Chinese President Xi Jinping Visits Vietnam, Calls for the Building of a “Community of Shared Future”

Chinese President Xi Jinping Visits Vietnam, Calls for the Building of a “Community of Shared Future”

Chinese President Xi Jinping Visits Hanoi, Pushes Forward the Establishing of a “Community of Shared Future”

Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong called for strengthening their strategic relationship during a meeting in Hanoi. The two leaders agreed to boost cooperation in multiple sectors, including security, trade, construction, telecommunications, and the digital economy, among other things. During Xi’s two-day visit to Hanoi, between Dec. 12 and 13, the two Communist leaders agreed to move towards becoming a “community of shared future,” a Chinese term also translated as “a community of common destiny.”

The Vietnamese delegation at Noi Bai International Airport to greet President Xi and First Lady Peng Liyuan on Dec. 12 included Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son.

Xi’s trip to Hanoi marked the 15th anniversary of establishing the Vietnam-China “comprehensive strategic relationship,” the highest rung in Vietnam’s diplomatic hierarchy. Last September, Hanoi elevated its bilateral partnership with Washington, putting the United States on a par with China’s in Vietnamese diplomacy. Despite their shared political systems, Hanoi and Beijing remain at odds over maritime claims in the South China Sea.

China is currently Vietnam’s largest trading partner, with a bilateral trade of $175.6 billion in 2022 and a trade deficit in China’s favor. During Xi’s visit, both countries announced 36 cooperation deals focusing on diplomatic ties, railways, road connectivity, and telecommunications. Reuters reported that although details of the deals remained undisclosed, digital economy pacts could pave the way for Chinese assistance in building a 5G network in Vietnam and investments in undersea infrastructure.

Diplomatically, Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam’s most powerful man, has been hailed for the flexibility of his “Bamboo diplomacy” in navigating Vietnam through the increasing competition between the United States and China by keeping a cordial relationship with both superpowers. But in an interview with The New York Times, Alexander Vuving, a professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, said Vietnam has to “dance on a very thin tightrope, and the tightrope has become even thinner.”

After the Vietnam visit, his fourth overseas trip this year, the Chinese president wrapped up the trip by calling Hanoi to stop external forces from causing problems in the Asia-Pacific region. “Both sides should be alert to and oppose any attempts to mess up Asia-Pacific,” Xi said on Dec. 13, in a veiled reference to the United States.

Before arriving in Vietnam, Xi Jinping published an opinion piece in Nhân Dân, the official journal of the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP), putting forward his idea of “building a community of common destiny.” Xi added that “to build a community that shares the future of humanity, we must first start from Asia,” metaphorically referring to Asia as a “shared home” where “neighboring countries cannot be separated from each other” and where “helping our neighbors is helping ourselves.”

During his talks with the VCP General Secretary Trong on Dec. 12, Xi proposed possible coordination with Vietnam in six major areas, including politics, security, practical cooperation, public support, international and regional issues, and maritime issues, Chinese state media reported.

In response to Xi’s proposals, Trong pledged that “Vietnam firmly adheres to the one-China principle and recognizes Taiwan as an inalienable part of China's territory” while strongly opposing any form of “Taiwan independence” separatist activities. The VCP chief also noted that “issues related to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and the Tibet Autonomous Region are China's internal affairs” and that Vietnam “opposes any external interference in China's internal affairs, and hopes and believes that China will maintain stability, development, and prosperity,” according to Chinese state media.

In a joint statement released on Dec. 13, Vietnamese and Chinese leadership vowed to resolve their maritime disputes under international law. Most notably, the joint statement called for forging “cooperation between the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security and China’s security and law-enforcement agencies in the fields of security, intelligence, particularly deepening cooperation in government security and regime security.”

Both regimes also promised to boost security cooperation and intelligence sharing in their attempt to counter the so-called “color revolution” posed by “hostile forces” while seeking to “strengthen cooperation in preventing and fighting legal violations in religion and managing non-governmental organizations.” At the same time, Hanoi and Beijing agreed “not to politicize the human rights issue and not to use the human rights issue to interfere in other country’s internal affairs,” which was seen as a coordinated counter to the criticism of the abysmal rights records of the two countries by Western countries.

Hmong Activist Arrested in Thailand After Denouncing Vietnam’s Suppression of Ethnic Minorities

Lu A Da, a Bangkok-based human rights advocate for the Hmong minority in Vietnam, was arrested by Thai police on Dec. 7, two weeks after he publicly condemned Hanoi’s suppression of Hmong ethnic communities. Lu, who worked as a missionary and minister at the Northern Evangelical Church of Vietnam, fled Vietnam with his family in 2020 to Thailand due to ethnic and religious persecution. 

The family applied for refugee status twice, but their application has yet to be approved.

Giang Thi A, Lu’s wife, told RFA in an interview that Thai police detained him and when he was washing a vehicle with their daughter. Giang said that Lu is being held in a police station and was told that if they pay 10,000 baht ($287) as bail, Lu would be transferred to Thailand’s Immigration Detention Center. She explained that the bail is an administrative fee on Lu for entering Thailand illegally in 2020.

Although the police haven’t stated the reason, Lu’s recent criticism of Vietnam's human rights record might be linked to his detention. As of December 2023, more than 1,000 H’mong asylum seekers are living in Thailand, according to the Hmong Human Rights Coalition, an ethnic minority advocacy group in Thailand.

After her husband’s arrest, Giang Thi A sought assistance to secure bail from the Center for Asylum Protection (CAP) in Bangkok. “Yesterday, an attorney there said that they would be paying the fine for my husband today so that the police could send him to the IDC right away,” she told RFA Vietnamese. The head of CAP said that the organization was working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Bangkok to support Lu A Da.

Vietnam Sentences Hoa Hao Buddhist Member to Eight Years in Prison

A Vietnamese court in An Giang Province on Dec. 11 sentenced Nguyen Hoang Nam, 41, a member of the Hoa Hao Buddhist community, to an eight-year prison sentence for “distributing anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Penal Code. Human rights activists and advocacy organizations have called for the abolition of this ambiguous law, which the Vietnamese government frequently utilizes to silence critics and dissidents.

Nam's trial lasted only two hours and lacked witnesses. The indictment said that he had used four Facebook accounts to share and disseminate images and video clips with content critical of the ruling Communist Party and the state, state media said. The prosecutors alleged that he had live-streamed satirical content and filmed local government officials passing by his home and then posted those on his social media account to defame the officials. Nam denied this allegation.

Lam Thi Yen Trinh, Nam’s wife, told RFA Vietnamese that only she and her husband were in the courtroom. She said the witnesses didn’t come, although the court invited them because they couldn’t afford the travel expenses. 

Moreover, Nam didn’t have any lawyer defending him at the trial. According to Trinh, her family signed a contract to hire an attorney from Ho Chi Minh City. Still, the attorney was not allowed to see Nam before the trial or defend her husband before the court due to a prohibition by the head of the law firm. She refused to disclose the lawyer’s name or the firm.

Hoa Hao is a Buddhist sect popular in southern Vietnam. Although the government officially recognizes the Hoa Hao sect, it imposes strict restrictions on its followers and forces them to join state-approved Buddhist groups. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese government’s hostility towards this sect also resulted from the fact that Hoa Hao Buddhists were well-known for their strong resistance against the communist Viet Minh troops during the Vietnam War.

Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director of Human Rights Watch, in an interview with RFA condemned the sentence, calling it "absurd" and said it highlighted Vietnam’s suppression of dissent.

“Locking people away for years for peacefully expressing views is what petty dictatorships do, and shows just how the Vietnamese government falls pathetically short in meeting its obligations to respect human rights,” he added. Robertson also called on the Vietnamese government to immediately release Nguyen Hoang Nam and “end its campaign of harassment against Hoa Hao Buddhists who refuse to come under the state’s rigid control.”

Thanh Hoa Police Department Arrests a Former Teacher for “Abusing Democratic Freedoms” 

On Dec. 13, the Police Investigation Agency of Hau Loc District Police, Thanh Hoa, detained Nguyen Thi Xuyen, 49, to investigate the alleged act of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the state and the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals” under Article 331 of the Penal Code. 

According to Thanh Hoa Provincial Police, Nguyen Thi Xuyen regularly used social media to post and share “false and unverified information that offends the honor and dignity of many organizations and individuals,” which allegedly “cause confusion and negatively affect public opinion.” The police also searched Xuyen's residence, confiscating three cell phones, a laptop, livestreaming equipment, and documents.

According to Giáo Dục (Education) Newspaper, Xuyen,  a secondary school teacher in Ngu Loc Commune, Hau Loc District,  accused Nguyen Thai Son, the former principal of Ngu Loc Secondary School, of receiving additional teaching allowances between September 2016 and August 2019, although he didn't prepare the lesson plans in advance or teach the required number of lessons per week under his contract.

Son was later found responsible for these violations and received a fine of about 54 million dong ($2,200).

Later, the Ngu Loc Secondary School unilaterally terminated the teaching contract with Xuyen, reportedly based on the results of an evaluation of her performance from 2019 to 2022. Xuyen told the Education Newspaper that she disagreed with this decision.

The Thanh Hoa Police Department added that on Dec. 1, 2020, Xuyen received a fine of 7.5 million dong due to the same defamation allegation. In March 2021, she received another 7.5 million dong fine imposed by Hau Loc District Police for “giving beer to underaged children.”

Vietnam Postpones Appeals Hearing for “Rescue Flight” Appellants

The Hanoi High People’s Court has postponed the appeal hearing for 21 individuals involved in the controversial “rescue flight” case from Dec. 20 to Dec. 25, citing “objective reasons,” state media reported. The session is expected to last four days and involve around 30 defense lawyers.

The defendants who appealed their sentences include Hoang Van Hung, an ex-investigator at the Ministry of Public Security’s (MPS) Security Investigation Agency, and Tran Minh Tuan, a construction company director. Hung received a life sentence, and Tuan faces 18 years imprisonment.

The remaining 19 defendants reportedly sought sentence reductions. They include former Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister To Anh Dung, who received a 16-year sentence, Tran Van Tan, former vice chairman of the People’s Committee of Quang Nam Province, and other officials sentenced to life, including Nguyen Thi Huong Lan, former director of the Consular Department, (former secretary of Deputy Minister of Health) and Vu Anh Tuan (former officer at the Immigration Department of the MPS).

Other individuals who were convicted of bribery during the “rescue flight” trial this year include a former assistant of Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Quang Linh, who received a seven-year sentence, and ex-Hanoi Vice Chairman Chu Xuan Dung, who was sentenced to three years in prison. Both chose not to appeal their bribery convictions. Two former ambassadors, Vu Hong Nam, and Vu Ngoc Minh, accepted their 30-month sentences.

Land Rights Activist Trinh Ba Phuong Forced to Plead Guilty in Exchange for Sentence Reduction

Vietnamese prisoner of conscience and land rights activist Trinh Ba Phuong recently met with two security officials, Bach and Vu, and another police officer from Ha Dong District, Hanoi, in An Diem Prison, Quang Nam Province. During the meeting, Phuong reportedly rejected their proposal to have his sentence reduced by pleading guilty to the crimes he allegedly committed, according to his family.

In a trial in December 2021, Phuong received a 10-year sentence for allegedly “distributing anti-state materials.”

Do Thi Thu, Trinh Ba Phuong’s wife, told RFA that Phuong informed her about the meeting in a call he made on Dec. 11. Thu added that before going to the prison to meet Phuong, the security officials also approached his family and asked them to convince him to plead guilty. Still, Thu said the family refused their demand. Trinh Ba Phuong has been transferred to different prison camps twice since he was convicted.

“They asked my husband what his opinion was [about the conviction], and my husband told them that his opinion was not to plead guilty and that after he is released from prison, he would continue to fight Communism to its end,” Thu told RFA. “They [the security officials] told my husband that he had to be reeducated; my husband answered that it was them who had to be reeducated so that Vietnam would no longer violate human rights and steal people’s land."

Attorney Nguyen Van Mieng, one of the defense lawyers of Trinh Ba Phuong, said that the security investigation agencies' desire for prisoners of conscience to confess their crimes illustrates the unjust nature of the sentences. 

Meanwhile, attorney Dang Dinh Manh, another lawyer of Phuong, said that the authorities needed evidence to convince the public and the international community about the legitimacy and correctness of these political cases by forcing political prisoners to admit their alleged crimes. “The best way is through the testimony and confessions of political prisoners expressed in written documents,” Manh added.

Reporters Without Borders Condemns Vietnam’s Imprisonment of Social Media User Le Minh The

Press freedom advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued a statement on Dec. 12 condemning Vietnam’s sentencing of Le Minh The, a social media commentator, to two and a half years in prison on the charge of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the Penal Code. The was convicted by a court in Can Tho City on Dec. 6 for publishing articles on pollution and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

“Le Minh The was only serving the public interest by commenting on his country’s environmental and international issues and should never have been detained, let alone sent back behind bars,” said Cédric Alviani, RSF Asia-Pacific Bureau Director. “We call on democracies to step up pressure on the regime to obtain the commentator’s release alongside all 36 other journalists and press freedom defenders detained.”

RSF also raised concerns over the ill-treatment of journalists in Vietnamese prisons. On August 2, 2022, Vietnamese freelance reporter Do Cong Duong died in detention at the age of 58 as a result of mistreatment. More recently, Le Trong Hung, a former teacher and independent writer, lost 24 pounds after he initiated a month-long hunger strike last September to protest against his detention conditions, RSF wrote.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Xi Jinping and Joe Biden Compete to Win Over Vietnam, the Region’s Critical Partner

Council on Foreign Relations/ Joshua Kurlantzick/ Dec. 12

“Vietnam has a long history of wars and historical enmity with China, and China is not generally popular with the Vietnamese public, which has erupted in multiple anti-China protests in recent years. Hanoi also, among Southeast Asian states affected by China’s increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea, has been most assertive in pushing back, by bolstering ties with powers like Japan and the United States, upgrading Vietnamese coastal forces, and, at times, directly and forcefully confronting Chinese vessels in a way the Philippines and other claimants have not or cannot.”

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