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Protesters in Nghe An called for the expulsion of Formosa. The banner reads: “Guilt for Formosa. Money for Government. Disaster for the People.” Source: Vietnam Right Now

Vietnam Right Now, March 5, 2017: Protesters have staged rallies across the country to demand the expulsion of the Taiwanese company, Formosa, for causing last year’s devastating chemical spill off the central coast.

The largest demonstrations was reported in Nghe An province, where residents said several thousand people from Catholic parishes gathered after Sunday mass.

Squads of police took up positions close to the rally but did not intervene.

A crowd also gathered outside the Formosa steel plant itself, further south in Ha Tinh province, to express their anger at the handling of the toxic leak and its aftermath. Read More

88-project-logoThe 88 Project, March 5, 2017: Greetings! We are excited to bring to you our very first weekly Vietnam Free Expression Newsletter, covering news and analysis regarding human rights and the development of civil society in Vietnam. Our take-away for this week: two new arrests; violence against dissidents and activists is on the rise, despite the lower number of arrests; issues of press freedom and labor rights are always matters of concern. Also, in the spirit of International Women’s Day, we’re highlighting some information on Vietnamese female activists and the political participation of women in Vietnam. Finally, yet importantly, please take some time to take action for current prisoners of conscience Đinh Nguyên Kha and Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh (Mẹ Nấm). More details and links below.

If you have any feedback for us or want us to include announcements and/or articles from you/your organization, please email us at the88project.mail@gmail.com. To stay informed and keep the conversation going during the week, follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

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Vũ Quang Thuận (left) and Nguyễn Văn Điển (right) with a political officer of the American Embassy in Hanoi. Source: Facebook Lê Quốc Quân

The 88 Project, March 3, 2017: Vietnamese state-owned media announced the arrests of two Hanoi-based dissidents, Mr. Vũ Quang Thuận  and Mr. Nguyễn Văn Điển, for “making and distributing video clips with bad content on the Internet.” Official report did not clarify under charges they were arrested. The two may be charged under Art. 88 of the Criminal Code for “propaganda against the Socialist state.”

Both Vũ Quang Thuận (born 1966, nickname Võ Phù Đổng) and Nguyễn Văn Điển (born 1983, nickname Điển Ái Quốc) are leading members of Phong Trào Dân Tộc Chấn Hưng Nước Việt (“Vietnam Progressive Movement”), which has as its principle the motto “Democracy, Progress, Humanity, Peace.” After the arrest of a founding member of the Movement, former political prisoner Lê Thăng Long, in Vietnam in a major political crackdown in 2009, Thuận and Điển fled to Malaysia, but they were arrested, deported back to Vietnam, and detained at the Detention Center 34 in Hồ Chí Minh city. Điển was then released, but Thuận was coerced into an internment at a mental hospital in Đồng Nai. After Thuận’s discharge from the hospital (year unknown), Điển and Thuận has been continuing to work together in their advocating efforts.

The duo have been producing and running a YouTube video channel through which Vũ Quang Thuận discusses political issues, advocates for the respect of human rights and democracy. The last video series they uploaded two days ago is entitled “Guide to Lawful Protest,” which could be one of the reasons that triggered their arrests. Note that recently, there has been an appeal circulated online, allegedly from Father Thadeus Nguyễn Văn Lý, a prominent former prisoner of conscience, calling people to take to the streets every Sunday and holidays starting March 5, 2017, to protest peacefully to “regain the people’s sovereignty.”

© 2017 The 88 Project

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Protestant pastor Nguyễn Trung Tôn. Source: Facebook

Defend the Defenders, February 28, 2017: On February 27, Protestant pastor Nguyen Trung Ton, president of Brotherhood of Democracy, and his friend Nguyen Viet Tu were kidnapped, beaten and robbed by plainclothes agents in the central provinces of Quang Binh and Ha Tinh, Mr. Ton informed Defend the Defenders.

On Sunday, the duo went to Ba Don town in Quang Tri to meet with local activists. Arriving in the location at around 9 PM of Sunday, they were kidnapped by local plainclothes agents who came by a seven-seat car. The kidnappers beat the duo, covered their heads with cloth and took them into the car. After several hours moving, they stopped the car at Ha Linh commune, Huong Khe district in the neighbor province of Ha Tinh.

At a remote area of Ha Linh, the kidnappers attacked them with iron bars, robbing all their belongings and released them at the place during the cold night in the mountainous region. When they left, Mr. Ton tried to recognized the car registration number, however, the kidnappers covered it with mud. Read More

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Blogger Mẹ Nấm

The 88 Project, February 24, 2017: Blogger Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh – Mẹ Nấm’s temporary detention was extended for another three months, yet her family did not receive any written notice. Ms. Nguyễn Thị Tuyết Lan, Mẹ Nấm’s mother, told VOA on February 23 that Khánh Hòa province’s People’s Procuracy had signed a temporary detention extension order for her daughter on January 13, but she has not yet seen the written document. All notices thus far have been given to her “verbally.” She told VOA Vietnamese:

“According to the four-month temporary detention order, February 10 should have been the last day of the detention. On February 14, hearing nothing from the authorities, I filed an inquiry. On February 21, they invited me to come to meet with them and said they had the right to extend the detention for another three months. The officer who invited me was Captain Ngô Xuân Phong. He read to me the order signed on January 13 that extended the temporary detention from February 7 to May 7, meaning for three more months. I asked why they had not notified the family. He said they had notified the temporary detainee only.” Read More

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Dang Xuan Dieu at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, Feb. 21, 2017. Source: Facebook Dang Xuan Dieu

Vietnam Right Now, February 21, 2017: A recently exiled Vietnamese activist has told an international gathering in Geneva that he suffered persistent physical and psychological abuse during his six years in jail.

Dang Xuan Dieu said he was periodically shackled, held in solitary confinement, and abused by other prisoners, after being convicted of plotting to overthrow the government.

The political and religious rights activist was released last month after agreeing to go into exile in France. He had served six years of a thirteen year sentence.

“Prisoners were seen as hostile if they refused to cooperate with the prison authorities,” said Dieu in a speech to the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.

“The prison officer’s will was seen as god’s will and prisoners had to bow down like children. I was labelled as dangerous and destructive because I tried to lobby for better conditions,” he said.

Treated like a slave

Dieu had been convicted of subversion, under article 79 of the penal code, for his work as a reporter with the Vietnam Redemptorist News, an outlet run by Catholic priests and other activists in Ho Chi Minh City. Read More

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Activists in Hanoi meet on Feb 17 to mark the 38th military invasion of China in Vietnam’s northern region. Source: vietnamhumanrightsdefenders.net

Defend the Defenders, February 17, 2017: On February 17, Vietnam’s security forces in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh violently dispersed the peaceful gatherings of local activists who want to mark the 38th anniversary of China’s invasion of the country’s six northernmost provinces.

Hundreds of after activists gathered in Ly Thai To King memorial in Hanoi and General Tran Hung Dao memorial in HCM City to commemorate the thousands of fallen soldiers and civilians killed by the People’s Liberation Army of China during the one-month military invasion which started on February 17, 1979.

Authorities in Hanoi and HCM City deployed a large number of police officers, plainclothes agents and militia to the two places. Shortly after activists came, security forces demanded them to leave the areas, saying they cause social disorders.

A number of activists, including Nguyen Thi Kim Chi in HCM City and Nguyen Xuan Dien, Nguyen Lan Thang, Bach Hong Quyen, blogger Trung Nguyen, Dang Bich Phuong and Le My Hanh were detained by police. Read More