Vietnam: At least 200 political prisoners behind bars

06/03/2014
Press release

Vietnam has the highest number of political prisoners in Southeast Asia. It is estimated that there are at least 212 dissidents behind bars, and many more are under house arrest.

Those imprisoned include lawyers, bloggers, land rights activists, Buddhist monks, journalists, writers, singers, labor activists, pro-democracy campaigners, and members of ethnic and religious minorities, including Buddhist Khmer Krom and Christian Hmong and Montagnards. Many of Vietnam’s political prisoners are women. Many of the dissidents are serving lengthy prison terms in extremely poor detention conditions. As a result, their health is deteriorating and they are in need of urgent medical treatment and ongoing care. What follows are the short profiles of 17 political prisoners, whose cases are of particular concern.

Dinh Dang Dinh - Environmental activist, born 1963; Oncology Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City.

A former army officer and chemistry teacher, Dinh Dang Dinh has campaigned on various social and political issues. He led a campaign against a large bauxite mine operated by Chinese companies in Vietnam’s central highlands. He was arrested in October 2011 and sentenced to six years in prison under Article 88 of the Criminal Code for “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” in August 2012. He is suffering from advanced stages of stomach cancer that has spread to his lymph nodes. On February 15, 2014, authorities suspended his sentence for 12 months. He was then released in a presidential amnesty on March 21, 2014.
Thich Quang Do - Buddhist monk, born 1928; under house arrest.

Thich Quang Do is the leader of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) and a 2014 Nobel Peace Prize nominee. He has spent the past three decades under different forms of detention – 10 years in internal exile (1982-1992), seven years in prison (1977-1978 and 1995-1998), and the rest under house arrest without charge. In January 1995, he was arrested for organizing a UBCV relief mission for flood victims in the Mekong Delta and for writing a document on the Communist Party’s persecution of the UBCV. In August 1995, he was sentenced to five years in prison and three years’ house arrest under Article 258 of the Criminal Code for “abusing democratic freedoms to harm the interests of the State.” In September 1998, he was released in a government amnesty in September 1998 following international pressure. In 2001, he was sentenced to two years’ house arrest for circulating petitions on the Internet challenging the government on a wide range of issues including religious freedom, the death penalty, and democratic reforms. In October 2003, he was placed under administrative detention. In May 2005, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) found that his detention was arbitrary and called for his release.
Le Quoc Quan - Catholic blogger/lawyer, born 1971; Hoa Lo Prison No. 1, Hanoi.

Le Quoc Quan used internet blogs to campaign on human rights, democracy, and social justice issues. In March 2007, he was detained for "activities to overthrow the people’s government" after returning Vietnam from a fellowship with the US-based National Endowment for Democracy. He was released after 100 days in prison, but no longer permitted to leave Vietnam. He was also disbarred. In December 2012, he was arrested nine days after posting an anti-government message on his blog. In October 2013, he was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on trumped up charges of tax evasion under Article 161 of the Criminal Code. In December 2013, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) declared his detention to be a violation of international law. In February 2014, he went on 17-day hunger strike to protest the prison authorities’ refusal to provide him access to legal and religious books. On February 18, 2014, the Hanoi Court of Appeals upheld his conviction. He was released on 27 June 2015 after completing his prison term.
Nguyen Van Hai aka Dieu Cay - Blogger, born 1952; Camp No. 6, Nghe An Province.

In September 2007, Nguyen Van Hai co-founded the Free Journalists’ Club to promote freedom of expression and independent journalism. He was arrested for organizing anti-China protests in December 2007 and in January 2008. In April 2008, he was arrested on trumped up charges of tax evasion. In September 2008, he was found guilty of those charges and sentenced to two and a half years in prison. In May 2009, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) found that his detention was arbitrary. In October 2010, despite completing his sentence, authorities failed to release him and charged him under Article 88 of the Criminal Code for “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” He was detained incommunicado for the next 23 months. In September 2012, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison under Article 88 of the Criminal Code. He was released on 21 October 2014.
Ho Thi Bich Khuong (F) - Land rights activist, born 1967; a prison camp in Nghe An Province

Ho Thi Bich Khuong is a farmer who used the internet to document land confiscation and campaign for land rights. April 2007, she was arrested in an internet café in Nghe An Province and subsequently sentenced to two years in prison under Article 258 of the Criminal Code for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State.” She was re-arrested in January 2011 and sentenced to five years in prison and three years of house arrest under Article 88 of the Criminal Code for “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” in December 2011. She was released on 15 January 2016 after completing her five-year prison sentence.
Nguyen Xuan Nghia - Writer, born 1949; prison camp No. 6, Nghe An Province.

Nguyen Xuan Nghia is a founding member of the banned democracy movement Bloc 8406. He was arrested in 2008 under Article 88 of the Criminal Code for “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” In May 2009, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) said his detention was arbitrary and called for his release. In October 2009, he was sentenced to six years in prison and three years of house arrest for writing articles, poems, and short stories that allegedly sought to “insult the Communist Party of Vietnam, distort the situation of the country, slander and disgrace the country’s leaders.” His health has been deteriorating due to torture, ill-treatment, and poor detention conditions. He was released after completing his prison sentence on September 11, 2014.
Tran Vu Anh Binh aka Hoang Nhat Thong & Vo Minh Tri aka Viet Khang - Songwriters, born 1974 and 1978 respectively; Z30A Xuan Loc prison camp, Dong Nai Province.

Tran Vu Anh Binh and Vo Minh Tri were arrested in September and December 2011 respectively for writing protest songs about social injustice and Vietnam’s relations with China. In October 2012, they were sentenced to six and fours in prison respectively followed by two years’ probationary detention under Article 88 of the Criminal Code on charges of “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” Vo Minh Tri was released on 13 December 2016 after completing his four-year prison terms.
Truong Duy Nhat - Blogger, born 1964; B14 prison, near Hanoi

Truong Duy Nhat is a former journalist with state-run newspapers “Bao Cong An Quang Nam Danang” (Quang Nam Danang Security Police newspaper) and “Dai Doan Ket” (Great Solidarity newspaper). In 2011, he left his job to write his own blog "A Different Point of View," which became widely known for its criticism of the government. In articles such as “The Party’s Secretary General and the Prime Minister should step down”, and “The abysmal quality of our government”, he critiqued the performance of top government officials, denounced corruption, and opened debate on democratic issues. He has been detained since May 26, 2013, when Security Police in Danang arrested him on charges of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State” under Article 258(2) of the Criminal Code. On March 4, 2014, a court in Danang sentenced him to two years in prison. On June 26, 2014, the Danang Court of Appeals upheld his conviction. He was released on 26 May 2015 after completing his two-year jail term.
Cu Huy Ha Vu - Legal expert, born 1957; prison camp No. 5, Thanh Hoa Province

Cu Huy Ha Vu He obtained a doctorate in law in France and he is a prominent scholar and legal expert. He filed several lawsuits against Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. One such lawsuit involved the government granting a Chinese mining company rights to mine bauxite in a deposit in the central highlands. He was arrested in November 2010 for calling for multi-party democracy in articles on the Internet. In April, he was sentenced to seven years in prison and three years of house arrest under Article 88 of the Criminal Code for “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” He suffers from a heart condition.
Nguyen Tien Trung - Pro-democracy activist, born 1983; PA 92 prison, Ho Chi Minh City.

In 2006, Nguyen Tien Trung founded the Assembly of Vietnamese Youth for Democracy, an organization that campaigned for political and democratic reforms in Vietnam. In July 2009, he was arrested under Article 79 of the Criminal Code for “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration.” In January 2010, he was found guilty of those charges and sentenced to seven years in prison and three years of house arrest. In August 2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) declared his detention to be a violation of international law. He was released on 12 April 2014.
Ta Phong Tan (F) - Catholic blogger, born 1968; No. 5 prison camp, Thanh Hoa Province.

A former police officer and Communist Party member, Ta Phong Tan began her career as freelance journalist and co-founded the Free Journalists’ Club. She used blogs to campaign on social justice issues, land confiscation, corruption, and police abuse of power. She was arrested in September 2011 for posting blog entries critical of the Vietnamese government. In July 2012, her mother died after self-immolation to protest her daughter’s detention. In September 2012, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison under Article 88 of the Criminal Code on charges of “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” She was released on 19 September 2015.
Nguyen Van Lia - Hoa Hao Buddhist activist, born 1940; Z30A Xuan Loc prison camp, Dong Nai Province

Nguyen Van Lia is a member of the Hoa Hao Buddhist church, a religious group often targeted by the government. In 2003, he was sentenced to three years in prison for commemorating the anniversary of the death of the Hoa Hao Buddhist founder, Huynh Phu So. In April 2011, he was arrested on trumped-up charges of a traffic violation as he was driving to attend a ceremony for a deceased Hoa Hao follower. In December 2011, he was sentenced to four years and six months in prison and three years of house arrest under Article 258 of the Criminal Code for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State.” His prison term was reduced on appeal to four and a half years in March 2012. During his detention, his was tortured and his health deteriorated.
Do Thi Minh Hanh (F) - Labor activist, born 1985; Thanh Xuan prison, Hanoi

At the age of 18 Do Thi Minh Hanh became politically active by assisting farmers in filing petitions with the government to demand the return of confiscated land. In 2005, she was detained by authorities for her political activities but was never formally charged. In February 2010, she was arrested for helping workers organize a strike at a shoe factory in Tra Vinh Province. In October 2010, she was sentenced to seven years in prison under Article 89 of the Criminal Code on charges of “disrupting security.” She has been tortured in detention and, as a result of the beatings, she is now deaf in one ear. She was released on June 28, 2014.
Nguyen Huu Cau - Poet, born 1947; Z30A Xuan Loc prison camp, Dong Nai Province.

A former officer in the army of the Republic of South Vietnam, Nguyen Huu Cau spent six years in a re-education camp from 1975 to 1980. In 1982, he was re-arrested for writing poems about corruption and abuse of power. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in May 1983 under Article 87 of the Criminal Code for “undermining the unity policy.” He has sent 500 letters to the authorities claiming his innocence but has never received any reply. During his time in prison, his health has significantly deteriorated. He is now deaf, almost blind, extremely thin, and weak. He was released in a presidential amnesty on March 21, 2014.
Tran Huynh Duy Thuc - Blogger, born 1966; Xuyen Moc prison camp, Dong Nai Province.

Tran Huynh Duy Thuc used internet blogs to advocate for political and economic reforms in Vietnam. He was arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 16 years in prison and five years of house arrest under Article 79 of the Criminal Code for “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration.” in January 2010. In August 2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) declared his detention to be a violation of international law.
Hoang Khuong aka Nguyen Van Khuong - Journalist, born 1972; Chi Hoa prison, Ho Chi Minh City.

A journalist with the state-run daily newspaper Tuoi Tre, Hoang Khuong published numerous reports about corruption in the Ho Chi Minh City traffic police department. In July and September 2011, he wrote a series of articles revealing bribes received by traffic police, which led to the arrest and conviction of one policeman. Subsequently, however, he was arrested on charges of corruption himself. In December 2012, he was sentenced to four years in prison. He was released on 21 January 2015.
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