Xi Jinping Reminds Vietnam President Vo Van Thuong of the Two Countries' Traditional Friendship; Vietnam Criminalizes Disrupting Public Order over Online Conduct

Xi Jinping Reminds Vietnam President Vo Van Thuong of the Two Countries' Traditional Friendship; Vietnam Criminalizes Disrupting Public Order over Online Conduct

Chinese Leader Xi Jinping Emphasizes Traditional Friendship in Talks with Vietnamese Official

Reuters reported on Oct. 20, 2023, that Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong to discuss the importance of their traditional friendship. The meeting comes amid increasing influence competition in Southeast Asia between China and the United States. Vietnam recently elevated its ties with the United States to a comprehensive strategic partnership, which has been seen as a notable shift in the region's power dynamics.

Despite a brief war in 1979, China has maintained strong ties with Vietnam since establishing diplomatic relations in 1950. China supported Vietnam in its military struggles against France and the United States. President Xi urged both countries not to forget the "original intention" of their traditional friendship, considering the evolving international situation and their domestic development challenges.

Xi emphasized the importance of joint consultation and suggested that China and Vietnam should leverage their geographic proximity and complement industries for mutual benefit. While there have been reports of a potential visit by President Xi to Hanoi in late October or early November, details about that visit and any potential announcements have not been confirmed. It was not mentioned in the Chinese state media's summary of President Xi's meeting with President Thuong.

In a related development, Vietnamese state media reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin accepted an invitation from President Thuong to visit Vietnam soon. President Joe Biden of the United States visited Hanoi in September.

A Vietnamese Model Has Been Detained for Traffic Violations and Disturbance of Public Order for Posting a Video of her Stunt Online

The Ho Chi Minh City Police Department has temporarily detained model Tran Thi Ngoc Trinh and her associate, Tran Xuan Dong, concerning traffic violations and disturbing public order. The charges are based on the Vietnamese Penal Code, with Ngoc Trinh facing disturbing public order charges. At the same time, Tran Xuan Dong is accused of "using fake documents from agencies and organizations" and "disrupting public order."

The police investigation revealed that on Oct. 6, Ngoc Trinh, who did not possess the required A2 motorbike driving license, along with Tran Xuan Dong, engaged in the dangerous act of riding a large motorbike without following traffic regulations. They allegedly performed dangerous stunts and offensive postures and failed to wear protective gear. These activities were recorded and shared on social media platforms, causing public concern and a public backlash.

The police concluded their actions posed risks to the area's safety, order, and traffic. State media reported that Ngoc Trinh recorded and shared videos of these motorbike stunts on her TikTok account, which has 6.8 million followers. The videos received significant engagement, with 478,000 likes, 4,881 comments, 9,848 saves, and 5,787 shares as of Oct. 12, 2023.

However, human rights attorney Dang Dinh Manh raised his concerns over this arrest. Discussing the case with Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, he stated that Ngoc Trinh faced allegations of posting a video featuring her performance on a large-displacement vehicle on social media to her millions of followers. These actions were claimed to have negatively impacted safety, order, and overall societal well-being. However, the alleged crime scene where she supposedly committed the offense, was not a physical street. Instead, it was in the realm of the online social network space. This interpretation raises questions among those knowledgeable about the law, Manh said.

Manh further stated that according to Article 318 of the Penal Code, which outlines the offense of “disturbing public order,” it is stipulated that the crime scene should be a public place. The term “place”, utilized in various legal documents, signifies that a public place refers to a specific physical location on the ground and does not include an online social network space. This presents a significant departure from the prevailing understanding within the Ho Chi Minh City Police Department in the Ngoc Trinh case.

Human Rights Organization Urges Vietnam to Cease Support for Myanmar Military

Justice for Myanmar (JFM), a human rights organization, has called on Vietnam to halt its financial and military support for the Myanmar military government. They also urged the international community to penalize various businesses, including Vietnamese entities, for assisting the Myanmar Army in violating human rights.

JFM's call follows a criminal investigation opened by the Prosecutor's Office in Ravensburg, Germany, into ND SatCom GmbH for supplying communications equipment to the Myanmar Army, which was used in suppressing opposition and committing genocide against the Rohingya ethnic group. It has been alleged that a Vietnamese business was aiding the Myanmar military or acting as an intermediary in purchasing this communication equipment.

According to JFM's investigation, ND SatCom GmbH, a German satellite communications group, has substantially supported the Myanmar Army's satellite communications system since 2016. This included 5G satellite communications hardware and software for military communications equipment.

Moreover, the equipment from ND SatCom was reportedly sent from Vietnam to the Myanmar military as recently as October 2021. The supply involved a company known as Com & Com Co. Ltd., a joint venture between Myanmar's Terabit Wave Co. Ltd. and Vietnam's OSB Investment and Technology Joint Stock Company (OSB) headquartered in Hanoi.

JFM also identified the involvement of a Singaporean company called Interspace Technical Services Pte. Ltd., which provided ND SatCom equipment to the Myanmar military. Notably, this company is owned by Nguyen Hong Son, co-founder, chairman, and CEO of OSB and director of Com & Com.

JFM has accused ND SatCom of improving the Myanmar Army's communication capabilities, enabling grave human rights abuses. The organization alleges that ND SatCom's technology facilitated widespread violence, including indiscriminate killings, torture, rape, village destruction, food deprivation, and forced mass displacement.

The organization has called on Germany and the EU  countries to penalize businesses and individuals involved in assisting the Myanmar Army and complicity in international crimes. They also urged Vietnam and Singapore, both of which voted in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution to stop weapons flow to Myanmar and to cease all activities related to transferring weapons, equipment, technology, and funds to the military government.

JFM Spokesperson Yadanar Maung expressed disappointment that Vietnam, as an ASEAN member, continued to support the Myanmar military despite its commitment to international human rights responsibilities. The organization has urged Vietnam to cease its financial and military assistance to the military government.

Vietnamese Diaspora in San Francisco Protests Religious Delegation's Visit

A group of people of Vietnamese origin gathered in front of the Vietnamese Consulate General in San Francisco on Oct. 19 to protest against the Vietnamese government's involvement in independent religious groups in the country. This demonstration coincided with the visit of a ministerial-level interdisciplinary working group from Vietnam to the United States, which included religious dignitaries whom the protesters referred to as "state monks."

Thanh Quach, one of the protesters, stated that the "Religious Movement" delegation of the Vietnamese government was visiting the United States, with its final stop being Washington, D.C. He emphasized that the protest aimed to voice their concerns against Vietnam's dictatorship, human rights abuses, and religious oppression.

The protesters expressed their disapproval of the delegation led by Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Vu Chien Thang, which included religious officials and leaders of religious groups believed to be state-supported. Deputy Minister Vu Chien Thang oversees the Government Committee for Religious Affairs, the agency responsible for managing religious groups in Vietnam.

Video clips on social media showed dozens of protesters holding banners and signs denouncing "state-controlled" religious groups. Nguyen Thanh Giau, president of the Hoa Hao Central Buddhist Association and general secretary of the Overseas Interfaith Council, addressed the gathering, emphasizing the need to raise awareness about religious suppression by the Vietnamese government.

Voice of America (VOA) attempted to contact the Consulate General of Vietnam in San Francisco, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Vietnam for comments on the protest but did not receive a response.

In early October, another delegation led by the head of the Government Committee for Religious Affairs, Vu Hoai Bac, visited the United States to attend the 30th Annual International Conference on Law and Religion in Utah. At the conference, Bac spoke about Vietnam's freedom of belief and religion. He highlighted the "achievements achieved in the past," the Government Committee for Religious Affairs reported.

During a meeting in Hanoi earlier in the month, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Vu Chien Thang discussed the visit of the U.S. delegation with U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Marc Knapper, scheduled from Oct. 10 to Oct. 23. Thang requested U.S. support for the working group's tasks outlined in their program and urged Knapper to advocate for the removal of Vietnam from the "Special Watch List on Religious Freedom" by the U.S. State Department. In December 2022, the U.S. State Department included Vietnam on this list due to concerns about serious violations of religious freedom, a designation that Hanoi disputes.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Chinese Leader’s Visit Reflects Vietnam’s ‘Omnidirectional’ Foreign Policy

The Diplomat/ Khang Vu/ Oct. 19

“Vietnam and China are reportedly preparing for a possible visit by China’s President Xi Jinping to Vietnam at the end of this month or early next. The visit, if it happens, will come around two months after U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to Hanoi, during which he announced the elevation of U.S.-Vietnam ties to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, and one year after Communist Party of Vietnam General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong last visited Beijing in November 2022, the first visit by a foreign leader to China after the COVID-19 pandemic.

One item reportedly on the agenda of Xi’s mooted Hanoi visit is the elevation of Vietnam-China ties, especially the inclusion of the phrase ‘community of common destiny’ in the joint statement, to signal that China wants to put Vietnam at the ‘highest level of bilateral relations for the Xi Jinping administration.’

Xi’s visit to Hanoi, should it eventuate, will thus be a demonstration of China’s tolerance of Vietnamese foreign policy initiatives, which is offered in exchange for Vietnam’s acquiescence and efforts to inform and reassure China of its benign intentions. If Vietnam agrees to join China’s ‘community of common destiny,” such a move should not be seen as Hanoi joining a China-led coalition against the United States but as compensation to Beijing for “leapfrogging” its ties with the United States straight to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The worst outcome for Vietnam is not Chinese pressure for it to join more China-led initiatives, but a situation in which China no longer invites Vietnam to join and concludes that Vietnam’s actions to foster ties with extra-regional powers constitute a spiral towards a China-Vietnam conflict.”

‘They challenged the Communist monopoly’: Vietnam regime turns on its climate champions

The Guardian/Rebecca Ratcliffe/Oct. 16

“Less than 12 months ago G7 countries agreed to provide billions of dollars to help Vietnam ditch coal. The funding was described as a “gamechanger in the fight against climate change” by Rishi Sunak, the British prime minister. It was designed to help Vietnam achieve a “just and equitable” energy transition, with input from civil society.

But in the months that have followed, Vietnam has continued a crackdown on environmentalists, jailing NGO leaders and technical experts who specialise in clean energy.

Last month, Ngo Thi To Nhien, the director of an independent energy policy thinktank, who has worked with the World Bank, EU, and UN, and who was due to attend COP28 in November, was detained. She is the sixth expert working on environmental issues to be arrested over the past two years. Two consultants she worked with, Duong Duc Viet and Le Quoc Anh, were also arrested.

In comments reported in state-run media, the government has denied that it is targeting environmentalists, and has said those recently arrested have been treated in accordance with the law.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Pham Thu Hang told media earlier this month: ‘We completely reject false information with bad intentions about Vietnam’s crimefighting and prevention activities as well as Vietnam’s external relations.’

Project 88, which analysed the criminal cases filed against four individuals accused of tax evasion prior to 2023, found they were denied a fair trial, including prompt access to a lawyer, were kept in pre-trial detention, and given prison sentences even though this is not the norm in such cases.

Dang Dinh Bach remains in prison, and it is believed that Bach Hung Duong is also still in detention. Two others–Nguy Thi Khanh and Mai Phan Loi–have been released.

Ole Bruun, professor in society and globalisation at Roskilde University, said that after the latest arrests there was ‘great anxiety’ among academics and NGO workers. ‘I know that some prominent NGO leaders are also considering leaving,’ he added.

The G7 should call for the release of any activists who remained in detention, said Swanton, who added that funding attached to JETP should be used as leverage. ‘It seems to me that there is much more concern [among the G7] with preserving diplomatic accomplishments like JETP, than actually protecting the activists who made it possible in the first place,’ he said.

It was unrealistic to expect change without environmentalists, he added. ‘When there’s no civil society that’s engaged in the country’s energy transition, then there’s no one to hold the government accountable.’”

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