A few of the key issues affecting human rights in Vietnam these past two weeks have been the partial lifting of the US weapons sales ban to Vietnam and the Hong Kong protests over the right to elections free from state interference.
Curiously enough, Vietnam has allowed state media outlets to report on the events in Hong Kong. Voice of America says that Vietnamese activists are eagerly following the situation in Hong Kong, perhaps drawing on lessons witnessed there. Private discussion and online support of the Hong Kong protests abound, but many acknowledge that any outward action in Vietnam in response to the protests would likely not be tolerated by the Vietnamese government.
On October 2nd, the US announced it will sell weapons for maritime use to Vietnam. Many supporters of the decision argue that the US needs to help Vietnam protect its claims in the South China Sea and also that building stronger relations with Vietnam is integral to US national security. However, what is being overlooked here is the fact that Vietnam will not be likely to take human rights reform seriously unless it is severely pressured to do so. By selling weapons (even on a limited, maritime scope) to Vietnam, the US is signaling to the Vietnamese government that Vietnam will continue to face no serious consequences for its human rights violations.
This article from the Diplomat (by John Sifton of Human Rights Watch) argues that the US has over-stated Vietnam’s human rights advances. The author also says, though, that it is not entirely too late to try to fix a few aspects of the US-Vietnam weapons sales arrangement. Sifton advocates for making additional weapons sales to Vietnam (past maritime items) contingent on the release of political prisoners, tangible progress in critical human rights areas, and the repealing of articles of Vietnam’s Penal Code that criminalize political dissent.
It remains to be seen as to what the true effects of the weapons sales to Vietnam will be or what the future of US-Vietnam relations will look like. The 88 Project encourages US policymakers to stay up-to-date on human rights news in Vietnam and advocate for the release of peaceful dissidents and for the right to freedom of expression for the Vietnamese people.
Political Prisoner News.
Countless stories of political prisoners in Vietnam, imprisoned for their peaceful activities, shed light on Vietnam’s continued violations of human rights.
Radio Free Asia reports that Catholic activist Dang Xuan Dieu, who is currently serving a 13-year sentence, has faced beating and humiliation in prison. Dieu was sentenced in 2013 for “attempting to overthrow the government,” due to his association with pro-democracy activities.
Earlier this month, Catholic Dau Van Duong was released from prison after serving most of his three-and-a-half year sentence. He was released early but will now serve 18 months of probation. He was convicted in May 2012 for “propaganda against the state” for handing out pro-democracy leaflets. One of Duong’s co-defendants is still in prison, one was released in February, and one was sentenced to probation only. Duong will continue his activism now, but his freedom came with a price. He suffered from a life-threatening beating while imprisoned, as well as a hunger strike in protest of his Bible being taken away.
Additionally, this article from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) explores the imprisonment of Dieu Cay, his role in sparking China-Vietnam conversation, and what changing dynamics in the domestic and international scenes mean for Vietnamese bloggers today. The article also offers suggestions for courses of action for Vietnam, for the US and other countries, for the UN, and for Internet/tech companies.
Perhaps most sobering fact of all regarding political prisoners is that countless political prisoners remain behind bars— in Vietnam and all over the world– with no media coverage about their case, no early release date, no humane prison conditions, and no freedom of expression. The 88 Project hopes to shed light on some of these prisoners’ stories.
One particular activist that we want to draw attention to is Tran Huynh Duy Thuc. Thuc is a blogger and entrepreneur who was sentenced to 16 years in prison for his peaceful activism and commentary on social and economic issues in Vietnam. We will be preparing special actions for Thuc in honor of his birthday on November 29th. We will be posting more information soon.
As always, we encourage you to talk about human rights violations in Vietnam and share news with family and friends or on your social media sites. Educating people about Vietnam’s actions is crucial for their resolution.
We also invite you to participate in Blog Action Day 2014. On October 16th, we will join bloggers from all over the world in blogging about inequality. The 88 Project plans to blog about the unequal application of human rights throughout the world, especially in regards to freedom of expression. Register for Blog Action Day by clicking here.
Check back soon for updates on actions for Tran Huynh Duy Thuc.
To read more about the stories from their original sources, follow the links within the text (underlined).
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