh, “Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang was badly beaten again” (“Muc su Nguyen Hong Quang lai bi danh trong thuong”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, January 19, 2015, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/menno-pastor-sever-beaten-01192015060516.html (accessed May 12, 2015).

[173] Ibid. See also Huynh Trong Hieu, “Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang – in charge of Mennonite Church was assaulted” (“Muc su Nguyen Hong Quang – Quan nhiem Hoi Thanh Mennonite bi hanh hung”), Giao hoi Phat giao Viet Nam Thong nhat, January 19, 2015, http://www.ghpgvntn.net/muc-su-nguyen-hong-quang-quan-nhiem-hoi-thanh-mennonite-bi-hanh-hung/ (accessed September 24, 2015).

[174] Ibid.

[175] “Mennonite church is repressed again on the first day of 2015” (“Hoi thanh Mennonite lai bi dan ap tai Quan 12 vao ngay dau nam 2015”), Dan luan, January 1, 2015, https://www.danluan.org/tin-tuc/20150101/hoi-thanh-mennonite-lai-bi-dan-ap-tai-quan-12-vao-ngay-dau-nam-2015 (accessed March 25, 2015). According to an unconfirmed source, in the morning of June 6, 2015, Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and his son Nguyen Quang Trieu, Pastor Le Quang Du and two other people were attacked by a group of men in civilian clothing and policemen in uniforms. “Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang was attacked by ‘thugs’” (“Muc su Nguyen Hong Quang bi ‘con do’ hanh hung”), Dan chim Viet, June 6, 2015, http://www.danchimviet.info/archives/96235/muc-su-nguyen-hong-quang-bi-con-do-hanh-hung/2015/06 (accessed September 24, 2015). See also Hoi dong Lien ton Viet Nam, “A letter condemning the communist government’s repression and harassment against the religious council” (“Khang thu ve viec Hoi dong bi nha cam quyen csvn sach nhieu dan ap”), Tin mung cho nguoi ngheo, October 11, 2015, http://www.tinmungchonguoingheo.com/blog/2015/10/11/hoi-dong-lien-ton-viet-nam-khang-thu-ve-viec-hoi-dong-bi-nha-cam-quyen-csvn-sach-nhieu-dan-ap/ (accessed October 25, 2015).

[176] “Two members from the Save the Land Petitioners group were brutally beaten” (“Ha Noi: Hai thanh vien nhom Cuu Lay Dan Oan bi danh dap da man”), “Dan lam bao” March 19, 2015: http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/ha-noi-hai-thanh-vien-nhom-cuu-lay-dan.html (accessed May 12, 2015).

[177] Mac Lam, “Who will take responsibility for thugs’ behavior?” (“Ai chiu trach nhiem voi hanh vi cua con do?”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, March 20, 2015, http://www.rfa.org/vietnamese/in_depth/who-are-responsible-for-thugs-actions-ml-03202015074023.html (accessed May 12, 2015).

[178] HT, “Two members from the Save the Land Petitioners Group were assaulted” (“Hai thanh vien Nhom Cuu Lay Dan Oan bi hanh hung”), Chua Cuu The, March 19, 2015, http://www.chuacuuthe.com/2015/03/hai-thanh-vien-nhom-cu-lay-dan-oan-bi-hanh-hung/ (accessed May 12, 2015).

[179] Mac Lam, “Who will take responsibility for thugs’ behavior” (“Ai chiu trach nhiem voi hanh vi cua con do?”), Radio Free Asia Vietnamese.

[180] “Bac Giang land rights petitioners were beaten on the last day of lunar year” (“Dan oan Bac Giang bi danh ngay 29 Tet”), Defend the Defenders, news release, February 19, 2015, http://www.vietnamhumanrightsdefenders.net/2015/02/19/tu-anh-tu-dan-oan-bac-giang-bi-danh-ngay-29-tet/ (accessed May 20, 2015). See also “Association of Former prisoners of conscience condemn and protest against violence inflicted upon human rights defenders (5/2015)” (“Hoi Cuu Tu nhan luong tam len an va phan doi hanh dong bao luc ham hai nguoi bao ve nhan quyen (5/2015)”), post to “Bauxite Vietnam” (blog), May 22, 2015, http://boxitvn.blogspot.com/2015/05/hoi-cuu-tu-nhan-luong-tam-len-va-phan.html (accessed May 22, 2015).

[181] Ibid.

[182] Ibid.

[183] Ibid.

[184]  “Huynh Cong Thuan was assaulted” (“Anh Huynh Cong Thuan bi hanh hung”), Viet Bao, January 27, 2015, https://vietbao.com/a232860/anh-huynh-cong-thuan-bi-hanh-hung (accessed March 3, 2016).

[185] Huynh Cong Thuan’s Facebook page, “An urgent call for help” (“Thu keu cuu khan cap”), February 6, 2015, https://www.facebook.com/notes/hu%E1%BB%B3nh-c%C3%B4ng-thu%E1%BA%ADn/th%C6%B0-k%C3%AAu-c%E1%BB%A9u-kh%E1%BA%A9n-c%E1%BA%A5p-07022015/793350927380646/ (accessed March 7, 2016).

[186] Ibid. See also Huynh Cong Thuan, “Blogger Huynh Cong Thuan told the story of being attacked” (“Blogger Huynh Cong Thuan ke chuyen bi tan cong”), Originally published by DCV Online and reposted to “Dan lam bao” (blog), September 20, 2011, http://danlambaovn.blogspot.com/2011/09/blogger-huynh-cong-thuan-ke-chuyen-bi.html (accessed March 7, 2016).

[187] Ibid.

[188] Huynh Cong Thuan, “Condemning and denouncing police’s abuse” (“Don to cao va to giac cong an long hanh”), post to “Huynh Cong Thuan” (blog), April 28, 2013, http://huynhcongthuan.blogspot.com/2013/04/thanh-pho-ho-chi-minh-ngay-04-nam-2013.html (accessed March 7, 2016).

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Vietnamese bloggers and rights activists are being beaten, threatened and intimidated with impunity. The Vietnamese government should order an end to all attacks and hold those responsible accountable. Donor governments should tell the Vietnamese authorities to end the crackdown, and that repressing Internet freedom, peaceful speech, and activism will carry consequences.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner Johannes Hahn addresses a news conference at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels. 

© 2015 Reuters

(Berlin) – A European Union official visiting Baku on June 16, 2017, should press President Ilham Aliyev to free unjustly imprisoned political activists, journalists, and other government critics, Human Rights Watch and the International Partnership for Human Rights said today. The commissioner for European neighborhood policy and enlargement, Johannes Hahn, should also urge Aliyev to lift restrictions on activists released from prison and reform laws that severely curtail fundamental freedoms.

Commissioner Hahn will be in Baku on an official visit as part of preparations for the Eastern Partnership Summit, scheduled for November, and is set to meet President Aliyev, and other top officials, as well as nongovernmental groups. The EU opened negotiations for a new partnership agreement with Azerbaijan in February 2017. 

“Commissioner Hahn should make human rights concerns a priority when he meets with President Aliyev,” said Giorgi Gogia, South Caucasus director at Human Rights Watch. “He should make it clear to President Aliyev that without an end to the authorities’ crackdown on dissent, there cannot be a genuine partnership between his government and the European Union.”

The visit comes a day after the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning Azerbaijani authorities’ arrest of a journalist who had been kidnapped in Georgia and taken illegally to Azerbaijan, and calling for the release of activists arrested on politically motivated grounds.

In recent years, the Azerbaijan government has severely restricted independent activism, critical journalism, and opposition political activity by imprisoning and harassing many activists, prominent human rights defenders, and journalists. Draconian laws and regulations impede the operation of independent groups and their ability to secure funding.

In an urgent resolution adopted on June 15, the European Parliament condemned the abduction of the journalist, Afgan Mukhtarli, in Tbilisi and his subsequent arrest in Baku, and urged the Georgian authorities to promptly and effectively investigate the case. The European Parliament also called on Azerbaijan to release Mukhtarli and others detained on politically motivated grounds, including political analyst, Ilgar Mammadov; another journalist, Mehman Huseynov; and youth activist, Ilkin Rustamzadeh.

Since November 2015, following significant international pressure, the Azerbaijani authorities have released 21 human rights defenders, journalists, and political activists who had been imprisoned on politically motivated criminal charges.

But the authorities continued to arrest and prosecute dozens of others on spurious criminal charges to prevent them from carrying out their legitimate work.

The crackdown has intensified in recent months, Human Rights Watch said.

Azerbaijan authorities arrested Mukhtarli, the journalist and political activist, on May 30. He was apparently kidnapped the day before in neighboring Georgia, where he was living in exile, and illegally taken across the border. He is facing criminal charges of illegal border crossing, smuggling, and resisting authority.

Also in May, authorities arrested two more journalists, Aziz Orujov and Nijat Amiraslanov, as well as a high-level official of the opposition Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, Gozel Bayramli, on spurious administrative and criminal charges ranging from resisting police to illegal entrepreneurship and smuggling.

In March, a Baku court sentenced Huseynov, the journalist and blogger known for exposing alleged government corruption, to two years in prison on bogus defamation charges because he complained about police ill-treatment.

More than a dozen activists convicted in politically motivated trials between 2013 and 2015 remain in prison. Among them is Mammadov, leader of the pro-democracy opposition movement Republican Alternative (REAL). The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers has repeatedly called for his release, in line with a May 2014 European Court of Human Rights decision finding that Mammadov’s imprisonment was in retaliation for his criticism of the government.

None of the convictions of those released in the past two years were quashed and some face travel restrictions, including the award-winning investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova and the human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev. Others have fled the country fearing further politically motivated prosecutions.

Nongovernmental organizations in Azerbaijan face almost insurmountable bureaucratic hurdles to operating independently due to excessive legal and regulatory restrictions. In March 2017, in response to the crackdown on civil society, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a prominent international multi-stakeholder group that encourages better governance of resource-rich countries, suspended Azerbaijan’s membership over the government’s failure to adequately loosen these restrictions.

Since February, the EU and Azerbaijan have been negotiating a new partnership agreement to enhance political and economic ties between them. The new agreement will replace the 1999 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which guided their bilateral relations in political dialogue, trade, investment, and economic, legislative, and cultural cooperation.

“Commissioner Hahn should impress upon President Aliyev that the pace of the negotiations over the new agreement, as well as the quality of the EU-Azerbaijan relations, depend on Baku’s fulfillment of its international human rights obligations,” said Brigitte Dufour, director of the International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR). “The calls made by the European Parliament, like releasing all unjustly jailed activists and amending repressive laws, should be first few steps on that road.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Egyptian lawyer and ex-Presidential candidate Khaled Ali with supporters celebrating a ruling against the Egypt-Saudi border demarcation agreement, January 16, 2017. 

 
© 2017 Reuters

(Beirut) – Egyptian authorities in recent weeks have arrested at least 50 peaceful political activists, blocked at least 62 websites, and opened a criminal prosecution against a former presidential candidate, Human Rights Watch said today. The actions are further closing any remaining space for free expression.

The charges against the activists appear to be based on peaceful criticism of the government and some local law provisions, such as insulting the president, that inherently violate the right to freedom of expression. At least eight face possible five-year prison terms under Egypt’s 2015 counterterrorism law for their posts on social networking sites. The website blocks affected major Egyptian and international news organizations as well as political groups.

“Egyptian authorities are using the pretext of fighting terrorism to crush peaceful dissent,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle east director at Human Rights Watch. “The government isn’t going to make inroads against extremists by shutting down peaceful opposing voices.”

Among those arrested was a prominent human rights lawyer, Khaled Ali, whom prosecutors called for questioning on May 23, 2017, and subsequently sent for a fast-track trial on the charge of “committing a scandalous act” in public. Ali ran for president in 2012, coming in seventh with about 134,000 votes. He has signaled interest in challenging President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the 2018 presidential election.

The wave of arrests during April and May was reported by Freedom for the Brave, an independent Egyptian group that tracks such arrests.

Egyptian activists shout anti-government slogans during a protest against the government's decision to transfer two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, in front of the Press Syndicate in Cairo, Egypt, April 13, 2016. 

 
© 2016 Reuters

On June 1, the group released a detailed list of the 42 people detained, showing that 29 remained in custody, four of whom had already been sent to trial. Many were active in movements critical of the government, including the nascent Bread and Freedom Party.

Prosecutors accused 17 of membership in prohibited groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and the April 6 Youth Movement. On June 13, Interior Ministry forces arrested five more activists and three journalists from around the Journalists Syndicate in downtown Cairo.

The government invoked article 28 of Law 95/2015 for Confronting Terrorism to charge at least eight activists with “propagating ideas or beliefs advocating the commission of terrorist acts.” The charges stemmed from Facebook posts, according to a statement by six Egyptian rights groups. Mohamed Walid, a Bread and Freedom Party member from Suez, was arrested after posting, “I am neither pro-Mubarak nor do I belong to the Muslim Brotherhood, I just want to live as a human being,” as well as “down with the military rule” and the slogan of the Bread and Freedom Party, “bread and freedom for all people.”

Human Rights Watch reviewed the prosecution file for Andrew Nassef, also charged with “promoting terrorism.” It stated that prosecutors seized publications and banners from his home that were critical of the government, such as “January 25 Again,” a reference to the 2011 uprising, and “Release Egypt.” Nassef’s Facebook posts cited in the file included: “When will we overthrow the prisons and military dictatorships again,” and, “Seek freedom and talk about every oppressed person in the country whether you know him or not (…) because one day it will be your turn.”

Other detainees are accused of insulting the president, spreading false news, or using social networking sites to incite against the state or advocate the overthrow of state institutions.

On May 24, Egyptian authorities imposed a coordinated blackout on at least 21 websites, most belonging to news organizations, for allegedly “supporting terrorism and spreading lies,” according to an unnamed senior security source who spoke to the official Middle East News Agency. The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, an independent Egyptian rights group, said the block had grown to 62 sites as of June 12.

Among those affected were Egyptian news websites such as Mada Masr, Masr al-Arabiya, and Daily News Egypt; Turkish news websites; international news websites such as Al Jazeera and the Huffington Post’s Arabic edition; the official websites for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Palestinian movement Hamas; and the website for the Tor Project, which supports internet anonymity.

The move occurred hours after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates blocked access to Al Jazeera and other Qatar-based websites, ostensibly in reaction to statements by Qatar’s emir published by Qatar’s state news agency. The apparently coordinated effort by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other allied countries to isolate Qatar stemmed from years of anger at Qatar’s foreign policy and has in recent days extended to Saudi Arabia and the UAE severing all ties and closing air, land, and sea transportation to Qatar.


Qatar claimed that the statements attributed to the emir were false and that its news agency had been hacked. The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and British law enforcement officials supported that assessment, media reports said.

Egypt has gone further, extending its censorship to domestic opposition movements, including by blocking a website for the National Popular Campaign to Defend the Land, which opposes a plan by al-Sisi to cede two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. The Sisi administration has sought parliamentary approval to move ahead with the plan, despite court rulings that it is illegal. It went before the parliament for debate on June 11 and 12, and parliament approved the decision on June 14. On June 13, while activists gathered at the Journalists Syndicate to protest the agreement, Interior Ministry security forces surrounded them and arrested some. At least eight, including three journalists, are being held for investigation by prosecutors for protesting without a license.

On May 31, representatives of four websites, including Mada Masr, said they would file a joint complaint to the prosecutor general on the basis that the block was unlawful.

Ali, the lawyer and former presidential candidate, was also a key member of a legal team that successfully challenged the decision to cede the two islands to Saudi Arabia. He was accused of making an obscene gesture with his middle fingers during a celebratory street protest following the Supreme Administrative Court’s ruling on the Red Sea islands issue in January. The charge is punishable with a sentence of up to one year or a fine of 300 pounds (US$17) under article 278 of Egypt’s penal code.

Ali’s lawyers told Human Rights Watch that they fear that a conviction on a charge of public indecency would probably prevent Ali from running for president in 2018, since elections laws disqualify those sentenced for “crimes that undermine honor.” No law defines such acts, but the lawyers said that Egyptian courts have interpreted sexual gestures or conduct as offenses that undermine honor.

Though many countries criminalize offenses to public order, prosecuting someone for making an obscene gesture during a peaceful protest would be an unreasonable limitation on freedom of expression, and it would be disproportionate to penalize such an act with imprisonment or the forfeit of political rights, Human Rights Watch said. The Dokki Misdemeanour Court for Minor Offenses in Cairo has scheduled Ali’s next hearing for July 3 and ordered that defense lawyers be allowed to obtain the case file.

Egypt’s constitution, in article 57, states that it is “impermissible” to deprive citizens of the right “to use all forms of public means of communications” or to interrupt or disconnect them arbitrarily. Article 71 states that “it is prohibited to censor, confiscate, suspend or shut down Egyptian newspapers and media outlets in any way.”

However, Egypt’s 59-year-old emergency law, which al-Sisi invoked on April 11 after deadly twin church bombings by the extremist group Islamic State, allows the authorities to censor publications at will. After al-Sisi declared the state of emergency, Ali Abdel Aal, the parliament speaker, said that social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube would fall under its surveillance and censorship provisions, the newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm reported.

The Human Rights Committee, the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, stated in its general comment 34 that the prohibition of “a site or an information dissemination system from publishing material solely on the basis that it may be critical of the government or the political social system espoused by the government” constitutes a violation of the right to free expression. Egypt ratified the covenant in 1986. 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

The Al Jazeera Media Network logo is seen inside its headquarters in Doha, Qatar June 8, 2017. 

© 2017 Reuters
 
(Beirut) – Arab countries engaged in a dispute with Qatar have shut down media outlets with links to or considered sympathetic to the Qatari government, Human Rights Watch said today. The action is a violation of freedom of expression. The countries involved include Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have also threatened criminal sanctions under existing laws against people who criticize the actions these governments have taken against Qatar and its citizens or who have expressed sympathy toward Qatar.
 
“Individuals have a right to express a variety of perspectives on current events,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Governments don’t have the right to close down media outlets and criminalize speech to shut out criticism they find uncomfortable.”
 
On May 25, 2017, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates blocked Qatari media outlets, including Al Jazeera, after Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, was quoted in state media attacking United States foreign policy, praising Iran, and vowing to withdraw its diplomatic representation from several Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia. The Qatari government has since denied that al-Thani made the offending statements, alleging that their state media was hacked.
 
Also on May 24, Egypt blocked the websites of 21 media outlets it accused of being favorable toward the Muslim Brotherhood, including Al Jazeera and at least four other Qatari government-linked outlets. The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, an independent Egyptian rights group, said the block had grown to 62 sites as of June 12.
 
On June 7, Jordanian authorities closed Al Jazeera’s Amman bureau and stripped it of its operating license, stating that the decision was made to ensure regional stability, coordinate the policies of Arab countries, and “end the crises in our region.” The next day, Saudi authorities did the same to Al Jazeera’s Riyadh bureau, accusing it of promoting terrorist groups in Yemen and of sparking divisions in Saudi Arabia. On June 9, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage ordered hotels and other tourist facilities to block “all channels from the Al Jazeera Media Network” and replace them with other channels, threatening to punish violators with a fine of up to US$26,000.
 
In addition, on June 7 and 8, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain announced that any speech critical of their governments’ measures against Qatar or sympathetic to Qatar would be prosecuted as crimes. Citing existing laws that violate free speech, on June 7, the United Arab Emirates’ general prosecutor announced that people who express “sympathy” for Qatar or objections to the UAE government’s own actions could face up to 15 years in jail. On June 8, the Bahraini Interior Ministry also threatened anyone who shows “sympathy or favouritism” to the Qatari authorities either on or off line or critiques Bahrain’s actions, with up to five years in prison and a fine under the Penal Code.
 
Authorities should repeal or amend laws that are used to criminalize peaceful expression. International law on freedom of speech prohibits the banning of peaceful criticism of governments, and crimes such as insulting the president or state authorities.
 
“The media need protection from political interference, not official muzzling,” Whitson said. “The offending governments should demonstrate they understand and respect the role of media outlets, even those they don’t agree with.”
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am