The Vietnam Briefing, which is released every Monday morning Vietnam time, looks at Vietnam’s social and political developments of the past week.
Vietnam independent journalist who tried to run for parliament received five years in prison
- Le Trong Hung, a Vietnamese journalist arrested after nominating himself as an independent candidate in the country’s National Assembly election last year, was sentenced to five years in jail and five years of probation Friday by the Hanoi People’s Court, according to his lawyer and his wife.
- Hung, 42, was arrested on March 27, 2021 after declaring his candidacy for an election where the political processes were tightly controlled by the ruling Communist Party. He was charged with “creating, storing, disseminating information, materials, items, and publications against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
- The law he was accused of breaking, Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, is “vague” and Friday’s ruling was “subjective,” Hung’s defense lawyer, Ha Huy Son, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service. This trial lasted under four hours.
- Do Le Na, Hung’s wife, was not allowed to enter the courtroom. And despite having requested twice to attend the open trial of her husband, the court did not grant her request. “I am totally disappointed. I disapprove of this trial. It does not mean anything because it does not follow any norms of the Constitution or universal values of human beings worldwide,” Na told RFA Vietnamese.
- Daniel Bastard, the head of Reporters Without Borders (RSF)’s Asia-Pacific desk, said the trial verdict of Le Trong Hung “has yet again highlighted the Vietnamese justice system’s complete lack of independence and the way the courts limit themselves to carrying out the ruling Communist Party’s edicts.” “The current government shamelessly violates article 25 of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s constitution, which loudly proclaims freedom of the press,” Bastard added.
- Prior to the trial, rights advocate Human Rights Watch (HRW) also urged the Vietnamese government to “immediately drop all charges and release the independent political candidate Le Trong Hung.” “Imprisoning activists like Le Trong Hung who dare to run as independent candidates for parliament shows what a charade Vietnam’s elections are,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at HRW.
Vietnamese police arrest followers of the religious group during the founder’s funeral
- Hundreds of Vietnamese police and others dressed in medical protective suits raided the funeral of the ethnic Hmong founder of an unofficial religious group, beating and arresting nearly 50 of his followers who attended the ceremony, locals said.
- Duong Van Minh, the founder of the religious group named after himself, died of lymphoma at age 60 on December 11, 2021. His family and followers carried his body from the medical facility where he died to his home in Ngoi Sen Village in northeastern Vietnam’s Tuyen Quang Province for a funeral and burial ceremony.
- After Minh’s body was taken back home, local authorities set up checkpoints in the surrounding area to reportedly curtail the spread of the COVID-19 virus. But in reality, local residents said that this action was meant to prevent his followers from attending the funeral.
- Authorities asked Minh’s family members to take COVID-19 tests, saying that the driver who transported the body had tested positive for the virus. The relatives, in turn, requested taking the tests on December 13, the day after the funeral, but authorities declined. The local authorities instead sent mobile police and staff in medical protective clothing to disrupt the funeral on December 12 to “force people to take the test,” resulting in the violent crackdown, locals said.
- Founded in 1989, the Duong Van Minh religion promotes the removal of old and costly funeral customs that require the killing of cattle for seven days while seeking to make Hmong faith customs surrounding funerals and marriages more modern and hygienic. But Vietnam’s state-run media has called the belief a false religion, arguing that it leads people to create groups that are not in line with the policies of the central government and the Vietnamese Communist Party.
Vietnamese police allegedly disrupt Christmas celebration of Montagnard Christians
- Vietnamese authorities harassed about 60 followers of the Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ as they prepared to celebrate Christmas in Phu Yen Province on the country’s south-central coast, confiscating a banner and beating the pastor, members of the church in Ea Lam Village said.
- Police first assaulted and detained Y Cuon Nie, the church’s pastor, and a missionary, on December 22 while he was at a printing shop to make the celebratory banners. “When I was at Viet Long Printers to make a Christmas banner [...] the police came, confiscated the banner, and hit me on my back. They then took me to the headquarters of Tan Lap town’s police, saying [the printing] was not permitted,” the pastor told RFA.
- On Christmas Eve, when Nie and church members were holding a Christmas ceremony in his home, the police entered and demanded that they stop. A police official threatened Nie and later took him to the Song Hinh district station for questioning. Local authorities have previously accused the church of wanting to overthrow the government, though church members deny the allegation.
- A report on Vietnam released April 2021, by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom claimed the “[Vietnamese] authorities continued to actively persecute independent religious minority communities,” adding that “ethnic minority communities faced especially egregious persecution for the peaceful practice of their faith, including physical assault, banishment, detention, imprisonment, and forced renunciation of faith.”
Vietnam confirms new COVID-19 Omicron infections as cases surge in recent weeks
- Fourteen people arriving in Vietnam from South Korea and the United States have been confirmed to be infected with the Omicron coronavirus strain.
- The Health Department of Quang Nam Province announced Friday the infected passengers landed in the Da Nang International Airport on four different flights. They tested positive for the new coronavirus upon arrival and were sent to quarantine facilities in Quang Nam Province, which borders Da Nang.
- Vietnam confirmed the first Omicron infection on Tuesday, in a person arriving in Hanoi from the United Kingdom on December 19.
- The country also recorded nearly 20,000 new local COVID-19 cases on December 30, bringing the total number of confirmed cases since last April to more than 1.7 million cases. More than 32,000 have also been confirmed dead due to COVID-19 in Vietnam.
Public outraged over an 8-year-old girl who died due to domestic abuse
- Nguyen Vo Quynh Trang, 26, is being accused of beating and torturing an eight-year-old girl, her fiance's daughter, to the point of death, the police of Binh Thanh District stated Tuesday. She has been detained for two months while being investigated for abuse.
- Trang lived with her fiance and his daughter in an apartment complex in Binh Thanh District. She frequently forced the little girl to do chores and beat her. On December 22, Trang beat the girl to the point of unconsciousness. The girl was rushed to a hospital but was announced dead before arrival.
- Children receiving punishments from family members is common in Vietnam. According to a UNICEF survey, more than 68 percent of children aged 1-14 in Vietnam have been victims of violent punishment by their parents or caretakers.
Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam
Fulcrum/ Le Hong Hiep, Phan Xuan Dung/ December 31
“While Vietnam is still facing a rather uncertain economic outlook in 2022, the vaccination progress obviously provides a cause for optimism. Due to extensive lockdowns between June and September, the third quarter of 2021 saw a 6.2 percent drop in Vietnam’s GDP growth, the largest quarterly decline on record. The government now aims for a 6-6.5 percent GDP growth rate in 2022 as the high vaccination rate has allowed Vietnam to restore most of its economic activities since early October, with annualized GDP growth rate in the fourth quarter bouncing back to 5.2 percent. The resumption of international flights will add further momentum to this recovery process. For now, however, the most pressing challenge is for government authorities to issue timely guidelines and protocols to ensure a smooth reopening of the borders as planned.”
Fulcrum/ To Minh Son/ December 28
“This tension between local and central governments in Vietnam has existed long before Covid-19. It even takes on a proverbial quality: ‘Those above tell, those below do not heed’ (trên bảo, dưới không nghe). The immediate impression of Vietnam as a one-party, monolithic, Communist state belies the reality that political authority has been dispersed more regionally throughout history.
In Vietnam’s fragmented decentralisation, the central government sets the policy agenda and regulations, but local governments interpret and implement them, which depends on clarification from above or negotiations through political networks. Geographical origins matter in Vietnamese politics, particularly its ‘four pillars’ leadership model — the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), the President, the Prime Minister, and the Chairperson of the VNA. The Prime Minister, for example, typically boasts of a background of good provincial governorship, as solid performances in their jurisdictions boost chances of promotion.”
Fulcrum/ Dien Nguyen An Luong/ November 25
“It was oversimplistic at best for Western media to accredit Vietnam’s relative pandemic success last year squarely to its authoritarian rule and the “draconian” measures designed to rein in the coronavirus. In fact, it was the uncharacteristically transparent governance and effective messaging that earned the public’s approval and proved instrumental to securing their compliance.
But as our analysis has showed, the levels of public support for the government’s pandemic response have generally plummeted. For the Vietnamese government, vaccination rollout aside, how to fortify the social safety nets and to fine-tune its public messaging will remain the top challenges in regaining public trust.”