Press Release

Nov. 20, 2021


Vietnam Human Rights Network announced Vietnam Human Rights Award 2021



Land petitioners’ defender Can Thi Theu and her two sons, Trinh Ba Phuong and Trinh Ba Tu, and two other human rights activists, Ms. Dinh Thi Thu Thuy and Mr. Nguyen Van Tuc, were chosen to receive the Vietnam Human Rights Award in 2021. All five are currently being held in a Vietnamese communist prison. 

Little Saigon, CA, USA – November 20, 2021. Because the Covid epidemic situation has not ended, the Vietnam Human Rights Network (VNHRN)  has announced the results of the 2021 Vietnam Human Rights Award (VNHRA) via an Internet conference at 9 AM (ET) on November 20, 2021. Participating in this conference were some members of the VNHRN, including Dr. Nguyen Ba Tung, Ms. Tam An, Ms. Le Thi Kim Thu, Ms. Quan My Lan, and Mr. Nguyen Chinh Ket. In addition, the event was also attended by three guests from the media: Mr. Nguyen Van Khanh, former Director of the Vietnamese Language Program of Radio Free Asia, media activist Ca Dao, and radio journalist Hai Son, Deputy Director of Radio Dap Loi Song Nui. [video clip of this event]

The Vietnam Human Rights Network founded the VNHRA in 2002. So far, 54 individuals and five organizations have received the award for their outstanding and influential contributions to the movement for justice and human rights in Vietnam. The VNHRA is also an opportunity for overseas Vietnamese to express their solidarity with those engaged in the relentless fight for fundamental freedoms for the Vietnamese people.

This year’s awards ceremony will be held at the Westminster Community Center, California, the USA, on December 12, 2021, on the occasion of the 73rd International Human Rights Day.

The following is a summary of the 2021 award recipients.



As a victim of the Vietnamese government’s land-grabbing policy, Ms. Can Thi Theu’s family has become activists fighting for human rights.

In 2007-2008, the Ha Tay province government started forcefully acquiring land from farmers to resell it to investors of a new urban development project. Farmers who were robbed of their land, the only means of subsistence, received no adequate compensation. As a resident of Duong Noi ward, Ha Dong district, Hanoi, Ms. Can Thi Theu stood up, calling on these illegal land acquisition victims to claim their rightful rights and demanding dialogue with the government. But the government continued to defy justice and the national law by denying their legitimate requests.

In 2010 and 2014, armed with thousands of police officers, soldiers, and thugs, the government carried out a land grab in Duong Noi ward. They brutally beat and arrested the land petitioners, including Ms. Can Thi Theu and her husband, Mr. Trinh Ba Khiem.

In September 2014, Ms. Theu was sentenced to 15 months in prison and Mr. Trinh Ba Khiem to 18 months on charges of “resisting a law enforcement officer” (Article 330 of the Criminal Code)

After being released from prison in July 2015, Ms. Theu still did not give up fighting for land petitioners in the face of oppression of the powerful. Along with the petitioners and human rights defenders, she participated in protests against land robbery, unfair trials, and the government’s cover-up for the Formosa steel factory, which pollutes the people’s living environment in the Central provinces. Therefore, she was always hunted, assaulted, and arrested by the police many times.

On June 10, 2016, Ms. Can Thi Theu was detained again and prosecuted for “Disturbance or public order.” (Article 318 of the Criminal Code) and was sentenced to 20 months in prison.

On February 10, 2018, after being released from prison for the second time, Ms. Can Thi Theu continued to speak out for social justice; especially she and her two sons, Trinh Ba Phuong and Trinh Ba Tu,  actively campaigning for the people of Dong Tam following a deadly raid by security forces in January 2019.

Mrs. Theu and her two sons were arrested on June 24, 2020. On May 5, 2021, the court of Hoa Binh province sentenced Ms. Theu and her son Trinh Ba Tu to 8 years in prison and three years of house arrest each on charges of “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” (Article  117 of the Criminal Code)

Before this trial, both mother and son showed a solid and indomitable spirit, firmly denying the court’s unreasonable accusations. To verify their identities in court, both stated: “My name is the victim of communism.”

On June 15, 2021, the Vietnamese Communist government said they had completed the investigation against Mr. Trinh Ba Phuong and Ms. Nguyen Thi Tam, another advocate for land petitioners, and would prosecute them on charges of “propaganda against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” (Article  117 of the Criminal Code)

During their imprisonment, Ms. Theu and her two sons were threatened, abused, and tortured to force them to confess their alleged crimes. Hanoi police investigators also threatened to arrest family members for forcing Trinh Ba Phuong to plead guilty.

In addition to herself and her two sons Trinh Ba Phuong and Trinh Ba Tu, other family members, including her husband Trinh Ba Khiem, daughter-in-law Do Thi Thu, daughter Trinh Thi Thao are also brave human rights fighters and sources of spiritual and material support for Mrs. Theu and her sons in prison.

The love for people in the same situation, anger at social injustices, and the awareness of the fundamental rights that everyone must enjoy have made Mrs. Can Thi Theu’s whole family willing to sacrifice and courageously stand up to the challenge that results in unjust and harsh punishments. 



Ms. Dinh Thi Thu Thuy was born in 1982 in Soc Trang, living in Nga Bay town, Hau Giang province.

As a master in aquatic pathology, she has collaborated with NGOs, initiated many activities to protect and improve the living environment for farmers in some localities of the Mekong river delta. For example, she joined the Facebook of Green Mekong and Green Vitality, which are environmental protection groups, to call for limiting the use of plastic bags, limiting pesticides and fertilizers in agricultural production, responding to growing vegetables, self-sufficient clean livestock.

In addition, she also spoke out against the public health violations of the local government, such as when hundreds of primary school students in Nga Bay town were poisoned with MILO milk in 2017 and when the students went to school without safety measures during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019.

Besides protecting the living environment, Dinh Thi Thu Thuy is also committed to fighting for fundamental rights in the political field and national sovereignty in the face of the threat of Chinese aggression.

She expressed her opinions through her personal Facebook page. In addition, she participated in peaceful demonstrations in Saigon in June 2018 against the bill on Special Economic Zones and the government’s cruel treatment of prisoners.

On June 17, during a protest at Tao Dan Park, she was beaten, detained, interrogated, and administratively sanctioned by the police of Ben Nghe Ward, District 1.

Local authorities repeatedly harassed Ms. Thuy at her home, often summoned to the local agency to question posts and comments on her personal Facebook page.

On April 18, 2020, more than 50 police officers of Hau Giang province surrounded her home and forced her to go amid the panic of her less than 10-year-old son and the whole family.

After nine months of detention incommunicado, in the trial on January 20, 2021, she was sentenced to 7 years in prison for “conducting propaganda against the state” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code.

The indictment of the police of Hau Giang province reads Ms. Thuy’s Facebook had many posts that received many comments and shares aiming at “mocking, satirizing, insulting the leaders of the Party and the State, distorting historical significance, and defaming the country.”

During her trial, Ms. Thuy affirmed that her activities are only to share so that everyone is aware of environmental and social issues. She said: “Everything I do comes from the heart of a patriot, from a heart of a mother. I love my homeland, the country. But, since having a child, I have loved my child and my fellow countrymen and homeland even more. Therefore, I want for the country to be better, the social and educational environment to be transparent and healthy, the rivers in my hometown not to be poisoned or forced to die, the people not to eat contaminated food... ”

On February 3, 2021, the family received news that Ms. Thuy passed out in prison, then had to be taken to the emergency and treated at the hospital in Hau Giang province. Unfortunately, because of the harsh conditions of the prison and because her family has not been able to visit since the Covid 19 pandemic, her health condition has deteriorated day by day. However, through a phone call with her family from the prison in November this year, she remained optimistic and said that the current situation is just a life challenge to overcome. 



Mr. Nguyen Van Tuc was born in Co Dung village, Dong La, Dong Hung, Thai Binh province, in 1964. At 18, he did military service for three years and then returned to his hometown to live as a freelance worker.

From 2003, he was in contact with many dissidents and frequently criticized the government’s policy of land expropriation.

In 2007 and 2008, along with others in the group, he organized various mass mobilizations in Hanoi, Hai Phong, and Hai Duong to protest China’s expansionist ambitions and denounce the Vietnamese government’s spineless and cowardly attitude. They also protested corrupt officials and demanded multi-party democracy.

On September 10, 2008, he was urgently arrested by the Vietnamese Police and prosecuted for allegedly hanging slogans, making, storing, and distributing many documents against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. He was sentenced to 4 years in prison and three years of probation.

In September 2012, after being released from prison, Mr. Nguyen van Tuc returned to his hometown and continued his quest for human rights, democracy, and territorial integrity via the Internet and participated in protests in Hanoi. In February 2014, he joined the Brotherhood for Democracy. Shortly after, he was nominated to be the deputy committee representative of the Brotherhood for Democracy, Northern Chapter for the 2017-2019 term, and then the first vice president of the Brotherhood for Democracy.

On September 1, 2017, Thai Binh Provincial Police decided to prosecute and temporarily arrest Mr. Tuc for the charge of “Activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of the Criminal Code.

On April 10, 2018, the Thai Binh Provincial Court held the first-instance trial. It sentenced him to 13 years in prison and five years of house arrest for the charge of “Activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration,” according to article 79 of the Criminal Code. The Hanoi Court of Appeal then upheld the judgment of the first instance court.

In both trials, despite pressure and intimidation, he still firmly pleaded not guilty and boldly declared: “I fight for social progress, I want society to move in a positive direction. I do not want to repeat the mistakes that the Communist Party has made to cause long-lasting national hatred and many unresolved conflicts.”

“I fight, and I accept the consequences with hopes that my descendants will later realize the mistakes of the Communist Party to change. I am not emotionless.”

Although some circumstances can help lighten the sentence, such as his past in the army, relatives, and illness, Mr. Tuc told his lawyer not to beg or mention his family background.

Currently, Mr. Nguyen Van Tuc is being held at Prison No. 6, Nghe An Province. In prison, he and several other prisoners of conscience organized hunger strike many times to protest the inhumane treatment of prisoners by prison guards. Currently, Nguyen Van Tuc’s health is deteriorating due to complications of inherent cardiovascular disease and other diseases caused by confinement, such as hemorrhoids, degenerative spondylolisthesis. 



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