Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, 50
Sentenced: 16 years
Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, 50, 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.
Ho Duc Hoa, 43
Sentenced: 13 years
Ho Duc Hoa, 43, 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, 68
Sentenced: 13 years
Tran Anh Kim, 68, 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, 49, 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.
Phan Kim Khanh, 24
Sentenced: 6 years
Phan Kim Khanh, 24, 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, 36
Sentenced: 5 years
Nguyen Van Oai, 36, 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, 23
Sentenced: 6 years
Tran Hoang Phuc, 23, 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, 51
Sentenced: 8 years
Vu Quang Thuan, 51, 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.