Vietnam Arrests Activist Nguyen Chi Tuyen; Leaked Party Document Shows Vietnam’s Efforts to Restrict Human Rights Further

Vietnam Arrests Activist Nguyen Chi Tuyen; Leaked Party Document Shows Vietnam’s Efforts to Restrict Human Rights Further

Hanoi Police Detain Vietnamese Activist Nguyen Chi Tuyen and Journalist Nguyen Vu Binh

The Hanoi Police Department on Feb. 29 detained and searched the house of activist and blogger Nguyen Chi Tuyen to investigate his alleged engagement in “distributing anti-state propaganda,” a violation of Article 117 of the Penal Code.

Nguyen Thi Anh Tuyet, Tuyen’s wife, confirmed her husband's detention on the same day, adding that he would be held at Hanoi Detention Center No. 2 for four months during the investigation period. The police also confiscated his cell phone, a laptop, and some of his handwritten notes.

Tuyet said that the previous afternoon, her husband received a summons from the Hanoi Police Department to come in for questioning, but he declined to go because he felt unwell. Last January, the police sent Tuyen a notice informing him that he was prohibited from traveling outside Vietnam.

Tuyen, who is also known by his blog name “Anh Chi,” is a renowned environmental activist, blogger, and human rights defender who often participated in demonstrations against China’s excursions in Vietnam’s maritime territories. He also established two YouTube channels, Anh Chí Râu Đen and AC Media, that discuss social issues in Vietnam and report on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Because of his activism, Tuyen became a target of harassment and surveillance by Vietnamese security. In 2015, he was hospitalized after being beaten by strangers, possibly plainclothes police.

On the same day, the Hanoi police also detained Nguyen Vu Binh, a Vietnamese journalist and former writer of the Communist Review (Tạp chí Cộng sản), the official publication of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Binh’s family told VOA News. They also searched his house and seized a computer, a printer, two cell phones, and five books. The police have not yet announced the charges against him.

In January 2001, Binh left his post in the Communist Review to form the Liberal Democratic Party and published several articles calling for political reform in Vietnam and criticizing government policy. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and three years of probation in December 2003 on “espionage” charges, but the authorities released him in 2007 due to an intestinal illness. Vu Binh is an honorary PEN Canada, Sydney PEN, and Swiss PEN member.

Vietnam Sentences People under Article 331 of the Penal Code but also Uses the 2018 Cybersecurity Law to Establish Criminality

On March 1, 2024, the People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City sentenced Dang Thi Han Ni to one year and six months in prison and her co-defendant, Tran Van Sy, to two years under Article 331 of the Penal Code.

Article 331, formerly Article 258 of the 1999 Penal Code, criminalizes every act that is deemed to “abuse democratic freedoms.” In this case, the court rationalized that the defendants violated the 2018 Cybersecurity Law, and those conducts were deemed to be “abusing democratic freedoms.” In particular, the court found that the defendants have violated subsections (a) and (b) of section 3, Article 16, and subsection (d) of section 1, Article 17 of the 2018 Cybersecurity Law. The two defendants were also found to have violated subsection (d), section (1) of Article 5 of Decree 72 on the management, provision, and usage of the internet and information from the internet in Vietnam.

Defendant Dang Thi Han Ni testified that all of the information she put on the internet was truthful, and some were quoted directly from state media. However, the court still concluded that both defendants “abused democratic freedoms" and sentenced them to prison.

During the trial, the court allowed the victims from the indictment to not show up at the hearings because it could use the police investigation for their testimonies. One of those victims, Nguyen Phuong Hang, was also tried, convicted, and sentenced under Article 331 for three years in 2023.

Vietnam, again, Ranked ‘Not Free’ in Freedom House’s 2024 Freedom in the World Index.

The Washington D.C.-based Freedom House continues to classify Vietnam as “not free” regarding political rights and civil liberties in the 2024 Freedom in the World index. Vietnam only scored 19 out of 100 in Freedom House’s latest measurement, which remains unchanged from the country’s previous scores between 2021 and 2023.

Freedom House's annual Global Freedom Index, released on Feb. 29, assesses the state of freedom and democracy of 195 countries and 15 territories worldwide. Then, these countries are scored and classified into three groups, including “free,” “partly free,” and “not free.”

Vietnam scored only four out of 40 regarding political rights and 15 out of 60 regarding civil liberties. Freedom House’s report showed that Timor-Leste was the only “free” country in Southeast Asia, while Vietnam only ranked above junta-ruled Myanmar, which got eight points.

Ho Chi Minh City Police Department Issues Another Summons for Vingroup Critic  

The Security Investigation Agency of the Ho Chi Minh City Police Department has issued a third summons for Ngo Thi Oanh Phuong, an influential Facebook user and a critic of conglomerate Vingroup, saying that they received a defamation complaint filed against her by Vingroup, according to a recent Facebook posting of human rights lawyer Dang Dinh Manh.

Previously, Manh wrote on social media that the police had twice summoned Phuong, also known by her Facebook name Phuong Ngo, on Jan. 19 and Jan. 30. In the third summons, dated Feb. 26, they told her to come to the security investigation headquarters on March 4 to question her relations with Tran Mai Son, another critic of Vingroup, and to resolve the defamation report submitted by the conglomerate.

Manh said that Phuong did not come to the previous questioning sessions because she said she was busy. He suggested that if she were absent this time, the investigation agency would issue a warrant to search for her, similar to the warrants the Long An Provincial Police Department filed against him and other human rights lawyers, Nguyen Van Mieng and Dao Kim Lan, last year.

According to Manh, no legal provisions allow Vietnamese investigators to search for people who do not respond to summons. Attorneys Manh, Mieng, and Lan fled to the United States late last year after Long An Provincial Police issued warrants to search for them after they were accused of violating Article 331 of the Penal Code, which concerns “abusing democratic freedoms.”

The 88 Project: Leaked Document of Vietnam’s Politburo Stipulates Further Restrictions of Human Rights

The 88 Project, a Vietnam-focused advocacy group, in a report published on March 1, analyzes a secret document issued by the Vietnamese Communist Politburo - Directive 24 - which concerns ensuring national security amid Vietnam’s growing international integration. The group said this directive could “lead to systematic and widespread human rights violations, including impermissible restrictions on assembly, association, speech, the media, and movement.”

The secret directive, issued on July 12, 2023, provided guidance and initiatives for all party offices and governmental agencies intending to maintain the political monopoly of the ruling Communist Party when Vietnam upgrades its international cooperation with the West. The 88 Project pointed out that Vietnam’s Directive 24 is strikingly similar to Document 9, a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) directive disseminated in April 2013, which details trends and activities that could threaten the CCP’s rule.

“It appears that, one decade later, Vietnam is following in China’s footsteps,” writes The 88 Project.

Directive 24 warns about “hostile and reactionary forces” that pose a threat to Vietnam’s national security as a result of its growing international ties.

Noteworthy provisions of the directive provide Party guidelines on all aspects of Vietnam’s internal and international affairs. It shows the struggle of the Vietnamese government in trying to control and repress the establishment of independent political parties, labor advocacy groups, populist trends, and civil disobedience while seeking to increase foreign aid and funding to Vietnam, especially those related to policymaking and legislative development from the West.

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