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Human Rights Watch appreciates the opportunity to contribute to the preparations for the 17th Australia-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue, scheduled to be held virtually on December 8, 2021.

Australia’s bilateral relationship with Vietnam has continued to grow in recent years. In 2021, Australia was one of the top 10 trade partners with Vietnam. In November, during a visit to Hanoi, Minister of Foreign Affairs Marise Payne confirmed “that Australia considers Vietnam a priority in various matters, including infrastructure development, agriculture, poverty reduction and climate change.” Unfortunately, Minister Payne did not publicly mention Vietnam’s abysmal human rights record, which seriously worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2021 alone, the Vietnamese authorities arbitrarily arrested at least 30 people for criticizing the government or joining independent organizations or religious groups.

Australia’s close ties with Vietnam provide Canberra with the opportunity and responsibility to speak out about Vietnam’s systematic suppression of fundamental civil and political rights, including freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and religion and belief.

The Communist Party of Vietnam monopolizes power through the government, controls all major political and social organizations, and punishes people who dare to criticize or challenge its rule. Independent media do not exist as the government controls TV, radio, newspapers, and other publications. Vietnam prohibits the formation of independent labor unions, political associations, and human rights organizations. Police frequently use excessive force to disperse peaceful public protests that criticize the government. Activists questioning government policies or projects, or seeking to defend local resources or land, face daily harassment, intrusive surveillance, house arrest, travel bans, arbitrary detention, and abusive interrogation. Police subject dissidents to lengthy interrogations that sometimes include torture, and detain them incommunicado for months without access to legal counsel. Communist Party-controlled courts receive instructions on how to rule in politically motivated criminal cases, and have issued increasingly harsh prison sentences for activists convicted on bogus national security charges.

The police monitor, harass, and sometimes violently crack down on religious groups operating outside government-controlled structures and institutions. Unrecognized branches of the Cao Dai church, Hoa Hao Buddhist church, independent Protestant and Catholic house churches, Khmer Krom Buddhist temples, and the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam face constant surveillance, harassment, and intimidation. Followers of independent religious groups are subject to public criticism, forced renunciation of faith, detention, interrogation, torture and other ill-treatment, and imprisonment.

Vietnam’s highly problematic law on cybersecurity requires service providers to take down content that offends the authorities within 24 hours of receiving their request, tightening already-severe restrictions on access to information. Internet companies are also required to store data locally, verify user information, and disclose user data to authorities on demand without a court order, all of which threaten the right to privacy and could facilitate further reprisals against dissidents and activists.

Human Rights Watch strongly recommends that Australia urge Vietnam to quash convictions and release all political prisoners. Australia should also press Vietnam to drop charges and release political detainees held in pre-trial detention. Australia should place human rights concerns at the center of all its engagements with Vietnam instead of relegating those concerns to just one bilateral dialogue per year.

As of December 2021, Human Rights Watch has documented that at least 146 people are behind bars for exercising their basic rights, including prominent rights activists and bloggers such as Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, Pham Chi Thanh, Can Thi Theu, Le Dinh Luong, Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Hoang Duc Binh, Tran Anh Kim, Pham Van Diep, Tran Duc Thach, Nguyen Trung Truc, Ho Duc Hoa, and others.

Australia citizen Chau Van Kham remains in a Vietnamese prison since January 2019 on terrorism charges for his involvement in a peaceful international political organization focused on Vietnam, Viet Tan. Securing his release, and ability to leave the country and return to Australia to be reunited with his family should be a top priority for Australia in the forthcoming dialogue.

Vietnam frequently uses vaguely worded and loosely interpreted provisions in its Penal Code to imprison political and religious activists. These include “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” (article 109), “undermining the unity policy” (article 116), “making, storing, disseminating or propagandizing information, materials and products that aim to oppose the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (article 117), and “disrupting security” (article 118). Vietnam also uses other articles in the penal code to target rights campaigners, including “abusing the rights to democracy and freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations, individuals” (article 331) and “disrupting public order” (article 318).

Vietnam’s Criminal Procedure Code contravenes international human rights standards by stipulating that government prosecutors can hold suspects of “national security” crimes in detention (article 173(5)) and restrict their access to legal counsel (article 74) until after investigation is concluded. In practice, this means that those accused of violating national security laws are held in police custody without access to a lawyer for as long as the authorities want.

Police arrested land rights activists Trinh Ba Phuong and Nguyen Thi Tam in June 2020, but it was not until July 2021 that Trinh Ba Phuong was allowed to see a defense lawyer. Prominent blogger Pham Doan Trang was arrested on October 6, 2020, and was allowed to see a defense lawyer for the first time only on October 19, 2021.

Australia should publicly and privately call on the Vietnamese government to:

  • Immediately release all political prisoners and detainees, including those imprisoned or detained for exercising their rights to free expression, peaceful assembly, movement, or political or religious association and cease arresting and detaining others for such actions. This includes pressing for the release of imprisoned Australian national Chau Van Kham.
  • Repeal or amend Penal Code articles 109, 116, 117, 118 and 331 to bring its penal code in conformity with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
  • Repeal or amend article 74 and article 173 of the Criminal Procedure Code and allow all people detained for any alleged violations, including national security offenses, to have immediate access to legal counsel upon being arrested.
  1. Huỳnh Thục Vy, born 1985;
  2. Nguyễn Trí Gioãn, born 1979;
  3. Trần Quốc Khánh, born 1960;
  4. Trương Châu Hữu Danh, born 1982;
  5. Đoàn Kiên Giang, born 1985;
  6. Nguyễn Phước Trung Bảo, born 1982;
  7. Nguyễn Thanh Nhã, born 1980
  8. Lê Thế Thắng, born 1982;
  9. Phùng Thanh Tuyến, born 1983;
  10. Y Bi Mlô, born 1968;
  11. Trần Minh Chí, born 1993;
  12. Rah Lan Rah, born 1977;
  13. Siu Chõn, born 1975;
  14. Rơ Mah Thêm, born 1992;
  15. Nguyễn Văn Lâm, born 1970;
  16. Phạm Chí Thành, born 1952;
  17. N.L.Đ. Khánh, born 1983;
  18. Nguyễn Văn Trường, born 1976;
  19. Cao Văn Dũng, born 1968;
  20. Đặng Hoàng Minh, born 1993;
  21. Cấn Thị Thêu, born 1962;
  22. Trịnh Bá Tư, born 1989;
  23. Trần Thị Tuyết Diệu, born 1988;
  24. Lê Thị Bình, born 1976;
  25. Quách Duy, born 1982;
  26. Nguyễn Thị Cẩm Thúy, born 1976;
  27. Ngô Thị Hà Phương, born 1996;
  28. Lê Viết Hòa, born 1962;
  29. Lê Văn Hải, born 1966;
  30. Vũ Tiến Chi, born 1966;
  31. Đinh Thị Thu Thủy, born 1982;
  32. Phạm Chí Dũng, born 1966;
  33. Nguyễn Tường Thụy, born 1952;
  34. Lê Hữu Minh Tuấn, born 1989;
  35. Nguyễn Đăng Thương, born 1957;
  36. Trần Đức Thạch, born 1952;
  37. Nguyễn Trung Lĩnh, born 1967;
  38. Nguyễn Quốc Đức Vượng, born 1991;
  39. Đinh Văn Phú, born 1973;
  40. Nguyễn Văn Nghiêm, born 1963;
  41. Phan Công Hải, born 1996;
  42. Huỳnh Minh Tâm, born 1979
  43. Huỳnh Thị Tố Nga, born 1983
  44. Trần Thanh Giang, born 1971
  45. Nguyễn Chí Vững, born 1981
  46. Phạm Văn Điệp, born 1965
  47. Vũ Văn Nam, born 1981
  48. Nguyễn Năng Tĩnh, born 1976
  49. Châu Văn Khảm, born 1949
  50. Nguyễn Văn Viễn, born 1971
  51. Trần Văn Quyền, born 1999
  52. Nguyễn Văn Phước, born 1979
  53. Nguyễn Văn Công Em, born 1971
  54. Lê Văn Sinh, born 1965
  55. Dương Thị Lanh, born 1983
  56. Huỳnh Đắc Túy, born 1976
  57. Rah Lan Hip (a.k.a Ama Kiêu), born 1981
  58. Lê Văn Phương, born 1990
  59. Trương Hữu Lộc, born 1963
  60. Nguyễn Ngọc Ánh, born 1980
  61. Vũ Thị Dung
  62. Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Sương
  63. Ksor Ruk, born 1975
  64. Nguyễn Văn Quang, born 1987
  65. Bùi Ngọc Tiến
  66. Nguyễn Văn Toàn
  67. Huỳnh Trương Ca, born 1971
  68. Lê Hồng Vân, born 1970
  69. Nguyễn Đình Thành, born 1991
  70. Trần Minh Huệ, born 1982
  71. Lưu Văn Vịnh, born 1967
  72. Nguyễn Quốc Hoàn, born 1977
  73. Nguyễn Văn Đức Độ, born 1975
  74. Từ Công Nghĩa, born 1993
  75. Phan Trung, born 1976
  76. Đỗ Công Đương, born 1964
  77. Nguyễn Trung Trực, born 1974
  78. Lê Đình Lượng, born 1965
  79. Trần Thị Xuân, born 1976
  80. Nguyễn Viết Dũng, born 1986
  81. Nguyễn Văn Túc, born 1964
  82. Nguyễn Trung Tôn, born 1972
  83. Trương Minh Đức, born 1960
  84. Nguyễn Bắc Truyển, born 1968
  85. Phạm Văn Trội, born 1972
  86. Bùi Văn Trung, born 1964
  87. Bùi Văn Thâm, born 1987
  88. Hoàng Đức Bình, born 1983
  89. Vũ Quang Thuận (a.k.a Võ Phù Đổng), born 1966
  90. Nguyễn Văn Điển (a.k.a Điển Ái Quốc), born 1983
  91. Trần Hoàng Phúc, born 1994
  92. Vương Văn Thả, born 1969
  93. Vương Thanh Thuận, born 1990
  94. Nguyễn Nhật Trường, born 1985
  95. Nguyễn Văn Thượng, born 1985
  96. Nguyễn Tấn An, born 1992
  97. Nguyễn Văn Hóa, born 1995
  98. Phan Kim Khánh, born 1993
  99. Nguyễn Văn Oai, born 1981
  100. Rơ Ma Đaih (Ama Pôn) born 1989
  101. Puih Bop (Ama Phun), born 1959
  102. Ksor Kam (Ama H’Trưm), born 1965
  103. Rơ Lan Kly (Ama Blan), born 1962
  104. Đinh Nông (Bă Pol), born 1965
  105. Trần Anh Kim, born 1949
  106. Lê Thanh Tùng, born 1968
  107. Ksor Phit, born 1970
  108. Siu Đik, born 1970
  109. Ksor Púp (Ama Hyung)
  110. Siu Đoang, born 1983
  111. A Jen, born 1984
  112. A Tik, born 1952
  113. Đinh Kữ, born 1972
  114. Thin, born 1979
  115. Kpuih Khuông
  116. Rmah Khil
  117. Rmah Bloanh
  118. A Kuin (a.k.a Bă Chăn), born 1974
  119. Đinh Yum, born 1963
  120. Rơ Mah Plă (a.k.a Rmah Blă; a.k.a Ama Em), born 1968
  121. Siu Tinh (a.k.a Ama Khâm), born 1978
  122. Rưn
  123. A Tách (a.k.a Bă Hlôl), born 1959
  124. Rung, born 1979
  125. Phan Văn Thu, born 1948
  126. Lê Duy Lộc, born 1956
  127. Vương Tấn Sơn, born 1953
  128. Nguyễn Kỳ Lạc, born 1951
  129. Tạ Khu, born 1947
  130. Từ Thiện Lương, born 1950
  131. Võ Ngọc Cư, born 1951
  132. Võ Thành Lê, born 1955
  133. Võ Tiết, born 1952
  134. Lê Phúc, born 1951
  135. Đoàn Văn Cư, born 1962
  136. Nguyễn Dinh, born 1968
  137. Phan Thanh Ý, born 1948
  138. Trần Phi Dũng, born 1966
  139. Lê Đức Động, born 1983
  140. Lê Trọng Cư, born 1966
  141. Lương Nhật Quang, born 1987
  142. Nguyễn Thái Bình, born 1986
  143. Trần Quân, born 1984
  144. Hồ Đức Hòa, born 1974
  145. Siu Hlom, born 1967
  146. Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức, born 1966

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