Mr. Ton was a prisoner of conscience. He was sentenced to two years in prison on charge of anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the Penal Code. Released in early 2013, he continues to fight for human rights and multi-party democracy. Recently, he was elected as the head of the Brotherhood of Democracy which was co-funded by prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, who is arrested in late 2015 on allegation of anti-state propaganda.
In recent years, Mr. Ton and his family have been constantly harassed by the local authorities in Thanh Hoa province. In addition to making public fake denunciations through local media, on the radio and through neighborhood loudspeakers, plainclothes agents have also troubled the businesses of his wife in a local wet market. They even destroyed her booth of seafood products.
Along with arresting and charging local activists with controversial articles such as 79, 87, 88 and 258 of the national security provisions in Penal Code, Vietnam’s government has also deployed other tactics to discourage political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders from continuing their works, including kidnap, torture and rob.
Many activists, including Nguyen Trung Truc and Mai Van Tam from Quang Binh, Nguyen Cong Huan from Nghe An, Nguyen Ho Nhat Thanh from Ho Chi Minh City, were kidnapped, beaten and robbed after being taken away from plainclothes agents.
Physical attacks by police and plainclothes agents are on the rise in Vietnam. As many as 140 activists nationwide were physically attacked by Vietnam’s security forces in 2016 compared to 65 in 2014 and 125 in 2015, according to statistics of the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience.
Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Gia Lai and Lam Dong were the localities where local police showed the highest level of brutality and disrespect for the rule of law by resorting to arbitrary detention in numerous cases.
Update on March 6, 2017: Here’s the disturbing report by Protestant pastor Nguyễn Trung Tôn about the incident.