Civil Society Groups Propose Recommendations for Vietnam Ahead of Periodic Human Rights Review Representatives of four non-governmental organizations on Feb.
Activist Nguyen Thuy Hanh Begins Cancer Treatment as Lawyers and Her Family Call for Her Release on Humanitarian Grounds
Activist Nguyen Thuy Hanh Begins Cancer Treatment Following Earlier Diagnosis
Vietnamese activist Nguyen Thuy Hanh began her first radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment following a diagnosis of cervical cancer, Hanh’s husband, Huynh Ngoc Chenh, announced on social media. Chenh said that doctors and the K Hospital in Hanoi prepared a treatment plan for Hanh on the morning of Jan. 25, and she had her first radiotherapy session on the afternoon of that same day.
Chenh wrote that the treatment would last for three months. Hanh is expected to continue compulsory mental therapy at the Central Institute of Forensic Psychiatry, and she will be taken to the K Hospital, located in Tan Trieu Ward, Hanoi, for cancer treatment. The compulsory mental therapy was ordered by the government with no informed consent from Hanh or her family.
He added that while waiting for her turn for radiotherapy, a patient sitting next to Hanh showed her his Facebook posting announcing the diagnosis of her cancer. She was able to read the posting’s comment section, where many expressed concerns about her health and sent her warm wishes for a quick recovery. “I think your love and affection will be the best medicine for Hanh,” Chenh wrote.
On Jan. 25, the defense lawyers of Nguyen Thuy Hanh, attorneys Ngo Anh Tuan and Nguyen Ha Luan, submitted a petition requesting Vietnamese authorities to exempt criminal prosecution for Hanh. According to Clause 2 in Article 29 of Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code, people suffering from serious illnesses are eligible for the exemption from criminal prosecution. The petition wrote that “cancer” is included in the list of 42 severe diseases as stipulated in Decree 134, published in 2016 by the Vietnamese government.
Vietnamese Political Prisoner Says He is Under Constant Surveillance in Prison
Vietnamese political prisoner Huynh Minh Tam, who is serving an eight-year sentence for allegedly engaging in “anti-state” activities, told his sister, Huynh Thi To Nga, during a visit that he has spent four years in solitary confinement under constant camera surveillance at Gia Trung Prison, Gia Lai Province. Tam said that the prison authorities locked him up in a room with a camera because he opposed the forced labor of prisoners and spoke out about the difficulty they experienced in receiving parcels from their families.
Tam and Nga were arrested in January 2019 and subsequently sentenced on charges of contacting dissidents and researching and publishing “reactionary matters” on social media that allegedly contained distorted facts and incited subversion of state authority.
Nga told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that Tam has been locked up in a 12-square-meter cell with limited space since he arrived at the prison four years ago. She also expressed concern about the surveillance in Tam’s cell, which violates his privacy, even during activities such as eating, sleeping, and personal hygiene.
Former criminal justice lawyer Le Quoc Quan called the installation of surveillance cameras in detention cells “unacceptable,” since it infringes on the human rights of prisoners, as stipulated in the Constitution, the Penal Code, and the law on the Execution of Criminal Judgements. Quan said that installing cameras in prison cells violated the prisoner’s rights under Article 32 of Vietnam's Civil Code.
China Rebuts Vietnam’s Claims to Disputed South China Sea Islands
Reuters reported that the Chinese foreign ministry on Jan. 24 rebutted Hanoi’s claims of sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, saying that Beijing’s assertion over these two archipelagoes is “fully supported by history and jurisprudence.”
Wang Wenbin, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, said at a news conference that “China was the first to discover, name, develop and manage these islands and archipelagos, and continue to exercise sovereign jurisdiction over them.”
Beijing issued its statement over the weekend after Vietnam said it had “full legal basis and ample historical evidence” to assert its sovereignty over these two island chains. Vietnam’s statement was in response to a media query on the anniversary of the Paracel Islands battle in 1974, in which Chinese navies defeated South Vietnamese forces, leading to China’s total control over these islands.
Vietnam calls the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos Hoang Sa and Truong Sa. Multiple nations in the region claim these South China Sea island chains, including Vietnam, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Brunei. The Vietnamese government says the country’s sovereignty over the Hoang Sa Islands “has been established under international law since the 17th century, and exercised in a peaceful, continuous and public manner by successive Vietnamese states.”
Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Urges Vietnam to Free Tran Huynh Duy Thuc as He Begins Hunger Strike
The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 20 called on the Vietnamese government to release Vietnamese prisoner of conscience Tran Huynh Duy Thuc “immediately and without conditions.” Thuc was charged with “subversion” 14 years ago, and was sentenced to 16 years in prison; he is expected to be released in 2025.
In May 2019, U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, a member of the Tom Lantos Commission, officially became Thuc’s advocate as part of the Defending Freedoms Project, which repeatedly called on the Vietnamese government to release him.
Tran Huynh Duy Tan, Thuc’s brother, told VOA News that he believed advocating for Thuc’s release is essential. Tan expressed hope that constant pressure and calls from the international community will help Thuc return home before his sentence concludes.
When Thuc called his family on Jan. 26, he said that he would initiate a hunger strike on the following day to protest the abysmal living conditions in Nghe An Prison Camp No. 6, where he is being held.
As northern Vietnam experienced unprecedented cold weather, Thuc said that he was starved and in constant extreme hunger because the prison canteen did not sell him food even though he agreed to pay for it, according to an announcement from his family. Thuc also claimed that the disciplinary authorities confiscated his essential items, such as a razor, lighter, blood glucose meter, and sewing kit, aggravating his already poor living conditions. He did not explain why the prison authorities took away these items, but it is likely an additional punishment for political prisoners.
German President Expresses Concerns over Human Rights during Vietnam Visit
During his first state visit to Vietnam, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier raised concerns over Vietnam’s human rights as he spoke at the Vietnamese-German University in Ho Chi Minh City.
Steinmeier said that although Vietnam and Germany share some values, issues such as Vietnam’s “freedom of the press and freedom of opinion” still stand in the way of cooperation between both countries.
According to the German presidential office, Steinmeier included these issues in his talks in Hanoi on Jan. 23 with Vietnam’s political leaders. He added that despite political and societal systems, the fact that Berlin and Hanoi can broach these issues with mutual respect demonstrates the sound foundation of the bilateral relationship.
The German President also mentioned Vietnam’s United Nations Human Rights Council membership to remind Hanoi of its responsibility to contribute to the “development of civil society and respect for human rights.” Steinmeier is scheduled to visit Thailand after he leaves Vietnam.
Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam
The Economist/ Jan. 25
“That was highlighted earlier this month when the party’s 79-year-old general secretary and paramount leader, Nguyen Phu Trong, disappeared from public view. Social media lit up with rumours that he was dead and with speculation about his successor. Mr Trong has reappeared yet uncertainty over his health and succession will continue. Investors were already complaining of a slowdown in project approvals owing to the effects of an anti-corruption drive, which last year led to the sacking of the country’s president, who was number three in the hierarchy. As senior apparatchiks fret over a post-Trong future, decision-making could grind to a halt.”