In Vietnam, more than 100 political prisoners are currently locked up simply for exercising their basic rights. Rights bloggers and activists face police harassment, intimidation, surveillance, and interrogation on a daily basis. Activists face long stints of pre-trial detention, without access to lawyers or family in a one-party police state that brooks no dissent.
International donors and trade partners should press for the end to the systematic persecution of peaceful critics. Join us in calling for the immediate release all people imprisoned and detained for peacefully exercising their rights.
Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, 51
Sentenced: 16 years
Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, 51, is serving 16 years for calling for democracy and a multi-party political system in Vietnam. He is a businessman and the founder and general director of EIS/OCI, an information technology company that provided telephone and other services over the Internet. He played an important role advocating for the development of information technology and digital communications in Vietnam.
In late 2005, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc created an independent research group called Nhom Nghien cuu Chan (Research Group to Revive [the country]) to study social, economic, and political issues in Vietnam. He also set up three blogging sites (Tran Dong Tran, Psonkhanh, and Change We Need) on which he posted his observations and analyses of social and political issues.
The police arrested Tran Huynh Duy Thuc in May 2009. They initially accused him of evading the telephone use tax, but later charged him under article 79 of the penal code with “aiming to overthrow the people’s government.” In January 2010, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City put him and other rights activists, Le Cong Dinh, Le Thang Long, and Nguyen Tien Trung, on trial for involvement in “a reactionary organization called the Vietnamese Democratic Party.” At the trial, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc lodged a complaint alleging that authorities coerced his confession, but the court ignored his motion. Observers believe his extraordinarily long sentence was in retaliation for his claim of coercion.
In May 2016, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc was transferred from Xuyen Moc prison in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province to Prison No. 6 in Nghe An province. It was reported that he carried out hunger strikes in prison calling for the right of Vietnamese citizens to elect their government and to protest the government’s handling of a toxic fish crisis.
Ngo Hao, 70
Sentenced: 15 years
Ngo Hao, 70, is a human rights and democracy activist. He is currently serving a 15-year sentence after writing articles calling for democracy.
Ngo Hao has a long history of political imprisonment. He was sent to a re-education camp for four months in 1975, for being a soldier in the defeated army of the Republic of Vietnam during Vietnam’s civil war. In March 1977, government officials arrested him for his alleged involvement and affiliation with the Vietnam Alliance Party (Dang Lien minh Viet Nam). The authorities released him later due to illness, though the exact date of his release is not clear.
Police arrested Ngo Hao in February 2013 and charged him with “activities that aim at overthrowing the people’s government” under article 79 of the penal code. The authorities accused him of writing and disseminating articles that distorted the work of the government and disparaged government leaders between 2008-12. The authorities also claimed he planned to carry out a so-called “jasmine revolution” in Vietnam to overthrow the government through non-violent methods.
Ngo Hao was convicted in September 2013 by the People’s Court of Phu Yen province. The verdict stated that since 2008 Ngo Hao had carried out “activities with the goal of demanding change of the political regime for a plural and multi-party system, as well as advocating for religious freedom in Vietnam.”
According to Ngo Hao’s family, he is suffering from poor health including high blood pressure, gastric ulcers, and high cholesterol. In January 2015, he was transferred from Xuan Phuoc prison in Phu Yen province to An Diem prison in Quang Nam province. In March 2015, he reportedly carried out a hunger strike to protest his prison sentence.
Ho Duc Hoa, 44
Sentenced: 13 years
Ho Duc Hoa, 44, is a businessman who owned a private investment and trade company in Vinh. He is serving 13 years for being a member of a political organization that is opposed to the Communist Party of Vietnam.
As a founding member of the Vinh Human Development Fund, Ho Duc Hoa and his colleagues helped raise funds to provide scholarships to high-achieving, yet poor, high-school and university students, to enable them to continue their studies. He regularly participated in volunteer activities in local neighborhoods in Vinh on projects for the poor and persons with disabilities, the environment, and on anti-abortion advocacy.
Police arrested Ho Duc Hoa in July 2011 at Tan Son Nhat airport on his return from a trip to Thailand. He was charged under article 79 with participating in the Viet Tan, a banned overseas-based political party that the government claims is involved in activities to overthrow Communist Party rule. He was put on trial in January 2013 by the People’s Court of Nghe An, along with 13 other Protestant and Catholic activists (see case of Nguyen Dang Minh Man). He was accused of being “the most active” person in the group, resulting in an extremely harsh sentence.
In June 2017, Ho Duc Hoa wrote a letter to his family from Nam Ha prison in Ha Nam province telling them that his health was deteriorating, citing stomach and intestinal disease.
Tran Anh Kim, 69
Sentenced: 13 years
Tran Anh Kim, 69, is a former lieutenant colonel and former deputy political commissar of the Military Committee of Thai Binh town , who is serving 13 years for pro-democracy activities.
In 2006, Tran Anh Kim became known as a dissident writer and as a member of Bloc 8406, a pro-democracy movement founded on April 8, 2006. Bloc 8406 is known for publishing on that day the “Manifesto on Freedom and Democracy for Vietnam 2006” (Tuyên Ngôn Tự Do Dân Chủ Cho Việt Nam 2006), which called for democratic reforms in Vietnam. It was originally signed by 118 dissidents and later by thousands of others. He also served on the editorial board of To Quoc, a pro-democracy journal founded and run by domestic and overseas activists. In 2009, he received a Hellman Hammett grant from Human Rights Watch as a writer defending free expression.
Tran Anh Kim was arrested by Thai Binh provincial police in July 2009 for connections to the banned Democratic Party of Vietnam. Police charged him with “carrying out activities that aim to overthrow the people’s administration” under article 79 of the penal code. He was convicted in December 2009 and sentenced to 5 years and 6 months in prison.
Tran Anh Kim was released in January 2015 after completing his prison term. Upon being released, he told the BBC’s Vietnamese service that he would continue to fight for democracy and freedom. The police placed him under intrusive surveillance. A group of fellow activists went to visit him in Thai Binh province shortly after his release. Upon leaving his house, the group was attacked by men in civilian clothes.
In September 2015, Tran Anh Kim was arrested for allegedly founding a group called “National Forces Raise the Flag of Democracy” (Luc luong Quoc dan Dung co Dan chu; see case of Le Thanh Tung). Police charged him with “activities that aim to overthrow the people’s administration” under article 79 of the penal code. According to state media, his aim was “to call for the abolition of the Communist Party of Vietnam and the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the formation of a multi-party system.” In December 2016, the People’s Court of Thai Binh convicted him and sentenced him to 13 years in prison. The long sentence may be because he continued his fight for democracy after serving his first prison sentence.
In August 2017, Tran Anh Kim was transferred from Ba Sao prison in Ha Nam province to prison No. 5 in Thanh Hoa province.
Le Thanh Tung
Sentenced: 12 years
Le Thanh Tung, also known as Le Ai Quoc, 50, is serving a 12-year sentence for calling for democracy in Vietnam.
Le Thanh Tung joined the Vietnam People’s Army in 1986 and was stationed in Vietnam’s Central Highlands and Cambodia. In 1991, he left the army and worked as a freelance laborer. In 2006, Le Thanh Tung began to advocate for freedom and democracy in Vietnam and a year later joined Bloc 8406. Le Thanh Tung blogged and reported as a citizen journalist about land disputes and workers’ strikes. He helped people whose land had been expropriated prepare petitions with supporting documents to hand over to the government. He also penned a number of articles urging the government of Vietnam to adopt a democratic and multi-party political system.
Because of his activism, Le Thanh Tung faced a campaign of official harassment, including being subject to public criticism and forced to make a public self-denunciation. In December 2011, the police arrested and charged him under article 88 of the Vietnam Penal Code for “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” In August 2012, the People’s Court of Hanoi sentenced him to five years in prison. In November 2012, the People’s Supreme Court reduced his sentence to four years in prison.
Le Thanh Tung was released in June 2015, a few months before the end of his sentence. But he was not free for long. Police arrested him again in December 2015 for allegedly co-founding a group called “National Forces Raise the Flag of Democracy” (Luc luong Quoc dan Dung co Dan chu; see also the case of Tran Anh Kim). The charges this time focused on “activities that aim to overthrow the people’s administration” under article 79. In December 2016, the People’s Court of Thai Binh sentenced him to 12 years in prison.
In August 2017, Le Thanh Tung was transferred from Ba Sao prison in Ha Nam province to prison No. 5 in Thanh Hoa province.
Tran Thi Nga, 41
Sentenced: 9 years
Tran Thi Nga, also known as Thuy Nga, 41, was convicted to a nine-year sentence for “conducting propaganda against the state” for advocating for labor rights.
Her career as a labor rights activist began when she was injured in a traffic accident in Taiwan in 2005, where she had emigrated two years earlier to work. Neither the Vietnam government nor the manpower company that sent her to Taiwan provided her any assistance or support. From 2005 to 2008, while she was receiving medical treatment and pursuing a legal claim related to the accident, she received help from an NGO in Taiwan that also educated her about labor law, workers’ rights, and trade unionism. She returned to Vietnam in 2008 and immediately became active in helping workers who suffered mistreatment and rights abuses by employers. She also participated in anti-China and pro-environment protests, attended trials of bloggers and rights activists, and visited former political prisoners at their houses to express solidarity for their causes and provide moral support. She also served as an executive board member for the group Vietnamese Women for Human Rights, founded in November 2013.
Tran Thi Nga has suffered repeated incidents of intimidation, harassment, intrusive surveillance, arbitrary temporary detention, interrogation, and physical assault. In May 2014, a group of five men assaulted her on a street in Hanoi, using iron rods to beat her. Upon hearing of the assault, fellow activists took her to the hospital, where doctors found she had a broken arm and a broken kneecap. In March 2015, several men in civilian clothing detained her in Hanoi and forcibly returned her to her hometown in Ha Nam province. During the trip, one man twisted her neck and gagged her so that she could not call for help. Two other men restrained her hands and legs while the fourth man slapped and punched her. She told other activists that she believed the men were government security officials.
In January 2017, the Ha Nam provincial police arrested Tran Thi Nga under article 88 of the penal code for her posts on Facebook and YouTube that were critical of the government. In July 2017, the People’s Court of Ha Nam convicted and sentenced Tran Thi Nga to nine years in prison. Tran Thi Nga is appealing her case and has not yet been assigned a prison but is still held in detention.
Nguyen Dang Minh Man, 33
Sentenced: 8 years
Nguyen Dang Minh Man, 33, is serving an eight-year sentence for her peaceful activism.
As a child, Nguyen Dang Minh Man fled overseas with her family by boat in 1989. She lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for seven years before the Thai authorities sent them back to Vietnam. She began her rights and democracy activism in 2009, participating in large anti-China protests in Ho Chi Minh City about the disputed South China Sea islands. She also painted graffiti, insisting that Vietnam’s sovereignty extended over the Spratly and Paracel Islands.
Tra Vinh provincial police arrested her in August 2011, along with her mother Dang Ngoc Minh and her brother Nguyen Dang Vinh Phuc and charged them with “activities that aim to overthrow the people’s administration” under article 79 of the penal code. According to the indictment, police accused her of being involved with the Viet Tan, a banned political party, and attending their training sessions on tactics of non-violent struggle in Cambodia and Thailand in 2009 and 2010. In January 2013, prosecutors put her on trial with 13 other activists (see case of Ho Duc Hoa), including her mother and her brother. The People’s Court of Nghe An sentenced her to eight years in prison (her mother received a three-year sentence, while the brother received a suspended sentence).
In December 2014 and January 2015, Nguyen Dang Minh Man carried out two hunger strikes to protest the mistreatment of political prisoners. In March 2017, during a visit to her at prison No. 5 in Thanh Hoa province, her father learned that she was assaulted by a fellow prisoner a few weeks prior to the visit and then placed in a disciplinary cell for 10 days.
Phan Kim Khanh, 25
Sentenced: 6 years
Phan Kim Khanh, 25, is a student who was sentenced to six years in prison on October 25, 2017, for advocating democracy in Vietnam.
A student at the Department of International Relations at Thai Nguyen University, during his freshmen year he helped found and manage a student club to facilitate volunteer work. Later, he served as a member of the secretariat of the board of the student association.
Phan Kim Khanh received many awards from the Thai Nguyen Students Association and the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth League of Thai Nguyen province. He also received a 2015 scholarship to attend a training course provided by the US Embassy in Hanoi for members of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI).
In a published personal statement, he wrote: “I was born in a village in Phu Tho where everybody woke up very early in the morning to work hard to earn their livings. Some would go to the field to cut fresh vegetable and carry them to the market to sell. Others quickly lit their charcoal fire to warm up rice and some left-over food from the night before and promptly left home for their morning shift at the industrial brick kiln. They worked hard and struggled all day, but their lives remained poor… During my sophomore and junior year at the university, I began to examine the problems why Vietnam could not become a developed country… I want to work for genuine media in a near future. I would like to participate in the struggle movement for democracy and freedom of press in Vietnam.”
The police of Thai Nguyen province arrested Phan Kim Khanh in March 2017 for founding and managing two blogs in 2015 called “Newspaper of [anti]Corruption” (Bao Tham Nhung) and “Vietnam Weekly” (Tuan Viet Nam). In addition, he allegedly opened three accounts on Facebook and two accounts on YouTube. The authorities accuse him of “continuously publishing information with fabricated and distorted contents that aim to oppose the Socialist Republic of Vietnam; most of these contents were taken from other reactionary websites.” He was charged with “conducting propaganda against the state” under article 88 of the penal code.
In October 2017, the People’s Court of Thai Nguyen sentenced Phan Kim Khanh to six years in prison.
Nguyen Van Oai, 37
Sentenced: 5 years
Nguyen Van Oai, 37, is a Catholic serving a five-year sentence for pro-democracy activism. This follows a previous four-year term for peaceful activism.
Nguyen Van Oai has long participated in anti-China protests and protests against the imprisonment of other activists. He was also involved in mobilizing support for the prominent lawyer, Cu Huy Ha Vu, at the time of his 2011 trial. He also participated in labor rights activities in Binh Duong province.
Police arrested him in August 2011 at Tan Son Nhat airport after a trip abroad for affiliation with the outlawed political party Viet Tan. The police charged him with “carrying out activities aiming to overthrow the people’s administration” under article 79 of the penal code. In January 2013, the People’s Court of Nghe An put him and 13 other Catholic and Protestant activists on trial, sentencing Nguyen Van Oai to four years in prison.
In August 2015, Nguyen Van Oai completed his prison sentence. Upon release, he told BBC Vietnamese that he planned to “work with organizations that care about human rights in Vietnam so that the country will soon have a real democracy.” He participated in multiple protests against the Taiwanese steel company Formosa, which had caused a massive marine disaster by dumping toxic waste along the central coast of Vietnam in April 2016.
The police arrested Nguyen Van Oai again in January 2017 for violating the terms of his probation term (under article 304 of the penal code) and resisting a person on public duty (article 257 of the penal code). At a one-day trial in September 2017, the People’s Court of Hoang Mai town in Nghe An province sentenced him to five years in prison.
Tran Hoang Phuc, 24
Sentenced: 6 years
Tran Hoang Phuc, 24, was convicted to a six-year prison sentence for “conducting propaganda against the state” for posting material critical of the Vietnamese government.
Tran Hoang Phuc is a student from the Law University in Ho Chi Minh City and a member of the Youth Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI). He began participating in social activities in recent years, including by helping flood victims in central Vietnam and participating in pro-human rights activities organized by the Redemptorist Church in Ho Chi Minh City. In May 2016, he publicly boycotted the national election in protest of its pre-determined outcome in a one-party state.
Also in May 2016, Tran Hoang Phuc was invited to a meeting of former US President Barack Obama with members of YSEALI during his visit to Vietnam. Tran Hoang Phuc brought documents related to the environmental disaster in April 2016 off the central coast of Vietnam caused by Formosa, a Taiwanese steel company. As he was waiting in line to enter the meeting room, public security officers arrived and took him to a police station for interrogation. According to Tran Hoang Phuc, the police questioned him about his communications with the United States consulate in Ho Chi Minh City.
In October 2016, Tran Hoang Phuc participated in a meeting in Vung Tau called “Youth and Civil Society,” organized by rights activists. Within minutes, the police broke in, dispersed the meeting, and detained several activists for about 10 hours. Tran Hoang Phuc reported that he was beaten and his cellphone confiscated.
In April 2017, Tran Hoang Phuc and fellow activist Huynh Thanh Phat were abducted in Ba Don, Quang Binh province, by a group of men in civilian clothes wearing surgical masks. The anonymous men used shirts to cover the activists’ faces, pushed them into a small van, and drove them away. During the ride, the men continuously beat the two activists. Tran Hoang Phuc wrote on his Facebook page that the men slapped and punched him. The two were taken to a deserted area in the forest where, according to Tran Hoang Phuc, the men “used bamboo sticks and belts to whip them.” The men took their wallets and cellphones and abandoned them.
In June 2017, the police arrested Tran Hoang Phuc in Hanoi for storing and posting documents that “propagandize against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” and charged him under article 88 of the penal code. Shortly after his arrest, a group called “Vietnamese Students for Human Rights Association” announced its formation. According to the group, Tran Hoang Phuc is a founding member. The goal of the association is to promote reforms in universities and establish academic freedom in Vietnam.
In January 2018, the People’s Court of Hanoi convicted and sentenced Tran Hoang Phuc to six years in prison.
Vu Quang Thuan, 52
Sentenced: 8 years
Vu Quang Thuan, 52, was convicted to an eight-year prison sentence for “conducting propaganda against the state” for posting video clips critical of the Vietnamese government.
Vu Quang Thuan, also known as Vo Phu Dong, began his pro-democracy activism in 2007 when he and fellow activist Le Thang Long founded “Vietnam Restoration Movement” (Phong trao Chan hung nuoc Viet), which advocated for a multi-party and democratic political system. According to Le Thang Long, the goal of the movement is to advance “Corporate reform, non-violence, dialogue, and listening for the mutual and long-term interest of the country.” Le Thang Long was arrested in June 2009 and charged with subversion. He served three years in prison. Vu Quang Thuan fled to Malaysia where he applied for asylum. While waiting for his case to be heard, Vu Quang Thuan recruited members for his movement and advocated for the rights of Vietnamese laborers working in Malaysia. He told a reporter at Radio Free Asia that he read almost 1,000 labor contracts in which [Vietnamese workers] are not allowed to “join any party or organization, participate in any protest, love and marry any foreigner.” According to the Vietnamese police newspaper An ninh The gioi (World Security), in February 2010, Vu Quang Thuan helped organize three public protests in Kuala Lumpur outside the Vietnamese embassy in Malaysia and the office of the Malaysian prime minister to urge Vietnam to release political detainees and respect freedom of speech, press, media, and association.
In April 2010, Vu Quang Thuan attempted to self-immolate at the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur to protest Malaysia’s deportation of two members of the Vietnam Restoration Movement. He was arrested by Malaysian police and deported to Vietnam in February 2011. Vu Quang Thuan claimed that he had been issued with a document identifying him as a refugee but this was confiscated by the Malaysian police. Upon arrival at Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City, he was arrested and charged with “conducting propaganda against the state” under penal code section 88. He was released in 2015, after which he immediately went back to activism by using Facebook and YouTube to advocate for democracy and a multiparty political system.
In March 2017, the police arrested Vu Quang Thuan for posting documents that “propagandize against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” and charged him under article 88 of the penal code. In January 2018, the People’s Court of Hanoi convicted and sentenced him to eight years in prison.
Ho Van Hai, 54
Sentenced: 4 years
Ho Van Hai, 54, was sentenced in February 2018 to a four-year prison sentence for conducting propaganda against the state for his writings on Facebook and his blog.
Ho Van Hai (also known as Dr. Ho Hai) graduated from the University of Medicine and Pharmacy at Ho Chi Minh City in 1989 and worked as a general doctor at a private clinic in Ho Chi Minh city. In 2009, he began to blog about Vietnamese socio-political, economic, and environmental issues as well as provide commentaries on international events. In 2014, he founded the Go West Foundation, which aims to help Vietnamese students study in Western countries, and served as its president until 2016. According to a co-founder of the foundation, one of its goals is “to promote community awareness and to promote a ‘for-others’ spirit so that once a student achieves a certain personal success, he/she would help the next generation, help the community, and to a larger extent, help the country.”
In 2016, Ho Van Hai compiled a list of 198 methods of civil disobedience and published it on his blog. He called for a lawsuit against Formosa, a Taiwanese steel company that dumped toxic waste and caused a massive marine disaster along the central coast of Vietnam in April 2016. According to the indictment reported by Thanh Nien newspaper, Ho Van Hai “wrote and published many articles that smear and slander high-ranking leaders of Vietnam’s Communist Party and State, distort guidelines and policies, urge people to participate in protests against Formosa and in civil disobedience movements, urge people to disobey the guidelines and policies of the Party and the State, and boycott the election at different levels.”
Ho Chi Minh City police arrested Ho Van Hai in November 2016 and charged him with conducting propaganda against the state under article 88 of the penal code. His trial was in February 2018.
Nguyen Van Hoa, 23
Sentenced: 7 years
Nguyen Van Hoa, 23, is serving a seven-year sentence for sharing and distributing articles and videos critical of the Vietnamese government.
Nguyen Van Hoa is a freelance journalist and environmental activist in Ha Tinh province. In 2016, he participated in protests against Formosa, a Taiwanese steel company that dumped toxic waste and caused a massive marine disaster along the central coast of Vietnam. He advocated for fishermen in his hometown province whose livelihoods were affected by the disaster.
According to state media, Nguyen Van Hoa “used his personal Facebook account to communicate with extreme elements and reactionary subjects, to post photos and videos with contents that stirred protests after the sea environmental incidents and floods in the areas of Ha Tinh, Nghe An, and Quang Binh, in which he himself filmed, photographed and interviewed the people. In particular, on October 2, 2016, Hoa joined a number of people to gather and protest outside the main gate of the Formosa company. He used a flycam to video and livestream on a social network. He called and incited the people into following the leadership of a number of extremists, in order to disrupt order and security and to destroy Formosa’s property.”
In January 2017, Ha Tinh province police arrested Nguyen Van Hoa and charged him with “abusing freedom and democracy to infringe upon the interests of the state” under article 258 of the penal code. In June 2017, the police changed the charge to “conducting propaganda against the state” under article 88 of the penal code. In November 2017, the People’s Court of Ha Tinh province sentenced him to seven years in prison. According to Radio Free Asia, he did not have a defense lawyer.
Hoang Duc Binh, 35
Sentenced: 14 years
Hoang Duc Binh, 35, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for his activism to promote the rights of workers and fishermen.
Hoang Duc Binh is vice president of Viet Labor Movement (Phong trao Lao dong Viet), an independent organization founded in 2008 to promote workers’ rights. In December 2015, the police detained him briefly for distributing leaflets that advocated allowing the formation of independent labor unions. The leaflets cited then-Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s promise that Vietnamese workers would be able to form and join independent unions under the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership economic agreement. Hoang Duc Binh told Nguoi Viet newspaper that he was beaten in detention. Fellow activists who went to the police station to demand his release were also assaulted.
Hoang Duc Binh has repeatedly and publicly voiced support for political prisoners and detainees. He has also participated in several of the Formosa protests and helped organize groups advocating compensation for fishermen who lost their livelihood in relation to the 2016 toxic spill.
Bao Nghe An, the news organ for the Communist Party branch of Nghe An province, accused Hoang Duc Binh of “often posting and sharing on his personal Facebook account information and materials that propagandize against the regime and advocate for pluralism and multi-parties. Taking advantage of the environmental incident in the central coast, as the vice president of ‘Viet Labor Movement,’ Hoang Duc Binh had pushed for and formed a ‘Union for Fishermen in the Central Region’ [Hiep hoi ngu dan mien Trung], with the intention to build a peripheral organization, to gather forces, and incite Catholic people and fishermen from the Central region to participate in his organization; searching for a ‘nuclear factor’ to incite protests and disrupt security and order.”
On May 15, 2017, Hoang Duc Binh was riding as a passenger in the car of Father Nguyen Dinh Thuc, another human rights defender, when they were stopped by traffic police. Father Thuc wrote in a statement published on the Saigon Broadcasting Television Network website that a group of men in civilian clothes and police in uniform “suddenly appeared, jerked the door open, and forcefully dragged Hoang Duc Binh out of the car and took him away,” without any arrest warrant. That evening, the Nghe An television network broadcast the news of Hoang Duc Binh’s arrest. On the arrest warrant shown on TV, he had written: “I do not agree [with the charges] because the Nghe An police have beaten me and arrested me illegally.”
Nghe An province police charged Hoang Duc Binh with “abusing freedom and democracy to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate interest and rights of organizations and citizens” under article 258 and “resisting persons on public duty” under article 257 of the penal code. In February 2018, the People’s Court of Dien Chau district (Nghe An province) put Hoang Duc Binh on trial and sentenced him to 14 years in prison.
Bui Van Trung, 54
Sentenced: 6 years
Bui Van Trung, 54, a Hoa Hao Buddhist activist, was sentenced to a six-year prison sentence for staging a protest against the government’s repression of religious freedom.
Bui Van Trung, also known as Ut Trung, ran an informal home church for independent Hoa Hao Buddhist followers in 2005 and preached the religion to practitioners who gathered at his house on numerous occasions without government approval.
Since then, his family has suffered intrusive surveillance, harassment, and intimidation on a regular basis. In April 2012, the local authorities cut off their electricity, threw rocks and rotten fish at their house, and sprayed water to prevent people from gathering at his house. Local police beat several people, Bui Van Trung told a reporter at Radio Free Asia. In May 2013, the authorities harassed, intimidated, and assaulted many of the people who tried to attend the ceremony commemorating the anniversary of his mother’s death.
His family members have also been imprisoned. In July 2012, his son Bui Van Tham was arrested for “resisting people on public order” under article 257 of the penal code. He was convicted and sentenced to two years and six months in prison. In October 2012, Bui Van Trung was arrested on the same charge. He was sentenced to four years in prison. In February 2014, Bui Van Trung’s son-in-law Nguyen Van Minh was arrested for a bogus traffic violation, charged with “disrupting public order” under article 245, and sentenced to two years and six months in prison.
On the evening of April 18, 2017, traffic police and men in civilian clothes set up a checkpoint near Bui Van Trung’s house in An Phu district, An Giang province, to stop independent Hoa Hao Buddhist followers who came to attend the anniversary commemoration of Bui Van Trung’s mother’s death. The police did not cite them for traffic violations but confiscated their papers. Men in civilian clothes cursed and threatened to beat them while traffic police did not intervene. This appeared to follow a pattern of plainclothes ‘thugs’ being used by police for intimidation. The next morning, traffic police and men in civilian clothes again set up the checkpoint. The traffic police instructed men in civilian clothes to impound the motorbikes of Mai Thi Dung, a former political prisoner, and of another Hoa Hao Buddhist follower, who were both stopped at the checkpoint, though neither were cited for any traffic violations. When Bui Van Trung’s son Bui Van Tham tried to stop the men from taking the motorbikes, they beat him. In response, Bui Van Trung and dozens of Hoa Hao Buddhist followers then staged a public demonstration to protest government repression.
In June 2017, An Giang province police arrested Bui Van Trung and charged him with “disrupting public order” under article 245 of the criminal code. In February 2018, the People’s Court of An Phu district (An Giang province) put Bui Van Trung and five other Hoa Hao Buddhists activists on trial. Bui Van Trung and his son Bui Van Tham were sentenced to six years in prison; his daughter Bui Thi Bich Tuyen received a three-year sentence; and his wife Le Thi Hen, received a two-year suspended sentence. Two other Hoa Hao Buddhist activists, Le Hong Hanh and Nguyen Hoang Nam, received three-year and four-year prison sentences respectively.
Truong Minh Duc, 58
Sentenced: 12 years
Truong Minh Duc, 58, was convicted to 12 years in prison for being affiliated with a pro-democracy group.
Truong Minh Duc is a journalist who wrote and published in various mainstream newspapers in Vietnam, including Vanguard (Tien phong), Youth (Thanh nien), Law (Phap luat), and Kien Giang (the newspaper of his hometown). His writing exposed corruption and wrongdoing committed by local authorities involved in land ownership. He called people to help those in difficult situations. In 2006, he joined the pro-democracy Bloc 8406 and the Populist Party, which “aims to participate in the struggle to advance social democratic process and to build a new Vietnam with peace, freedom, prosperity and progress.”
Truong Minh Duc was arrested in May 2007 and charged with “abusing rights to democracy and freedom to infringe upon the interest of the state” under article 258 of the penal code. He was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. Since completing his prison term in May 2012, Truong Minh Duc resumed writing about rights issues. He advocates for fellow prisoners of conscience who continue to face harassment in prison simply because they refuse to repent. He joined the Free Viet Labor Federation (Lao dong Viet) from 2014-2016 and the Viet Labor Movement (Phong trao Lao dong Viet) in 2016 to campaign for workers’ rights. He is also a member of the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience (Hoi Cuu Tu nhan Luong tam Viet Nam), and the Brotherhood for Democracy, founded in 2013 “to defend human rights recognized by the Vietnam Constitution and international conventions” and “to promote the building of a democratic, progressive, civilized and just society for Vietnam.” He campaigned against Formosa, a Taiwanese steel company that dumped toxic waste into the sea and caused a massive marine disaster along the central coast of Vietnam.
Due to his human rights activities, Truong Minh Duc encountered harassment, intimidation, house arrest, interrogation, and physical assault. In September 2014, when Truong Minh Duc went with three other activists to the Ministry of Public Security in Hanoi to inquire about the prohibition of labor rights campaigner Do Thi Minh Hanh’s trip abroad, a group of men in civilian clothes attacked and beat him until he lost consciousness. In November 2014, he was severely beaten by a group of eight men, one of whom he identified as a police officer named Hoa, who interrogated and beat him two months earlier at the police station of My Phuoc ward, Ben Cat district (Binh Duong province). In November 2015, the police of Dong Nai province detained and assaulted Truong Minh Duc and labor activist Do Thi Minh Hanh for helping workers at Yupoong Company exercise their rights.
In July 2017, the police arrested Truong Minh Duc and charged him with carrying out activities that aimed to overthrow the people’s administration under to article 79 of the penal code.
Truong Minh Duc was awarded a Hellman/Hammett free expression grant in 2013 and the Vietnam Human Rights award by the Vietnam Human Rights Network in 2010.
Nguyen Trung Ton, 47
Sentenced: 12 years
Nguyen Trung Ton, 47, was convicted to 12 years in prison for being affiliated with a pro-democracy group.
Nguyen Trung Ton is an independent Protestant pastor and a blogger whose writings focus on the lack of religious freedom and other rights issues in Vietnam. He has written about local land confiscation and corruption that has driven many peasants into landless situations. He criticized the government’s spending of tax money on festivals instead of building infrastructure, schools, or helping the poor. He supported fellow religious activists including independent Hoa Hao Buddhist leader Le Quang Liem and Mennonite pastor Duong Kim Khai. Nguyen Trung Ton has written about police harassment and assaults against him and his family.
Nguyen Trung Ton has encountered harassment, intimidation, house arrest, interrogation, and physical assault on numerous occasions. In May 2003, men in civilian clothes attacked his home, which he had turned into a house church. In June 2006, he was summoned by the police after attending a church worship service and was assaulted during interrogation. In August 2009, during an independent praying session at a private house, men in civilian clothes accompanied by local officials attacked and beat Nguyen Trung Ton’s family and fellow religious activists. In June 2010, his teenage son Nguyen Trung Trong Nghia was beaten on his way to school by five anonymous men after his father exposed police abuses.
Nguyen Trung Ton was arrested in January 2011 for conducting propaganda against the state and was sentenced to two years in prison. After completing his prison term in January 2013, Nguyen Trung Ton immediately resumed his campaign for human rights and democracy. He wrote a prison memoir that was published in Dan Lam Bao (Citizen Journalism). He advocated for political prisoners to be released. He joined the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience (Hoi Cuu Tu nhan Luong tam Viet Nam) and the Brotherhood for Democracy, founded in 2013 “to defend human rights recognized by the Vietnam Constitution and international conventions” and “to promote the building of a democratic, progressive, civilized and just society for Vietnam.” He campaigned against Formosa, a Taiwanese steel company that dumped toxic waste into the sea and caused a massive marine disaster along the central coast of Vietnam.
In February 2017, Nguyen Trung Ton and a friend took a bus from Quang Thing commune, Thanh Hoa province to Ba Don town, Quang Binh province. Upon arrival, a group of seven or eight young men in civilian clothing dragged them into a van, took their belongings, stripped their clothes off, covered their heads with their jackets, and beat them repeatedly with iron tubes. The perpetrators later abandoned Nguyen Trung Ton and his friend in a deserted forest in Ha Tinh province. Nguyen Trung Ton was seriously injured and had to undergo an operation at a local hospital.
In July 2017, the police arrested Nguyen Trung Ton and charged him for carrying out activities that aimed to overthrow the people’s administration under article 79 of the penal code.
Nguyen Trung Ton was awarded a Hellman/Hammett free expression grant in 2013.
Pham Van Troi, 46
Sentenced: 7 years
Pham Van Troi, 46, was convicted to 7 years in prison for being affiliated with a pro-democracy group.
Pham Van Troi is a blogger who has used various pen names to write about human rights, democracy, land rights, religious freedom, and territorial disputes between China and Vietnam. He was an active member of the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam, one of the only human rights organizations to ever operate in Vietnam, until all of its leaders were arrested. He also wrote for the dissident bulletin To Quoc (Fatherland). Since 2006, he has encountered numerous cases of harassment, house arrest, physical assault, and interrogation.
Police arrested Pham Van Troi in September 2008 and charged him with conducting propaganda against the state under article 88 of the penal code. In May 2009, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined that Pham Van Troi had been wrongfully detained. Despite its conclusion, he was sentenced in October 2009 to four years in prison. According to the indictment reported by state media, Pham Van Troi wrote “‘A denouncement of the security policy of the State and the Communist Party of Vietnam’ in November 2006 with content that distorts the truth and slanders the State as an oppressor of democracy. In addition, Troi gave interviews via telephone and slander that the police and the masses repressed and beat him.”
After completing his prison term in September 2012, Pham Van Troi immediately resumed his campaign for human rights and democracy. In April 2013, he helped found a group called Brotherhood for Democracy “to defend human rights recognized by the Vietnam Constitution and international conventions” and “to promote the building of a democratic, progressive, civilized, and just society for Vietnam.” He advocated for political prisoners and detainees including for Tran Anh Kim and Nguyen Van Dai to be released. He campaigned against Formosa, the Taiwanese steel company that dumped toxic waste into the sea and caused a marine disaster along the central coast of Vietnam.
Pham Van Troi was placed under intrusive surveillance. Activists and former political prisoners who visited him were harassed, detained, and beaten. In December 2016, men in civilian clothes threw rocks at his house and broke his window.
Police arrested Pham Van Troi in July 2017 and charged him for carrying out activities that aimed to overthrow the people’s administration under article 79 of the penal code.
He was awarded a Hellman/Hammett free expression grant in 2010.
Nguyen Bac Truyen, 50
Sentenced: 11 years
Nguyen Bac Truyen, 50, was convicted to 11 years in prison for being affiliated with a pro-democracy group.
Nguyen Bac Truyen was an entrepreneur who began to participate in humanitarian activities in the early 2000s. He provided aid to victims of national disasters, orphans, and children in remote areas. His company was among the first in Vietnam that adopted a paternity leave policy. He also wrote and published in overseas news websites about repression, injustice, and human rights violations committed by the government. In 2005, he joined the newly founded People’s Democratic Party (Dang Dan chu Nhan dan) to campaign for political pluralism in Vietnam.
Nguyen Bac Truyen was arrested in November 2006 under article 88 of the penal code for conducting propaganda against the state. According to the indictment reported by state media, prior to the 14th APEC Summit (in November 2006), he “distributed leaflets, gathered people to organize protests, and wrote letters to demand a meeting with the American president upon his visit to Ho Chi Minh City.” In May 2007, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City convicted Nguyen Bac Truyen and sentenced him to four years in prison. In August 2007, the People’s Supreme Court reduced his sentence to three years and six months in prison.
Since being released in May 2010, Nguyen Bac Truyen began to publish writings about his fellow political prisoners and the difficulties and discrimination that former political prisoners face. He has been an outspoken member of the Vietnamese Political and Religious Prisoners Fellowship Association (Hoi Ai huu Tu nhan Chinh tri va Ton giao Viet Nam), which provides support to prisoners and their families. He gave interviews to Radio Free Asia and the BBC about his prison experiences and compiled a detailed list of political prisoners in Vietnam to international human rights organizations. Nguyen Bac Truyen advocated for independent Hoa Hao Buddhist followers who suffer repression simply because they did not join the state-sanctioned church. He collaborated with the Redemptorist church in Ho Chi Minh City to carry out humanitarian activities to invalid veterans who fought for the southern army before 1975. He campaigned against Formosa, a Taiwanese steel company that dumped toxic waste into the sea and caused a massive marine disaster along the central coast of Vietnam.
Because of his pro-rights activities, Nguyen Bac Truyen has encountered harassment, intimidation, intrusive surveillance, interrogation, and physical assault on numerous occasions. In August 2010, police in Ho Chi Minh City detained and questioned him after he publicly called on Vietnam's politburo to release political and religious prisoners. In February 2014, a group of fellow activists went to visit Nguyen Bac Truyen and his wife Bui Thi Kim Phuong in Lap Vo district, Dong Thap province. Traffic police and men in civilian clothes stopped the group and attacked them. Three activists were arrested and charged with “disrupting public order” and sentenced to prison. Two weeks later, Nguyen Bac Truyen went to Hanoi to meet with foreign diplomats to campaign for those who were arrested. On the way to the Australian embassy in Hanoi, a group of men in civilian clothes assaulted him and broke his nose. In September 2016, Nguyen Bac Truyen and his wife were on their way home when a group of men in civilian clothes attacked them and used helmets to beat them.
Police arrested Nguyen Bac Truyen in July 2017 and charged him with carrying out activities that aimed to overthrow the people’s administration according to article 79 of the penal code.
Nguyen Bac Truyen was awarded a Hellman/Hammett free expression grant in 2011 and the Vietnam Human Rights award by the Vietnam Human Rights Network in 2014.
Nguyen Viet Dung, 32
Sentenced: 6 years
Nguyen Viet Dung, 32, was convicted to six years for his pro-democracy campaign and pro-rights activities.
Nguyen Viet Dung, also known as Dung Phi Ho, has a long history of social protest. As a high school student, he had a moment of celebrity, winning a prestigious television quiz show called Road to Mount Olympia and gaining admission to the Hanoi University of Science and Technology with outstanding test scores. But he was expelled after two years for his preoccupation with protests. Nguyen Viet Dung was again in the public eye in April 2015 after an arrest for participating in a peaceful pro-environment protest in Hanoi and charged with disrupting public order under article 245 of the penal code. In 2015, he also reportedly founded a political party called the Vietnam Republican Party to campaign for democracy in Vietnam.
In December 2015 he was put on trial at the People’s Court of Hoan Kiem district (Hanoi). During the trial, his lawyers reportedly asked the court to summon witnesses and produce the “victims” of his alleged crime. The court responded by expelling one of the defense lawyers. His other lawyers walked out in protest. Nguyen Viet Dung was sentenced to 15 months in prison, which a higher court reduced to 12 months in March 2016. He later told a freelance reporter that the police beat him and kicked him in the face and ribs when they arrested him.
After his release in April 2016, Nguyen Viet Dung immediately resumed his political and human rights activities with the motto, “No matter what happens, the final result must be Liberty n’ Separation of Powers.” He participated in multiple protests against Formosa, a Taiwanese steel company that dumped toxic waste and caused a massive marine disaster along the central coast of Vietnam. He voiced support for rights campaigners such as prominent activist Nguyen Van Dai and his colleague Le Thu Ha. He also participated in humanitarian activities, such as helping flood victims in Ha Tinh and Quang Binh provinces in October 2016.
In May 2016, when he was visiting fellow activists in Ho Chi Minh City, a group of men in civilian clothes assaulted him and took him to a police station. The police detained him and interrogated him for two days, then escorted him to the airport and sent him back to Vinh. There three men who did not identify themselves abducted him, pushed him into a car, and, as Nguyen Viet Dung later related, beat him brutally. “They punched me on my head and my arms, which bruised from the beating. They did not explain or say anything. They simply beat me continuously in the car. Not only using their fists, they took off their shoes and used the tips of the shoes to whip me.” He told a fellow activist that the men held him for a night at a hotel in Nghe An province, where they continued to beat him and forced him to write an incriminating statement, then released him.
In March 2017, police detained several activists for participating in a commemoration of Vietnamese soldiers who died during the Johnson South Reef Skirmish between Vietnam and China in 1988. Nguyen Viet Dung and his friend Do Thanh Van went to the police station in Bach Khoa ward to demand the release of their fellow activists. Men in civilian clothes assaulted them.
Shortly before his arrest, Nguyen Viet Dung had been conducting interviews “about the current state of over-charging at schools and the thoughts and wishes of students and their parents in the area where he lived,” a fellow activist said.
The police of Nghe An province arrested Nguyen Viet Dung in September 2017 and charged him with “conducting propaganda against the state” under penal code article 88. He was put on trial in April 2018 and convicted to seven years in prison. In August 2018, an appeal court reduced his sentence to six years in prison.
Le Dinh Luong, 52
Sentenced: 20 years
Le Dinh Luong, 52, is convicted to 20 years in prison for campaigning for human rights and democracy.
Le Dinh Luong is a Catholic activist who has participated in many activities deemed politically unacceptable by the Vietnamese authorities. He signed a petition against bauxite mining in the Central Highlands. He joined public protests Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, the Taiwanese company that dumped toxic waste into the ocean, causing massive fish deaths and an environmental disaster off Vietnam’s central coast in April 2016.
He publicly declared a boycott of the national election in May 2016. He also expressed support for political prisoners such as Nguyen Van Dai, Nguyen Viet Dung, and Ho Duc Hoa. To show solidarity, Le Dinh Luong frequently visited former political prisoners upon their release from prison, as well as the families of people in prison for campaigning for democracy and human rights.
Le Dinh Luong campaigned to revoke laws used to silence dissent such as article 258 of the 1999 Penal Code, which imposes up to seven years in prison for “abusing the rights to freedom and democracy to infringe upon the interests of the state.” According to his nephew, prominent rights activist Le Quoc Quan, Le Dinh Luong also campaigned for the rights of farmers to refuse to pay excessive educational and agricultural output fees imposed by local authorities.
In August 2015, Le Dinh Luong and several other activists visited a political activist, Tran Minh Nhat, in Lam Ha district, Lam Dong province. Police released Tran Minh Nhat shortly after he completed a four-year sentence for allegedly being involved in the foreign-based political party Viet Tan. When the visitors were leaving the area, men in civilian clothes brutally attacked them.
On July 24, 2017, Le Dinh Luong and a fellow activist, Thai Van Hoa, visited the family of a former political prisoner, Nguyen Van Oai, who had been arrested a second time in January 2017. Thai Van Hoa said that when they left, a group of men in civilian clothes beat them and forced them into separate vans. Later that day, the police announced that they arrested Le Dinh Luong and charged him with “carry[ing] out activities that aim to overthrow the people’s administration” under penal code article 79. The police and the army newspapers accused Le Dinh Luong of being a “dangerous reactionary” and a member of the outlawed Viet Tan party.
In August 2018, the People’s Court of Nghe An put him on trial and convicted him to 20 years in prison.
Nguyen Van Tuc, 54
Sentenced: 13 years
Nguyen Van Tuc, 54, is serving a 13-year prison sentence for campaigning for democracy and human rights.
Nguyen Van Tuc started campaigning against corruption and land rights confiscations in the early 2000s in his hometown of Dong La commune, Dong Hung district, Thai Binh province. He later joined the 8406 Bloc, a group founded on April 8, 2006 to advocate for a multi-party, democratic political system and human rights in Vietnam. He published articles denouncing the authorities for corruption and their abuses of human rights.
He wrote, “I am a land rights petitioner with little education. But the love I feel for my fellow people and the pain I feel for my nation compels me to be brave and speak against social injustice. Even if I had to sacrifice my life so that people will be able to attain happiness, the country attain freedom and democracy, and society can improve, I would do so, without any regret.”
In September 2008, the police arrested Nguyen Van Tuc after he and other activists hung a banner on an overpass in the city of Hai Phong that said, “the ward of Tien Phong resolutely fights to eliminate corruption. [We] request the Government to firmly defend our Fatherland. [We] request the Communist Party of Vietnam to accept pluralism and a multi-party system.” Authorities charged him with conducting propaganda against the state under article 88 of the 1999 penal code. In October 2009, the People’s Court of Hai Phong put Nguyen Van Tuc and five other activists on trial. He was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison.
Upon his release from prison in September 2012, he immediately resumed his campaign for human rights and democracy. He joined the Brotherhood for Democracy, which was founded in April 2013 by Nguyen Van Dai, and fellow human rights activists “to defend human rights recognized by the Vietnam Constitution and international conventions” and “to promote the building of a democratic, progressive, civilized and just society for Vietnam.” The Brotherhood for Democracy has served as a network for activists both inside and outside of Vietnam.
Nguyen Van Tuc was arrested again in September 2017 and charged with “carrying out activities that aim to overthrow the people’s administration” under article 79 of the 1999 penal code. The People’s Daily accused him of joining “a reactionary organization that operates illegally, with a plot to eliminate the leadership role of the Communist Party of Vietnam, to overthrow the people’s administration and change the political regime.”
In April 2018, during a trial that lasted only several hours, the People’s Court of Thai Binh convicted him and sentenced him to 13 years in prison.
Nguyen Van Tuc’s wife, Bui Thi Re, has publicly stated her husband is in poor health, with ailments including heart disease and keratitis, an inflammation of the eye.
Nguyen Trung Truc, 44
Sentenced: 12 years
Nguyen Trung Truc, 44, is convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison for campaigning for democracy and human rights.
Nguyen Trung Truc has a long history of involvement in pro-democracy activities. He was a boat person who spent more than seven years in a refugee camp in Hong Kong in 1990s, then was deported back to Vietnam in 1997. In 2003, he went to work in Malaysia, where he joined the Vietnam Restoration Movement (Phong trao Chan hung nuoc Viet), founded by the rights activists Vu Quang Thuan and Le Thang Long. The organization advocated for Vietnam to adopt a multi-party, democratic political system. Le Thang Long says that the movement’s goal is to advance “corporate reform, non-violence, dialogue, and listening for the mutual and long-term interest of the country.”
The police newspaper said in September 2017 that Nguyen Trung Truc “actively wrote many reactionary documents with content that propagandized a distorted image of Vietnam; answered interviews and participated in illegal protests in Malaysia.” Malaysia deported him back to Vietnam in September 2012.
In August 2015, Nguyen Trung Truc joined the Brotherhood for Democracy, which was founded in April 2013 by rights campaigner Nguyen Van Dai and fellow activists. With the stated goal “to defend human rights recognized by the Vietnam Constitution and international conventions” and “to promote the building of a democratic, progressive, civilized, and just society for Vietnam,” the Brotherhood for Democracy is a network of activists both in and outside Vietnam who campaign for human rights and democracy in Vietnam.
Nguyen Trung Truc acted as the group’s representative in Vietnam’s central region. He participated in protests against Formosa, a Taiwanese steel company that dumped toxic waste into the sea and caused a massive marine disaster along the central coast of Vietnam in April 2016.
In July 2016, Nguyen Trung Truc and seven other people went to Cua Lo in Nghe An province to attend a wedding of a fellow activist. A group of several dozens of people in civilian clothes attacked and severely beat them, and seized their phones, wallets, and official government identification. The assailants abandoned them in a deserted forest. Nguyen said he suffered a bruised back and bloody mouth, nose, and ears and later required stiches for a cut on his ear.
Nguyen Trung Truc was arrested in August 2017 and charged with “carrying out activities that aim to overthrow the people’s administration” under article 79 of the 1999 penal code. In September 2018, the People’s Court of Quang Binh province sentenced him to 12 years in prison.