Chinese President Xi Jinping to Visit Vietnam; Authorities in Ho Chi Minh City Enforce Convictions of Loc Hung Residents

Chinese President Xi Jinping to Visit Vietnam; Authorities in Ho Chi Minh City Enforce Convictions of Loc Hung Residents

Chinese President Xi Jinping to Visit Vietnam

Chinese President Xi Jinping will make a state visit to Vietnam from Dec. 12 to 13 at the invitation of Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and State President Vo Van Thuong, according to a statement released on Dec. 7 by the VCP Central Committee's Commission for External Relations. The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced Xi's Vietnam visit on the same day, Reuters reported, saying that he will meet with top state officials and discuss upgrading the two countries' relations.

China is Vietnam’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade turnover between the two countries reaching $175.6 billion in 2022. In the same year, Vietnam's exports to China were valued at $57.7 billion, while China exported goods worth $117.87 billion to Vietnam, which are considered essential for Vietnam's manufacturing sector.

Besides mutual economic interests, both countries share a similar political system. According to Vietnam's state media, Xi's upcoming trip marks the 15th anniversary of establishing the comprehensive strategic partnership between Vietnam and China. This will be Xi’s third visit to Vietnam as China's party general secretary and president. Last October, the Chinese President told Vietnam's President Vo Van Thuong that both countries must not forget the “original intention” of their traditional friendship.

Last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid a two-day visit to Hanoi, possibly paving the way for Xi Jinping's trip this week. During his stay, Yi met with Vietnam's top officials, including Party Secretary Trong, State President Thuong, and Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang. Vietnamese and Chinese officials agreed to settle maritime disputes under international law and to bolster cooperation in multiple sectors.

Vietnam's President Vo Van Thuong said as he received Wang Yi at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on Dec. 1 that “Vietnam and China are close neighbors, with several similarities regarding history, culture, and the determination to follow socialism under the Communist Party's leadership." "Vietnam considers its relationship with China a strategic choice and top priority in its foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, diversification and multilateralization," he added.

Hanoi has earlier elevated its relations with South Korea, the United States, and Japan to a "comprehensive strategic partnership," putting them on the same diplomatic level as China and Russia.

Parliamentary Official Luu Binh Nhuong Accused of Protecting a Gang Business

Luu Binh Nhuong, an outspoken Vietnamese parliamentary official, was accused of using his authority to influence the local authorities in Thai Binh to protect the illegal sand mining of a criminal gang in the province, according to an announcement from Lai Hop Manh, the director of the Thai Binh People's Procuracy. Manh divulged the information on Dec. 7 during a Thai Binh Provincial People's Council meeting.

According to Manh, the detention of Luu Binh Nhuong on Nov. 14 resulted from another investigation into the case of Pham Minh Cuong, 37, a former felon and gang member residing in Thai Thuy District, Thai Binh Province. Nhuong was accused of being involved in Cuong's extortion scheme.

The police investigation agency claimed that Luu Binh Nhuong previously adopted Cuong as his nephew while Cuong treated Nhuong as his adoptive father. Therefore, Cuong used his alleged relationship with Nhuong and asked him to influence the authorities of Thai Binh to protect his illegal business from the oversight of local police and the sabotage of similar criminal gangs in the province. Nhuong's alleged involvement was deemed unlawful, resulting in his detention.

Nguyen Truong Chinh, the father of wrongful death-row inmate Nguyen Van Chuong, cast doubt on the arrest of Nhuong. Nhuong was the only governmental official met with Chinh and his wife on the case of Nguyen Van Chuong and publicly supported the theory that Chuong was convicted and sentenced to death wrongly. Chinh believed that the government arrested Nhuong because he supported the wrongful victims of Vietnam's legal system.

Vietnam Convicts a Social Media User for the Second Time for “Abusing Democratic Freedoms”

A Vietnamese court in Binh Thuy District, Can Tho City, on Dec. 6 sentenced Le Minh The, a social media user, to 30 months in prison on charges of "abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the state and the legitimate rights and interests of other organizations and individuals," under Article 331 of the Penal Code. This is the second time he has been charged and convicted of violating Article 331.

The, 60, was arrested on Feb. 22 this year after the Department of Cyber ​​Security and High-Tech Crime Prevention and Control of Can Tho City Police found that The had allegedly used his two personal Facebook accounts, "Minh The" and "Le Minh The," to post, share and comment on articles containing content aimed at "distorting the Communist Party's guidelines and the state's laws and policies." 

The police investigation agency added that The also posted livestreaming on social media, attracting anti-state critics living in Vietnam and abroad. The police alleged in a statement that those live streamings had “called for the overthrow of the government and demanded political pluralism and separation of powers in Vietnam.”

The refused his right to have a defense lawyer because he believed he was innocent, according to his family. Le Thi Nghia Tinh, his daughter, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that the family had been informed about the trial a few days earlier. Tinh said in a message to RFA that her mother was allowed to attend the trial but was only allowed to observe the trial through a monitor in another room near the courtroom.

The Can Tho social media user was first arrested in October 2018 under Article 331. He was accused of using Facebook to "host livestreaming that contained propaganda defaming the VCP and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam." The police said his livestreaming sought to "sabotage national unity, cause divisions between the people and the party, and harm national security and social safety." He was convicted during a trial in March 2019 and was released from prison in July 2020.

Ho Chi Minh City Authorities Enforce Convictions for Loc Hung Garden Residents

The authorities of Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City, on the morning of Dec. 7, sent a large number of police and security forces to surround and build barricades made of metal sheets around the Loc Hung Garden area, forcibly evicting the remaining residents of the area from their makeshift homes, according to representatives of the evicted households. As of this writing, the dispute between the residents of Loc Hung Garden and Tan Binh District authorities has not been resolved.

Photos shared by Loc Hung residents showed that many police and plainclothes security forces were deployed to block all roads leading to the disputed area. Many former residents of Loc Hung said on social media that there was a heavy presence of police officers around their homes, preventing them from going outside.

Cao Ha Truc, one of the Loc Hung residents who has not received the compensation, said police and security forces surrounded his residence on the morning of Dec. 7. 

"Today, beginning at 6 a.m., [the Tan Binh authorities] sent around 400 police officers and security forces to surround Loc Hung Garden. Then, they blocked the doors of the former residents of Loc Hung and did not allow them to enter or leave. They sent excavators and trucks carrying iron frames and corrugated iron sheets [to the disputed Loc Hung Garden]. Then, the excavators started to dig and plant corrugated iron pillars to barricade Loc Hung Garden," Truc told RFA on Dec. 7.

In January 2019, local authorities sent bulldozers to demolish the homes of Loc Hung Garden residents, making hundreds of residents of this settlement homeless overnight. In addition to flattening more than 500 homes in the area, Ho Chi Minh City authorities also destroyed their crops and gardens, claiming these structures had been built illegally.

The evicted residents had to relocate to other places or establish makeshift dwellings, and the land has since remained unused. Many of the Loc Hung residents are Catholics, political dissidents, and veterans of the former Army of the Republic of Vietnam. For years, they have sought legal assistance from lawyers and sent numerous petitions to the central government, but the case has not yet been resolved.

Last November, the Tan Binh authorities introduced a plan to raise compensation for the evicted Loc Hung Garden households to solve the years-long dispute. The authorities also announced that three schools would be built on the property once the case is settled. However, many Loc Hung residents who lost their homes in the area rejected the compensation offered by the authorities, saying that they are much lower than the market price.

CIVICUS Report: Vietnam Increased its Political Repression Despite UN Human Rights Membership

A new report recently published by the South Africa-based CIVICUS Monitor, "People Power Under Attack 2023," reveals escalating repression against civil society organizations, journalists, and protesters in various Asia-Pacific nations. Vietnam was singled out for its failure to uphold human rights despite being a UN Human Rights Council member. The South African advocacy group classified Vietnam’s civil society as “closed” again this year.

Other countries in the region, including Afghanistan, China, Hong Kong, Laos, Myanmar, North Korea, and Bangladesh, are also categorized as "closed” in terms of civic space. CIVICUS cites numerous instances of repression in Vietnam, including the imprisonment of several activists such as Truong Van Dung, Bui Tuan Lam, and Dang Dang Phuoc. The report also highlights worsening prison conditions, increased censorship, and restrictions on peaceful protests.

Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Monitor's Asia-Pacific researcher, in an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA), expressed his concern over the criminalization of human rights defenders, including environmental and minority rights activists. Benedict called on the international community to pressure Vietnam to fulfill its human rights obligations. He urged neighboring countries to protect dissidents and to condemn Vietnam's "transnational repression" tactics.

Vietnamese Victims of Human Trafficking in Myanmar Plead for Help

RFA reported that 166 Vietnamese citizens are stranded in a war zone near the China-Myanmar border after being rescued from an online gambling work scheme. These Vietnamese nationals, trafficked to Myanmar to work at online gambling companies,  were rescued by the Myanmar junta authorities in October. But they have been stranded in a war zone near the border with China and cannot leave the Southeast Asian country, according to a video they made.

These workers, who say they are running out of food and want officials to help them leave Myanmar, recorded a video of themselves chanting that they are Vietnamese citizens and have been stuck in Myanmar for 40 days without food, electricity, or water.

"We are now living in cold weather, and our food is exhausted because we have run out of money," they said in the video, which a relative of one of those stranded sent to Radio Free Asia. "Please help us to return to Vietnam as soon as possible, Vietnamese Embassy! Save us, please!"

RFA said it could not independently verify the video. A reporter made multiple attempts to contact the stranded people. However, the reporter did not receive any responses.

These Vietnamese citizens had been trafficked to northern Myanmar to work for online gambling companies, where they faced harsh working conditions and abuse by their employers. The trapped Vietnamese workers are among the hundreds of thousands of people who have been trafficked by organized criminal gangs to Southeast Asia and forced into working at illegal casinos or online scams, according to a United Nations report issued in August.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Vietnam’s Upgraded Ties With Japan ‘Do Not Bode Well’ for China

VOA News/ Le Nguyen/ Dec. 6

“Because Beijing’s assertiveness is rattling many countries in the region, including Japan and Vietnam, the upgraded ties also have significant security dimensions, according to Alexander Vuving, a professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu.

Vietnam and Japan are engaged in territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea and East China Sea, respectively.

Vuving said that since Japan and Vietnam are among the nations most committed to pushing back against Chinese domination in the region, China ‘is worried about Japan and Vietnam getting closer.’”

Vietnam Struggles with High Abortion Rates as Consequence of Gender Selection: ‘People Have to Rely on Their Sons’

South China Morning Post/ DPA/ Dec. 5

“Vietnamese culture is still influenced by Confucianism and couples still tend to hope for sons, who are considered better at managing family wealth, caring for ageing parents and performing rituals to honour ancestors.

“Despite gender-selective abortion being illegal in Vietnam, many parents are finding ways to make sure they have boys, who are preferred culturally,” Dr Khuat Thu Hong, director of the Hanoi-based Institute for Social Development Studies, said. ‘In Vietnam, the reality is that people still have to rely on their sons so that when they get old, they will have someone to take care of them.’”

Vietnam’s Corruption, Poor Economic Management Will Hinder its Growth — as Truong My Lan Scandal Shows

South China Morning Post/ Zachary Abuza/ Dec. 3

“The scale of the VTP fraud is just breathtaking. So what does this case say about Vietnam’s economic management?

First, Vietnamese regulators have proven to be overwhelmed by the economy’s growth. The ease of establishing shell corporations, the culture of complex cross-ownership, and the lack of due diligence, led to US$12.5 billion in embezzlement at one bank alone.

This was an abject failure of oversight. One year after Lan’s arrest, no senior leader in the government or central bank has lost their job over the VTP/SCB scandal.”

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