November 18, 2023.
Vietnam Human Rights Network Released Its Report on Human Rights in Vietnam 2022-2023 and Announced The 2023 Vietnam Human Rights Award Results.
Little Saigon, California – During a meeting with Vietnamese media and representatives of several community organizations on November 18, 2023, the Vietnam Human Rights Network released the Report on Human Rights in Vietnam 2022-2023 and announced the results of the Vietnam Human Rights Award 2023.
In the first part of the meeting, several members of the VNHRN took turns presenting the human rights situation in Vietnam in 2022 and 2023. The report includes eight chapters. Each chapter identifies different violations and types of violations based on international human rights law criteria.
The report shows that although Vietnam is now a member of the UN Human Rights Council, the human rights situation in the country has not only not improved in the past two years but has, on the contrary, become worse in every area over time. In particular, the government increased its repression of peaceful dissidents. Over the past two years, the number of people arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned for religious and political reasons has increased. Recorded data show that in 2022 and 2023 (as of October 15, 2023), the Vietnamese Communist government has prosecuted 123 people and sentenced 98 people to prison for political and religious reasons; 25 people are still in temporary detention. The severity of punishment for similar “crimes” in previous years has also significantly increased.
The report also makes numerous specific and feasible suggestions to the Vietnamese government to improve human rights for the Vietnamese people.
In addition, the report also includes three appendices. Appendix I lists political and religious prisoners arrested and prosecuted in 2022-2023 (as of October 15, 2023). Appendix II records political and religious prisoners currently incarcerated. Appendix III illustrates the 2022 Vietnam Human Rights Award, honoring imprisoned human rights activists, including poet Tran Duc Thach, journalist Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and activist Luu Van Vinh with his companions in the Vietnam National Self-Determination Coalition.
The Report on Human Rights in Vietnam 2022-2023 is the result of a collaboration between VNHRN and a number of human rights activists in Vietnam, and it is available both in Vietnamese and English.
The full text of the report is posted here:
Next is the announcement of the 2023 Vietnam Human Rights Award results. According to Dr. Nguyen Ba Tung, Head of the Executive Board of VNHRN, the Selection Committee received 15 nominations and, after a month of careful work, elected three most praiseworthy candidates for the 2023 Vietnam Human Rights Award. They are activists Trần Văn Bang, Y Wô Nie, and Lê Trọng Hùng. All the three award winners are currently held in communist prisons.
The Vietnam Human Rights Award was established in 2002 and, since its inception, has been awarded annually to 60 individuals and six organizations in Vietnam who have made outstanding contributions to protecting and promoting human rights.
This year’s Award Ceremony will be held in Toronto, Canada, with the cooperation of the Committee to Support Vietnam’s Human Rights and Democracy Movement, Toronto, on the 75th International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2023.
The following are the three award recipients' profiles:
Activist TRẦN VĂN BANG
Activist Trần Văn Bang, known as Trần Bang, was born in 1961 in Hai Duong province. In 1977, he took the entrance exam to the Water Resources Academy, class of 1977, and graduated in 1982. Because he was a good student, he was allowed to stay at school to train as a lecturer and researcher, but he refused and asked to join the army. While in the army, he participated in the Vi Xuyen battle on the Vietnam-China border in 1982-1984. After being discharged from the army in 1985, instead of returning to his old job, he volunteered to work on the Tri An Hydroelectric Project and devoted all his professional talents to serving with the desire to help the country soon escape poverty.
Since 2007, China’s announcement to annex the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos into Hainan province has sparked a strong opposition movement of people across the country. At this time, young man Trần Bang began to fight for territorial integrity against the weakness of the Communist Party of Vietnam. He participated in many protests against the Chinese invasion. In November 2015, during a rally in Saigon to protest Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Vietnam, Trần Bang was assaulted by police, causing injuries and bloodshed.
In addition, Bang also participated in protests against environmental pollution caused by the Formosa factory, the Cyber Security Law, Vietnam’s Special Zones Bill in 2018, and rallies for prisoners of conscience. In December 2020, Trần Bang went on a one-day hunger strike to support Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, a prisoner of conscience serving a 16-year sentence. He also organized a fundraiser to support activists Dinh Van Hai and Vu Tien Chi, who were assaulted by security forces in June 2018.
Tran Bang joined the Le Hieu Dang Club, a group of intellectuals, primarily former Communist Party members, who reflect on the country’s problems and criticize the regime’s dictatorship policy. However, his main activity is to convey thoughts, opinions, and stances on the country’s situation through his three Facebook pages, which many people visit.
In 2019, Bang was selected for the final round of the Contribution Award, established by several democracy and human rights activists in Saigon to recognize contributions to the democratization movement in Vietnam.
Because of his activities for human rights, democracy, and territorial integrity, the government always kept a close watch on him and put him in trouble. Before the Lunar New Year 2022, he continuously received many summons from security investigation agencies. Because of his unstable health, he could not regularly come when summoned.
On March 1, 2022, Trần Bang was arrested on charges of “propaganda against the state” under Article 117 of the Penal Code. Before being arrested, Mr. Bang wrote on Facebook, “If God has chosen me to be the next person to bear the cross to protect truth and righteousness, then I will obey God’s will.”
After being arrested, he was detained at Chi Hoa Prison in Ho Chi Minh City. It was not until February 2023, nearly a year after his detention, that he could meet with a lawyer.
On May 12, 2023, after a trial lasting less than three hours, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City sentenced Trần Bang to 8 years in prison and three years of probation.
According to the indictment, Mr. Trần Bang used Facebook for “propaganda, distortion, defamation, slandering the people’s government, spreading false information causes confusion among the people, and shows hatred and dissatisfaction with the government, the Party, the State, and the leaders.” Mr. Bang did not admit the crime as charged in the indictment. “I have no intention of sabotaging the State but just want to exercise my right to freedom of speech,” he said.
Before and after the trial, many international human rights organizations spoke up in his defense and called on the Vietnamese communist authorities to drop all charges and release him immediately.
Currently, prisoner of conscience Trần Bang is being held at Bo La Prison Camp (Phu Giao district, Binh Duong province). His health was seriously deteriorated because of the harsh prison conditions.
Activist Y Wô Nie
Mr. Y Wô Nie, also known as Ama Quynh, was born in 1970 in Puk Prong village, Ea Ning commune, Cu Kuin district, Dak Lak province. Born into an Ede ethnic family and educated in the Christian tradition, Y Wô Niê soon became aware of the dignity and equal rights of people of all ethnicities. Therefore, since 2000, he and some Ede ethnic friends have proclaimed that the Vietnamese communists must change the state’s ethnic policies, stop religious persecution, return their ancestors’ land invaded by the communists, and release all ethnic minority political prisoners.
On April 10, 2004, on Easter, he and tens of thousands of ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands stood up to fight for their rights in the so-called “2004 Central Highlands Protest,” “2004 Central Highlands Riots,” or “Easter Massacre.”
The Vietnamese Communist government brutally suppressed it, and many people were killed. Y Wô Nie was arrested, and on July 4, 2005, the People’s Court of Dak Lak province opened a trial for nine defendants from the Ede ethnic group on charges of “undermining the policy of national unity,” according to article 87 of the 1999 Penal Code. In this case, Y Wo Nie received nine years in prison.
In December 2011, freed from prison, Y Wô Niê returned home and, as a deacon of the Vietnamese Protestant Church (Southern region), courageously continued the path of nonviolent struggle for the rights of his people, especially the right to freedom of religion and belief.
In June 2020, the representatives of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Vietnam met with Y Wô Niê to hear him explain his difficult situation after being released from prison and his concerns about the religious repression of Christian ethnic minorities.
He participated in online classes on the Law of Belief and Religion, Vietnamese Civil Law, and International Human Rights Law to advance his knowledge of human rights and methods of nonviolent action.
Through the WhatsApp media platform, Y Wô Nie conveyed to many people the current situation of the Protestant churches of ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands being oppressed. In 2020, he wrote three reports on the Vietnamese Communist government’s human rights violations against the Ede ethnic people in the Central Highlands and on the situation of religious freedom in general and for ethnic people of the Central Highlands in particular. He took pictures of these reports and sent them via WhatsApp to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
The police of Cu Kuin district, Dak Lak province, had been monitoring Y Wô Niê’s activities for a long time, but it was not until September 2021 that they summoned him for investigation. On September 20, 2021, Cu Kuin District Police prosecuted and arrested him on charges of “Abusing freedom and democratic rights to infringe on the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations, individual” according to Article 331 of the Penal Code.
On May 20, 2022, the People’s Court of Cu Kuin District opened a first-instance trial for defendant Y Wô Niê and sentenced him to 4 years in prison under Article 331 of the abovementioned Penal Law. On August 16, 2022, the appeal court of the People’s Court of Dak Lak province upheld the first instance verdict.
According to the indictment published by the Vietnamese Communist government media, “the actions of defendant Y Wô Nie have affected the political security situation, social order and safety and the normal operations of the State administrative agencies, reducing the public’s trust in the government, affecting the image of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the reputation of the Communist Party of Vietnam in diplomatic relations international.”
During the appeal hearing, Mr. Y Wô Nie did not ask for a reduced sentence but affirmed his innocence. He said he did not violate Article 331 of the Penal Code as alleged but only exercised his right to freedom of speech and information.
According to his defense lawyer, despite being unjustly sentenced to prison, Mr. Y Wô Nie always happily said “Thank God” and prayed day and night for the peace of his Church and his family. He thanked all diplomatic agencies, organizations, and individuals who cared about him and his family. Currently, prisoner of conscience Y Wô Nien is being held at prison camp Xuan Phuoc, Phu Yen province.
Independent journalist LÊ TRỌNG HÙNG
Independent journalist Lê Trọng Hùng was born in 1979 in Minh Quan commune, Tran Yen district, Yen Bai province. From 2000 to 2015, he taught at several schools in Lao Cai province, Northwest Vietnam’s highlands, then moved to deaf and mute school Xa Dan in Hanoi city. While teaching, he enrolled in Law school and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Law from Hanoi Open University.
In October 2015, he asked for the school program reform and legitimate student benefits. The school management did not take it seriously. He quit teaching and joined free journalism to change people’s awareness of a civilized and democratic society.
With his law background, he further researched law-making issues in a rule-of-law state. In 2016, he joined Mr. Vu Quang Thuan in the television program “Movement to revive Vietnam” on the social network Facebook to open people’s minds by exposing the mistakes of the country’s leadership based on laws and demystifying idols that the Communist Party of Vietnam has worked hard to build.
After Mr. Thuan’s arrest in early 2017, Mr. Hùng and some friends created the TV channel CHTV (Restore TV) on the social network Facebook to disseminate legal knowledge, focusing on the constitution. This program attracted the attention of millions of people and had a substantial impact on viewers’ awareness.
In parallel with the CHTV channel, Mr. Hùng spent his own money and additional donations from friends at home and abroad to buy printed copies of the constitution to give to the people, hoping that every Vietnamese citizen would clearly understand that people’s fundamental rights are enshrined in the constitution. During the five years until his arrest, Mr. Lê Trọng Hùng donated nearly 10,000 copies of the constitution to the people.
In addition, he also helped thousands of victims of injustice draft letters to the authorities requesting to resolve violations in land expropriation and compensation according to the law.
Mr. Hùng also protested against Formosa Group’s waste discharge, causing heavy pollution of the marine environment of the central provinces of Vietnam.
In early March 2021, Mr. Lê Trọng Hùng submitted his candidacy documents to the National Assembly of Vietnam, hoping for a reform of this legislative body so that it’s worthy of being the people’s highest authority.
His peaceful and legal activities for human rights and democracy have made the Vietnamese communist government worried. On March 27, 2021, the Hanoi police investigation security agency decided to prosecute and arrest Mr. Lê Trọng Hùng on charges of “making, storing, disseminating or propagating information, documents, items intended to oppose the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” according to Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code.
On December 31, 2021, despite calls for the immediate release of Mr. Lê Trọng Hùng from the United Nations, democratic governments, and international and Vietnamese human rights organizations, the Hanoi court still sentenced Mr. Hùng to 5 years in prison and five years of probation due to the above activities. On April 19, 2022, the appeal court upheld this sentence.
Before the Vietnamese communist court, without any concession and fear, Lê Trọng Hùng not only did not plead guilty but, on the contrary, strongly denounced the prison camp for violating his fundamental rights during his imprisonment, such as not allowing him to read the prosecution agency’s assessment conclusion file, nor providing him with paper and pen to request for access to the assessment conclusion.
More radically, he also criticized the law’s constitutionality used to prosecute him. He said: “Articles 331 and 117 are major contradictions with the Constitution; they must be declared invalid, and then I must be declared innocent here and released right now.”
Currently, Mr. Hùng is being held at the infamous prison camp No. 6, Nghe An province. Many prisoners of conscience have died suddenly at this prison, such as Pastor Dinh Diem in 2023, citizen journalist Do Cong Duong in 2022, and former teacher Dao Quang Thuc in 2019. Early last September, Mr. Hùng went on a hunger strike to ask the court to reopen the appeal hearing of his case because there was no lawyer at his appeal session, and his family members had not been notified.