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Source: Thuc-Followers’s Facebook page

The 88 Project, February 16, 2017: Followers of Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, a prominent Vietnamese political prisoner, have started two petitions on change.org to “urge VietNam Communist Party as well as the Parliament to hold a referendum for free election and on transformation to a multi-party political regime with the attendance and monitoring of the civil society groups across the nation.” The petition in Vietnamese has received 767 signatures after two weeks.

Thuc-Followers is an online community of almost 2,500 Vietnamese who agree with and follow Tran Huynh Duy Thuc‘s vision for a peaceful political change in Vietnam. This petition reflects the viewpoint that sustainable change must come from within the country, starting with giving the Vietnamese people political rights and equal participation in the political process, as individuals and as organized groups, that is, political parties and civil society organizations.

It should be noted that matters of multipartyism and free and fair elections are considered “politically sensitive” in the one-party communist regime in Vietnam. Members of opposition political parties are often the primary targets for harassment, persecution, and imprisonment by the regime’s powerful public security apparatus.

See and sign the petition in English here to support this vision of peaceful political change for Vietnam. The petition in Vietnamese can be found here. Read More

Thuc

Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, blogger and entrepreneur serving 16 years in prison

The 88 Project, February 6, 2017: Prisoner of conscience Tran Huynh Duy Thuc resolutely refuses to be exiled in order to be released early from jail. His family visited him in prison No. 6, Nghe An province on January 29, 2016, and mentioned the case of former prisoner of conscience Dang Xuan Dieu who had been released early and immediately exiled to France. But Thuc was determined to not follow that path. Thuc’s brother told the VOA Vietnamese: “Thuc became very serious and told the family to not talk about him leaving anymore. He said change would come very quickly and nothing could stand in its way. He was determined in staying in the country. He didn’t want to be exiled.”

Last year, in May 2016, Thuc’s family shared with the media that he was “forced to immigrate to the United States” but that he “refused to be exiled in exchange for freedom.” Again, in November 2016, Thuc told his family that he “will not go anywhere and will stay side-by-side with his people inside the country through difficult times,” and that his family “shouldn’t await his release.” Read More

The 4th day of the hunger strike. Source: Tran Huynh Duy Thuc's Facebook page

The 4th day of the hunger strike. Source: Tran Huynh Duy Thuc’s Facebook page

Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức’s family, on the Facebook page dedicated to their family member, political prisoner Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức, reported that Thức and four other political prisoners – Nguyễn Hoàng Quốc Hùng, Trần Vũ Anh Bình, Đinh Nguyên Kha, and Liêu Ly have been on a hunger strike since March 11, 2016. According to the Thức father, Mr. Trần Văn Huỳnh, the prisoners’ act aims to protest the prison’s administration for the latter’s disregard of the law and arbitrary treatment of prisoners in violation of the Constitution and the law. Specifically, they protest against two prison cadres:

  1. Colonel Lê Văn Tuất, assistant superintendent of the prison
  2. Cadre Nguyễn Văn Bộ, cadre I.D. 082686

These cadres have arbitrarily prohibited the political prisoners from taking simple and human actions, without providing any legal basis or rationale for such prohibition. For example: Read More

Tran Van Huynh with Thucs photo

The Parents of three prominent political prisoners. Left to right: Ms. Nguyen Thi Tram (Le Quoc Quan’s Mother); Mr. Tran Van Huynh (Tran Huynh Duy Thuc’s Father); Nguyen Thi Kim Lien (Dinh Nguyen Kha’s Mother).

This coming January 20th marks six years since Tran Huynh Duy Thuc’s trial. Three other dissidents who were tried at the same time– Le Cong Dinh, Nguyen Tien Trung, and Le Thang Long have been released. Thuc remains in jail as he received the longest sentence – 16 years of imprisonment and 5 years of probation. The struggles of Thuc in prison and of his family to defend him and advocate for his release continue.

In prison, Thuc continues to advocate for the rights of prisoners. Recently, Thuc and fellow prisoners requested the right to access and comment on the drafting of the criminal code, prior to its adoption on November 27, 2015. The prison authorities refused to accommodate their requests, under the rationale that “prisoners are not citizens.” Dinh Nguyen Kha, another political prisoner who is held in the same prison as Thuc, told his mother that Thuc was mistreated in jail because he stood up for the rights of the prisoners. Indeed, the prison authorities have been making Thuc’s communication with his family, as well as his access to information, very difficult. Read More

Dear Official:

September 2nd is National Day, the day of Vietnam’s independence, and the day during which, at least in recent years, Vietnam has granted amnesty to select prisoners. I was pleased to learn last week that Vietnam will release upwards of 18,000 prisoners this year. However, I was greatly displeased to learn that not a single one of those 18,000 is expected to be a political prisoner.

I wonder, if you met, face-to-face today, one of the countless media, labor, land, democracy, religious, or other activists that the current Vietnamese system has imprisoned, would you know it? I have a theory that, when put in the same, bustling room, one would have no easier a time discerning between an activist and a non-activist than discerning between strangers on a crowded street. Activists, in all their forms, wear no uniform, bear no special marking on the outside that singles them out. Their distinguishing feature is their beliefs– and their actions. They have been made to stand out in society because the Vietnam system criminalizes freedom of expression.

The manufactured labels of prisoner or judge, good or evil, are what truly single out Vietnamese activists.  Read More

As April gives way to May, we celebrated World Press Freedom Day (May 3rd) and prepare to celebrate Vietnam Human Rights Day (May 11th). We also remember the one-year anniversary of the death of Dinh Dang Dinh, an environmental activist and blogger who died of stomach cancer on April 3, 2014, only a month after his release from prison.

In April, discussion continued over the role of human rights in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and other trade agreements. This is especially needed as the TPP may move onto a fast track for approval in the US. In regards to the EU’s potential trade agreement with Vietnam, the EU Commission has refused to conduct a human rights assessment, going against the advice of the EU Ombudsperson.

While international protest against the TPP continues, there have been a number of recent instances of public protest in Vietnam over the past month in regards to other topics as well. There was a strike over a new pension law, a citizen protest over the felling of trees in Hanoi, and a protest over pollution as well. These events highlight the power of citizens to speak out for change. The Vietnamese government allows some forms of assembly and protest and not others and recently violated freedom of assembly by forcibly arresting environmental activists on 4/25 in Hanoi.There were also many news stories this month about other issues in Vietnam, including minority rights, wildlife trafficking, and forced labor.

Take a look at the several reports out this month on Vietnam, including “We Will Not Be Silenced,” a report on bloggers and human rights in Vietnam by CR Defenders. Additionally, Press Freedom has placed Vietnam as 6/10 on its list of worst violators of press freedom. Other interesting reports to take a look at are the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Attacks on the Press report and the United States’ Committee on International Religious Freedom’s Report 2015, which deems Vietnam as a country of particular concern.

Finally, it is important to note that April 30th marked the 40th anniversary of Black April, when the Vietnam War ended and reunification began. In honor of this day, Rep Zoe Lofgren and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi created a video that speaks of their recent visit to Vietnam and the importance of human rights there. Additionally, a bipartisan group of representatives introduced a bill that would make certain assistance to Vietnam contingent on respect for human rights.

Updates on Political Prisoners

Me Nam received Civil Rights Defender’s Defender of the year award. Read an interview with her from Radio Free Asia.

Mai Thi Dung has been released after serving 6 and 5 year sentences for her work towards freedom of religion in Vietnam.

Bui Thi Minh Hang has been on hunger strike since April 2nd, protesting her treatment in prison, where other inmates have been encouraged to harass her.

May 24th will mark the sixth year since Tran Huynh Duy Thuc was imprisoned.

Take Action

Support the Press Uncuffed campaign: spread the word, and buy a bracelet to show your solidarity with the imprisoned journalists.

Look at our Take Action page.

Thuc

Birthdate: November 29, 1966

Occupation: Entrepreneur and blogger

Arrest Date: May 24, 2009

Trial Date: January 20, 2010

Sentence: 16 years in prison and five years house arrest

Tran Huynh Duy Thuc is a successful Vietnamese entrepreneur who often blogged about economic and social conditions in Vietnam .He is the founder of a major Internet provider. He was arrested in 2009, at first on charges involving theft of telephone wires, and then later under Article 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code for “attempting to overthrow the government.” His one-day trial was held in conjunction with those of Nguyen Tien Trung, Le Cong Dinh, and Le Thang Long. Thuc was sentenced to an unprecedented sixteen years in prison.
In August of 2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted the cases of Thuc and his co-defendants. The group found that their arrests and detainments were indeed arbitrary and called for their release from prison (http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A.HRC.22.44_en.pdf). The Vietnamese government did nothing in response to this finding.
Thuc’s family is very active in advocating for his release; his father participated in a mini-interview series with The 88 Project in the summer of 2013. You can watch the interviews, here (https://the88project.com/category/free-expression-interview-series/). You can also check out Thuc’s family’s website about his case (http://tranhuynhduythucofficial.wordpress.com/english/).
Thucs’ case has previously been adopted by Amnesty International. He has also been adopted by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) as part of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Comission’s Defending Freedoms Project. You can read more about the Defending Freedoms Project, here (http://democraticvoicevn.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/adopting-vietnamese-prisoners-of-conscience.pdf).