Journalist Huy Duc and Lawyer Tran Dinh Trien Charged with ‘Abusing Democratic Freedoms’

Journalist Huy Duc and Lawyer Tran Dinh Trien Charged with ‘Abusing Democratic Freedoms’
Graphic: The Vietnamese Magazine.

Notable events:

  • Journalist Truong Huy San, also known as Huy Duc, and Lawyer Tran Dinh Tuyen Charged with ‘Abusing Democratic Freedoms’
  • Thai Binh Provincial Police Actively Search for Political Prisoner Dang Thi Hue
  • National Assembly Approves Lt. Gen. Luong Tam Quang as the New Public Security Minister
  • California Lawmaker Calls for the USCIRF to Pressure Vietnam over the Disappearance of Thich Minh Tue

Journalist Truong Huy San, also known as Huy Duc, and Lawyer Tran Dinh Trien Charged with ‘Abusing Democratic Freedoms’

The Security Investigation Agency of the Ministry of Public Security on June 7 confirmed the arrest and criminal prosecutions of journalist Truong Huy San, also known as Huy Duc, or blogger Osin, and lawyer Tran Dinh Trien. Trien runs a law firm called Vì Dân (For the People) in Hanoi and is a member of the Hanoi Bar Association. In 2012, Huy Duc was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.

According to the investigation agency, Huy Duc and Trien were charged with Article 331 of the Penal Code, which prohibits the “abusing of democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state and the legitimate rights and interests of others.” The Ministry of Public Security announced that the prosecutions of journalist Huy Duc and lawyer Tran Dinh Trien were part of an investigation into the alleged violation of Article 331 that occurred in Hanoi and the provinces.

According to those familiar with the matter, Huy Duc was detained on June 1, and the police searched both his houses in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. By June 3, his personal Facebook account became inaccessible.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released a statement on June 6 calling on the Vietnamese authorities to publicize the whereabouts of journalist Huy Duc. This follows news reports that the police detained him for unknown reasons on June 1 in Hanoi. Huy San is an influential and renowned author who extensively wrote about contemporary issues and Vietnamese politics.

Rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) on June 7 issued a press statement calling on Vietnam to immediately release Huy Duc while noting that his arrest is an escalation of the crackdown on rights. Since his detention, neither the journalist’s lawyer nor his family has been able to visit him.

Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at HRW, said in their statement that the arrest of a critical journalist like Huy Duc “shows that the Vietnamese government is moving further and further away from democracy and the rule of law.” “Punishing Huy Duc for denouncing the misuse of state power and corruption should raise concerns for those expecting economic and political reforms in Vietnam in the near future.”

Thai Binh Police Actively Search for Political Prisoner Dang Thi Hue

The Security Investigation Agency of the Thai Binh Provincial Police Department has summoned the family of former political prisoner Dang Thi Hue, 43, to pressure them to provide information about her after she refused to attend an interrogation session on May 15, she told Radio Free Asia (RFA).

Earlier, on May 13, a group of plainclothes police officers allegedly kidnapped her after she got off a bus from Hanoi to Thai Binh. The officers coerced Hue into a van and took her to a police station. At the station, the security investigators forced her to sign a document pledging not to publish any critical information about the government on social media. Hue was released the next day after agreeing to close her personal Facebook accounts. The investigators also summoned her for another interrogation session on May 15. 

But when Hue did not turn up as requested, the police continuously texted her via messaging apps, such as Zalo, to convince her to attend the interrogation. They also went to Hue's parents’ house in Thai Binh and summoned some of her friends to ask for information about her whereabouts. Hue told RFA that the police had actively searched for her because they believed she had published anti-state criticisms on social media. However, the former prisoner of conscience explained that the opinions she shared were constructive and could help the government improve the living conditions of its citizens.

In May 2020, a court in Hanoi sentenced Hue to 15 months on a charge of “disturbing social order.” Combined with her earlier conviction of “committing fraud to appropriate assets,” she was sentenced to 39 months. The “disturbing social order” conviction was announced following her campaigning against the establishment of “dirty” toll booths, a cooperation between Vietnamese transportation authorities and private businesses that overcharged drivers who passed through them. She completed her jail term in January last year.

National Assembly Approves Lt. Gen. Luong Tam Quang as Public Security Minister

Lawmakers in Vietnam’s Parliament, the National Assembly, on June 6 voted to select Lt. Gen. Luong Tam Quang, deputy public security deputy minister, to replace Gen. To Lam to head this influential governmental body for 2021 - 2026. Earlier on the same day, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh announced that Lt. Gen. Quang was one of the candidates to be chosen for the Ministry of Public Security’s top job.

During the afternoon session, the National Assembly discussed and cast a secret ballot to approve Luong Tam Quang as the new minister of public security. Quang's appointment occurred after Vietnamese parliamentarians voted to relieve To Lam of his position in the security ministry and elevate him to the presidency on May 22.

On that same day, members of the National Assembly also voted to appoint Nguyen Thi Thanh as vice chairwoman of this legislative body and Le Thanh Long as deputy prime minister. Thanh was chosen to replace Tran Thanh Man, the former parliament vice chairman, who became this chamber’s speaker after Vuong Dinh Hue, the former chairman, was forced to resign on May 2.

Lt. Gen. Luong Tam Quang, 59, hails from Kim Dong District, Hung Yen Province, the same provincial hometown of To Lam. Quang is a senior political theory and security official who led the Security Investigation Agency of the Ministry of Public Security. Despite being a competent contender for the Ministry of Public Security’s top job, he is only a member of the Party Central Committee. The chairpersons of this ministry have traditionally been both members of the central committee and the Politburo - an essential policy-making body of the Vietnamese Communist Party.

Carl Thayer, emeritus professor of politics at the University of New South Wales, told BBC News Vietnamese that he predicted Luong Tam Quang would soon be selected for the Politburo. According to Thayer, the minister of public security is always a member of the Politburo, and if Quang is absent from this body, his power “will be reduced.”

California Lawmaker Calls the USCIRF to Pressure Vietnam over Disappearance of Thich Minh Tue

Ta Duc Tri, an assemblyman who represents California’s Seventh District, on June 5 sent a letter to the Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), sharing his concerns regarding the Vietnamese authorities’ repression of religious freedom over their recent treatment of the Buddhist monk Thich Minh Tue. The monk, whose birth name is Le Anh Tu, is a Buddhist follower who embarked on a spiritual pilgrimage. His solitary journey has inspired many other Buddhist adherents to join him as he walked across Vietnam. The letter was also published on Ta’s social media account.

However, the authorities began to crack down on Thich Minh Tue’s pilgrimage as his journey had drawn many followers. Assemblyman Ta Duc Tri expressed the concern in his letter that around 300 police officers were deployed in a midnight raid and forced the monk to cease his pilgrimage, saying that he and the crowds that followed him had “obstructed the traffic.” Then, the police took Thich Minh Tue away to an unknown place; his current location remains unknown. 

Ta emphasized Thich Minh Tue’s forced disappearance as an example of the religious freedom situation in Vietnam. He wanted the USCIRF to use its leverage to advocate for the release of the monk and his followers so they could continue their spiritual journey. At the same time, the California Assemblyman said that the USCIRF’s classification of Vietnam on the Special Watch List for Religious Freedom serves as a clear message of the commission’s commitment to freedom of religion worldwide.

Quick take:

Vietnam Says EU’s Human Rights Report “Lacks Objectivity”:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Pham Thu Hang, refuted the European Union’s recent report on human rights in a press briefing on June 6, claiming that it “contains false information and does not accurately reflect the actual situation in Vietnam.” The EU report, released on May 29, wrote that civil society in Vietnam continued “to shrink further” as Hanoi continued to detain independent journalists and human rights defenders.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Meeting Vietnam’s Skilling Challenges

Fulcrum/ Jonathan London/ July 6

“Still, inaction, especially in foreign cooperation, is worrisome. Vietnam stands to benefit from working with multilateral and bilateral donors to meet current and anticipated labour market requirements. Regrettably, Vietnam’s government is presently declining technical assistance loans and slow on disbursing existing loans, owing to government gridlock associated with the chilling effects of Vietnam’s anti-corruption campaign, ramped-up security paranoia, and the availability of cheap credit from domestic banks, which offer no technical assistance and are typically in fields with little contribution to skilling.”

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