Conditions for Political Prisoners Worsen; Trinh Ba Phuong Assaulted in Prison, Hoang Duc Binh Goes on Hunger Strike

Conditions for Political Prisoners Worsen; Trinh Ba Phuong Assaulted in Prison, Hoang Duc Binh Goes on Hunger Strike

Trinh Ba Phuong and Fellow Dissident Subjected to Brutal Treatment in An Diem Prison

Two Vietnamese prisoners of conscience, Trinh Ba Phuong and Phan Cong Hai, faced physical assault and shackling after protesting against the harsh treatment and human rights violations in An Diem Prison in Quang Nam Province. This distressing revelation was conveyed to Radio Free Asia (RFA) by Phuong's younger sister, Trinh Thu Thao, on Oct. 13, immediately after the family visit.

The incident happened on Sept. 9, 2023, around 8 a.m., when Phuong and others staged a peaceful protest, displaying a banner denouncing human rights violations at the prison center. Prison guards swiftly intervened, forcibly seizing the banners and violently disciplining the protestors.

Phuong and Hai, both part of the peaceful demonstration, endured harsh punishment. They were shackled for ten days. Phuong later wrote a petition to protest the disciplinary action he faced and sent it to the People’s Procuracy Office of Quang Nam Province. However, his petition did not receive any response.

The two political prisoners also held another peaceful protest on Sept. 2, 2023, to protest against China's aggressive actions in the South China Sea. They received a different response - the authorities confiscated the banners without resorting to violence or discipline.

This distressing episode highlighted the need for immediate attention and action to ensure all prisoners are treated fairly, particularly those unjustly detained for their beliefs and advocacy for human rights and democracy in Vietnam.

Hoang Duc Binh Goes on a Hunger Strike at An Diem Prison to Protest Detention Conditions

Hoang Duc Binh, an imprisoned activist in Vietnam, initiated a four-day hunger strike at An Diem Prison from Oct. 8 to Oct. 11. The hunger strike aimed to protest the prison authorities' punitive actions and harsh treatment. Binh's younger brother, Hoang Duc Nguyen, revealed the details of the hunger strike, shedding light on the deteriorating conditions within the facility.

According to Nguyen, after two protests earlier last month, the prison administration drastically restricted the amount of supplies prisoners could receive from their families. Families of prisoners were limited to providing 5 kg of supplies during each visit and 6 kg for each package sent by post. Notably, Binh only accepts food from his family and has not received any food from the prison for over two years, making the cutback on family-provided provisions especially impactful. As a result, Binh abstained from food for four days in protest, only resuming eating after Nguyen visited him on Oct. 12.

Binh informed his brother that if the prison's treatment of prisoners, particularly those detained for their beliefs, did not improve, they would likely engage in a more extended hunger strike to voice their grievances. An Diem Prison, a facility under the Ministry of Public Security, currently holds at least 10 prisoners of conscience, including journalists and individuals from religious groups.

This hunger strike again raises concerns about the conditions political prisoners face in Vietnam. It underscores the urgent need for improved treatment and respect for human rights within the prison system.

Vietnam Emphasizes Account Owners' Responsibility under the Cyber Security Law

The Vietnamese government is reinforcing the responsibility of social media account owners for the content posted through their accounts, even if the account is shared or managed by others, VNExpress reported. According to Le Quang Tu Do, the director of Broadcasting, Television and Electronic Information of the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC), the account owners will be held fully accountable if violations occur. They must prove to the government that they did not post the inappropriate content. Severe violations may lead to legal action as per the new Cyber Security Law, which will come into effect soon.

Instances of account takeover attacks are not uncommon, and some users, when caught for online violations, claim their accounts were hacked or managed by others. However, the government insists that the primary responsibility lies with the account owner. A new decree is being considered to replace the existing regulations, focusing on real-life and online management, encouraging users to protect their accounts like bank accounts.

The draft decree proposes authenticated online user accounts tied to personal information, not just for posting news but also for business and trade. The MIC urges caution regarding account sharing, recommending clear agreements defining responsibilities for shared usage. In account hijacking cases, users are advised to promptly report to the platform and inform the authorities, providing evidence for appropriate action.

Human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng criticized the government's stance in an interview with RFA Vietnamese, labeling it unreasonable. Mieng argued that the account owner is held criminally responsible for any activities that occur with his or her account, even when the hackers hacked and controlled the accounts. He emphasized that state agencies must prove an intentional violation of laws before imposing sanctions. Mieng further asserted that the burden of proof should not fall on the account holder and said that this crackdown is an attempt to suppress free speech rather than being rooted in a fundamental legal basis in Vietnam.

International Organizations Unite in Condemning Vietnamese Human Rights Violations

On Oct. 11, 2023, several international organizations collectively submitted reports to the United Nations Human Rights Council outlining human rights abuses by the Vietnamese government. The submissions are for the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Vietnam set for April in Geneva.

Among the organizations are PEN America, PEN International, and the Vietnamese Abroad PEN Center, which jointly submitted a report, and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) in collaboration with the Vietnamese Committee for Human Rights (VCHR).

FIDH and VCHR highlighted Vietnam's failure to enact key recommendations accepted during the 2019 UPR, encompassing human rights protection, civil society, international human rights agreements, fair trials, freedom of expression (including online), peaceful assembly, association, belief, and religion.

The PEN report cited violations concerning freedom of expression, cultural rights, privacy, due process, and arbitrary detention. The joint statement from the three PEN groups emphasized the need for the UN Human Rights Council and member states to scrutinize Hanoi's actions and provide recommendations for substantial improvements in Vietnam's societal conditions.

Lloyd Duong of the Vietnamese Abroad PEN Center emphasized the degradation of human rights in Vietnam resulted from the charges under Articles 117 and 331 of the Penal Code, restricting the writers' civil liberties and penalizing commenting on national matters.

The head of the Asia/Pacific region of PEN International emphasized Vietnam's systematic use of its legal system to stifle dissenting voices and muzzle opposition against the government's policies and directives.

Canada Expresses Concern Over the Sentencing of Vietnamese Climate Activist Hoang Thi Minh Hong

On Oct. 13, the Canadian government conveyed its deep apprehension regarding the three-year prison sentence handed down to Hoang Thi Minh Hong, founder of the climate organization CHANGE. The Canadian Embassy in Vietnam released a statement urging the Vietnamese government to uphold tax laws transparently, allowing NGOs to operate without fear of unjust prosecution.

Expressing the belief that Vietnam could benefit substantially from the involvement and empowerment of non-governmental organizations and environmental activists, the Canadian mission emphasized that this involvement would contribute to Vietnam's climate change objectives and ensure a sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future for its citizens.

This stance aligns with previous condemnations from the United Nations and various Western nations, including France, the UK, and the USA, over Hong's sentencing on tax evasion charges. She is the fifth person in Vietnam convicted of this offense since 2021.

The arrest and imprisonment of climate activists in Vietnam have attracted international attention, especially as Vietnam aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and transition to clean energy with the support of a $15.5 billion package from the Equitable Energy Transition Partnership agreement. The United States, Canada, the EU, the United Kingdom, France, and others sponsor this agreement.

The U.S. State Department, in a statement following Hong's sentencing on Sept. 28,  expressed deep concern, highlighting the vital role played by NGOs in addressing global challenges and advocating for sustainable solutions in the fight against climate change and illegal trafficking. They urged Vietnam to release individuals wrongfully detained and uphold freedom of expression and association within the country.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Vietnam tried to hack U.S. officials, CNN with posts on X, probe finds

The Washington Post/ Joseph Menn, Max Hoppenstedt, Michael Birnbaum, Yann Philippin, Rafael Buschmann and Nicola Naber/ Oct. 9

“Vietnamese government agents tried to plant spyware on the phones of members of Congress, American policy experts and U.S. journalists this year in a brazen campaign that underscores the rapid proliferation of state-of-the-art hacking tools, according to forensic examination of links posted to Twitter and documents uncovered by a consortium of news outlets that includes The Washington Post.

Targeted were two of the most influential foreign policy voices on Capitol Hill: Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and chair of its subcommittee on the Middle East. Also targeted were Asia experts at Washington think tanks and journalists from CNN, including Jim Sciutto, the outlet’s chief national security analyst, and two Asia-based reporters.

The targeting came as Vietnamese and American diplomats were negotiating a major cooperation agreement intended to counter growing Chinese influence in the region, when Vietnamese diplomats would have been particularly interested in Washington’s views on China and issues in Asia. President Biden signed the agreement in September during a visit to Vietnam.

‘Through all the evidence and documents we have seen we believe that Predator was sold from Intellexa through several intermediaries to the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security,’ Donncha Ó Cearbhaill, head of Amnesty’s Security Lab, told The Post. The Vietnamese government declined to comment.”

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