Harassment and Assaults of Activists Continue in Vietnam Amidst Flurry of International Visits
In the first five months of 2015, assaults and harassment of activists and bloggers continue with almost absolute impunity in Vietnam. At least 27 petitioners, activists and bloggers, including 6 women, have been violently attacked and injured since January (see timeline below). So far, the Vietnamese leaders have failed to address crimes perpetrated against people who carry out legitimate human rights work.
In a briefing paper released in April, Civil Rights Defenders highlighted the risks facing bloggers and other activists, including criminal prosecution, physical attacks, harassment and surveillance, and restrictions on their freedom of movement. Imprisoned activists also suffer from mistreatment in prison and, in response, at times go on hunger strikes to demand better treatment. Local human rights monitors have documented at least 70 activists who are allegedly put on a government blacklist and prohibited from overseas travel.
Since January, Vietnam has held two bilateral human rights dialogues, hosted a summit of world parliamentarians and is negotiating a major free trade agreement with the United States. It has made high-level official visits to or received foreign officials from countries that made human rights recommendations to Vietnam in its 2014 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is due to visit Hanoi tomorrow (22 May) while Nguyen Phu Trong, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, is scheduled to visit the US later this year. The 12th Australia-Vietnam human rights dialogue is due to take place in Canberra this year.
“While Vietnamese officials trot the globe to laud the country’s human rights record, the government is repeatedly failing to take effective action at home to protect activists from brazen attacks and hold perpetrators to account,” said Marie Månson, Human Rights Defenders at Risk Programme Director at Civil Rights Defenders.
Two recent attacks on bloggers took place in broad daylight. At approximately 7:30am on 11 May, a group of assailants attacked blogger and activist Nguyen Chi Tuyen (known online as Anh Chi), as he was driving home after sending his son to school in Hanoi. He sustained injuries to his head and face. In a strong showing of solidarity with Tuyen, numerous supporters changed their social media profile picture to that of a photo of Tuyen with blood streaming down his swollen face after the assault.
A member of the environmental group “For a Green Hanoi,” Tuyen has actively participated in recent peaceful protests against the Hanoi municipal government’s plan to cut down more than 6000 old trees in the city, which has drawn extensive public criticisms.
Thugs attacked another environmental activist and blogger Trinh Anh Tuan (known online as Gio Lang Thang) in the morning of 22 April as Tuan was riding his motorcycle to a market in Hanoi. He alleged the three attackers were plainclothes security officers who recently have been keeping his home under surveillance. He sustained injuries to his head and hands.
The police witnessed some of these attacks and were the alleged perpetrators in others. In many cases where the assailants were unidentified, the victims reported the attack to the police. There has been no evidence to suggest that the police have opened any credible, transparent and thorough investigations into any of these attacks. As a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Vietnam has the duty to effectively investigate alleged violations of rights guaranteed under the Covenant, including the right to liberty and security of the person, and to provide effective remedy.
“If Vietnam is sincerely committed to the rule of law, the government should recognise the important work of human rights defenders and foster an enabling and protective environment so that they can contribute to building a rights-respecting and stable society,” added Marie Månson. “Donor governments should reinforce human rights dialogues and occasional statements with effective, results-oriented measures to benchmark, report on, and press for Vietnam’s implementation of its international human rights obligations and UPR commitments, including protection of human rights defenders and the civil society space.”
In our 2015 April briefing paper Civil Rights Defenders makes a number of recommendations to the Government of Vietnam and world governments.