Hanoi Court Upholds “Abusing Democratic Freedoms” Conviction of Former Facebook Influencer
- An appellate court in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi in a public hearing on Feb. 14, upheld the previous sentence of Dang Nhu Quynh, a popular Facebook commentator, on the charges of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the State and individuals’ legitimate rights and interests” under Article 331. Quynh, 43, was sentenced to two years in prison last October after his publications on social media were accused of “causing damage to businesses listed on the stock market.” He later appealed the court’s ruling.
- At the appeal hearing, Quynh pleaded with the court to reduce his sentence due to his deteriorating health. The Facebook commentator also asked the investigation authorities to return his Samsung Note 20, which was confiscated during the investigation, since he didn’t use this phone to publish his social media content. The appellate court rejected Quynh’s request to return his phone.
- Quynh, who had more than 300,000 followers on Facebook before his arrest, gained popularity on social media following his precise forecast on the upcoming arrests of businesspeople and real estate investors in Vietnam’s recent crackdown on private firms. Quynh’s prediction on the potential arrest of Nguyen Van Tuan, chairman of Viglacera and Gelex Corp., an investment firm, triggered a massive wave of selling off the shares of the two companies Tuan owned in the following days.
Political Prisoner at An Phuoc Prison Claims to be Mentally Abused by Fellow Inmates
- RFA reported on Feb. 14 that Vietnamese political prisoner Nguyen Duy Linh said that his fellow inmates mentally abused him at An Phuoc Prison, Binh Duong Province, where he is being held. Other prisoners of conscience who are being kept in An Phuoc Prison include journalist Pham Doan Trang, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, former vice president of the Independent Journalist Association of Vietnam, and student activist Tran Hoang Phuc.
- Linh, 47, was imprisoned last June for five years on the charge of “distributing anti-State propaganda” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. According to Nguyen Thi Tuyet, Linh’s wife, Linh was moved to this prison last August. He’s staying in a cell with another political prisoner.
- Tuyet said her husband complained about being harassed and intimidated by this inmate, whose identity she refused to share. She believes that the cellmate is trying to provoke her husband’s emotions so Linh would break prison rules and be disciplined.
- According to RFA, Vietnamese prison authorities often manipulate prisoners to get them to attack their fellow inmates. Former prisoners of conscience Tran Thanh Phuong and Doan Thi Hong told RFA that prisoners are offered reduced sentences, prison visitations and gifts from their families in exchange for bullying other inmates. They also said that the prison superintendent had used sophisticated and repressive tactics against inmates who refused to plead guilty.
Vietnam Fails to Respond to Letter from UN Human Rights Experts over the Disappearance of Chinese Activist Dong Guangping
- The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Feb. 12 published a letter regarding the disappearance of Chinese dissident Dong Guangping in Vietnam after Hanoi failed to respond to the urgent questions outlined by three independent UN special rapporteurs.
- The communication was originally sent to the Vietnamese government on December 15, 2022, raising concerns about Dong’s situation after he disappeared in Vietnam while awaiting resettlement to Canada with his family.
- It was reported that Vietnamese police arbitrarily detained Dong Guangping in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Aug. 22. According to the communication, Dong had been seen handcuffed and blindfolded while being put in a police car. A dozen Vietnamese public security officers reportedly detained him. The incident reportedly occurred outside Dong’s apartment in Hanoi, where he had been hiding for several months. His family is concerned that Dong might be held incommunicado somewhere in China after being unlawfully handed over to Chinese authorities.
- The UN Special Rapporteurs also laid out six demands for the Vietnamese authorities, including that they provide detailed additional information on the above-mentioned allegations, the fate and whereabouts of Dong Guangping, and information on the measures taken by Vietnam to protect the work of activists, human rights defenders, civil society representatives, and other persons peacefully expressing opinions.
Vietnam Gathers Public Opinion on Land Law Reforms
- The Vietnamese government is gathering public opinions and recommendations on its draft Land Law amendment. The plan is carried out in accordance with an earlier decree, 170/NQ-CP, issued in December 2022 by the Vietnamese government. This facilitates the collection of public suggestions in amending its former 2013 Land Law. The opinion-collecting period began on Jan. 3, 2023, and concludes on March 15, 2023.
- Vietnam often witnesses numerous land-related disputes between conventional land users, the government, and private developers due to its current legal provisions regarding land ownership. Private land ownership is not constitutionally recognized in Vietnam. The local government has been giving more preferential treatment to firms rather than private landowners, and more farmland is also being converted into industrial zones and new urban areas.
- The opaque and forceful land confiscation process is believed to have worsened the land-related problem. The amendments to the current Land Law are expected to resolve this problem. Notable suggestions include the proposed improvements in the quality of land planning programs, more specific regulations on the compensation, support, and resettlement process for local land users, and improving current mechanisms in setting market-based prices for confiscated lands.
Vietnam Says It Seeks to Boost Effectiveness in Enforcing Anti-Torture Legal Regulations
- Vietnam’s State-owned media reported that the government has recently adopted a new plan seeking to boost the “efficient enforcement of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,” which Hanoi ratified in 2015. According to State media, Vietnam is also expected to carry out “appropriate recommendations” suggested by the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT).
- In facilitating those recommendations, the Vietnamese government said it planned to focus on “investing in building and completing facilities and equipment serving State agencies’ related works,” as well as “improving the efficiency of the implementation of regulations” regarding the rights and living conditions of people held in custody or temporary detention, convicts, and those who are subject to other forms of administrative punishment.
- Torture and mistreatment are ubiquitous in Vietnam’s prison and detention systems. For example, land rights defenders Trinh Ba Phuong and Trinh Ba Tu have reportedly been subjected to torture and ill-treatment during their investigation period and imprisonment.
- The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders raised their concerns over the allegations of physical abuse committed against Vietnamese land rights activists in detention in a public letter in April 2022. The Vietnamese government has not responded to the letter.
Vingroup Founder Says He Has No Plans to Continue Investing in EV Maker
- VinFast CEO Le Thi Thu Thuy told Bloomberg that Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup’s chairman, Pham Nhat Vuong, currently “has no plans” yet to personally invest any more money in VinFast, an automaker subsidiary of Vingroup. The announcement occurred despite the EV maker falling behind on its U.S. factory construction plans and cutting staff.
- VinFast lost $1.3 billion in 2021 and close to $1.5 billion in the first three quarters of 2022, according to a December filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ahead of VinFast's planned initial public offering. But Vinfast CEO said its parent company Vingroup “has the ability and will continue to provide financial support sufficient to meet our needs for continued operation.”
- She added that VinFast remains on track to start trial production at the North Carolina facility by 2024. Until then, the automaker has to import EVs from its factory in Haiphong, Vietnam. But the U.S. deliveries of its first batch of vehicles are also facing delays, which were pushed back from late 2022 to the second half of February 2023.
South Korean defense minister denies Vietnam War massacres
“South Korea’s defense minister on Friday insisted the country’s soldiers didn’t commit any massacres during the Vietnam War and indicated the government would appeal a ruling that ordered compensation for a Vietnamese woman who lost several relatives to a shooting rampage blamed on South Korean Marines in 1968.
When asked about last week’s ruling by the Seoul Central District Court, South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-Sup told a parliamentary committee that his ministry is certain there were “absolutely no massacres committed by our troops” during the Vietnam War.”
Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam
Nikkei Asia/ Dien Luong/ Feb. 17
“The landmark ruling puts the South Korean government in a difficult position. Accepting the verdict could open the floodgates to more lawsuits from other Vietnamese abuse survivors. But forcefully battling to overturn the court order would strike the wrong tone after Seoul and Hanoi officially elevated their ties into a comprehensive strategic partnership last December.
At the end of the day, if the South Korean government is serious about winning hearts and minds in Vietnam, it has no choice but to confront its checkered historical record head-on. It is time for the authorities to properly investigate other alleged massacres of Vietnamese civilians, to support the erection of on-site memorials and to consider paying reparations to survivors.”
The Diplomat/ Christelle Nguyen/ Feb. 17
“The paradox is that the Vietnamese government’s legitimacy is rooted in its claimed victory over foreign invaders. Stopping people to commemorate the war is detrimental to its own power. Nonetheless, Vietnam’s official commemoration of the Sino-Vietnamese War remains reactive and restrictive.
Ties continued to improve from the 1990s into the 21st century. In 2008, Vietnam and China officially elevated relations to the status of a comprehensive strategic cooperation partnership, the first of its kind for Vietnam. The comprehensive strategic partnership with China evinces the high priority Vietnam assigns to its relationship with China. Vietnam only adopted a tougher approach to China following Beijing’s aggressiveness in disputed areas of the South China Sea in 2014.”
The Diplomat/ Hai Hong Nguyen/ Feb. 13
“The CPV under Trong’s leadership might look to be following in the footsteps of its Chinese counterpart but has historically tended to follow its own political course. Many political reforms conducted by the CPV during Trong’s reign, such as the holding of confidence votes on elected officials and members of the Politburo, the Secretariat and the Central Committee, go much further than the CCP. Change may come, though to the end of this term and in the near future, it would seem unlikely that the CPV will follow the CCP in establishing a “core leadership” position for Trong or any other party chiefs.”
East Asia Forum/ Hanh Minh Duong/ Feb. 10
“In developing states like Vietnam, there is a high potential for greenwashing. This is because they are heavily reliant on foreign capital flows to fulfil long-term sustainable investments. Introducing a green taxonomy system may help the Vietnamese green bond market avoid greenwashing, encourage local businesses to comply with bond-issuance criteria and enable lenders to evaluate the green credentials of loan recipients.
Vietnam should adopt a mix of regional and international standards in its regulations. The ASEAN Taxonomy for Sustainable Finance is a good reference. It classifies the contribution of economic activities to climate change mitigation through a colour-coded system from ‘green’, to ‘amber’ and ‘red’. The taxonomy also offers sector-specific advice on green activities and investments. The EU taxonomy has a stricter standard for labelling green projects. Green projects must ‘do no significant harm’ to the environment and 100 per cent of bond funding must be used for proposed activities.”