Posts Tagged ‘Viet Tan’

U.S. State Department calls on Vietnam to release ‘prisoners of conscience’

August 17, 2018

The U.S. State Department on Friday called on Vietnam to release all “prisoners of conscience” immediately, one day after a Vietnamese court conducted a one-day trial of an activist and sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

Le Dinh Luong stands to hear his sentence in court in Nghe An province, Vietnam, Aug. 16, 2018.

Le Dinh Luong stands to hear his sentence in court in Nghe An province, Vietnam, Aug. 16, 2018. AFP photo

Le Dinh Luong, 53, was arrested last year after encouraging people to boycott a National Assembly election, writing Facebook posts that expressed views against the party and state, and inciting protests against a Taiwanese steel firm, according to the communist-party-run newspaper Nghe An. He had been charged with attempting to overthrow the state.

Luong’s lawyer said he will appeal the verdict.

Reuters

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Makini Brice

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See also:

Viet Nam: New research reveals almost 100 prisoners of conscience as crackdown on dissent intensifies

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/04/viet-nam-new-research-reveals-almost-100-prisoners-of-conscience-as-crackdown-on-dissent-intensifies/

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Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, better known as Mẹ Nấm (Mother Mushroom)

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Le Dinh Luong, 53, a Catholic, was taken into custody on July 24, 2017, and accused by authorities of membership in the U.S.-based Vietnamese opposition party Viet Tan, which Vietnam regards as a terrorist organization, and of calling for a boycott of parliamentary elections in 2016.

A veteran of Vietnam’s 1979 border war with China, Luong had also written on Facebook calling for compensation for fishermen affected by the April 2016 waste spill by Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics Group’s steel plant.

The environmental disaster destroyed livelihoods across Vietnam’s central coast and led to widespread protests and arrests in Nghe An and other coastal provinces affected by the spill.

Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service after Thursday’s trial, defense lawyer Ha Huy Son slammed the sentence handed down to his client, saying the court had presented “no evidence” to show that Luong had worked to overthrow the government, a charge frequently brought under Article 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code to arrest and imprison democracy and human rights activists in the country.

“They based their decision on the testimony of two witnesses, Nguyen Van Hoa and Nguyen Viet Dung,” Son said. “But both of them have retracted what they said in earlier testimony.”

“They now say that they were beaten and forced to say what they did,” he said.

Also speaking to RFA, defense lawyer Dang Dinh Manh said that Luong’s attorneys had asked that both men be brought to court so they could be questioned on their previous testimony.

“However, a police officer came forward and said that Nguyen Van Hoa had a sore throat and Nguyen Viet Dung had a stomach ache, and so neither of them were fit to testify,” he said.

‘More will step forward’

Writing in an Aug. 15 statement, Phil Robertson—Deputy Asia Director for the international rights group Human Rights Watch—called for Luong’s immediate release and demanded that Vietnam drop all charges against him.

“The government should understand that locking people up for simply exercising their rights isn’t working, and [that] more activists will continue to step forward to speak their mind and hold protests against government injustices.”

“Vietnam is well on its way to having the largest population of political prisoners in Southeast Asia, and foreign trade partners and donors should demand this rolling crackdown stop,” Robertson wrote.

“Le Dinh Luong has done nothing wrong and the People’s Court of Nghe An province should drop all charges and release him immediately.”

Meanwhile, the U.S.-based Viet Tan organization on Thursday condemned what it called Luong’s “unjust conviction,” saying the charges against him were “vague” and based mainly on police investigations of his Facebook postings and community organizing activities.

“Criminalizing peaceful activism and the use of Facebook is a violation of human rights and civil liberties,” Viet Tan said.

Rights group Amnesty International estimates that at least 97 prisoners of conscience are currently held in Vietnam’s prisons, where many are subjected to torture or other ill-treatment.

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam/overthrow-08162018144518.html

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Vietnamese human rights lawyer freed

June 8, 2018

Vietnamese human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai has been freed from prison and flown to Germany, activists and a diplomat said on Friday, two months after he was convicted of attempting to overthrow the state and given a 15-year jail sentence.

Image result for Nguyen Van Dai, photos

Nguyen Van Dai

Dai, founder of the group “Brotherhood for Democracy”, was released from prison late on Thursday along with another group member, Le Thu Ha, who was serving a nine-year prison sentence, the U.S.-based human rights group Viet Tan said.

Vietnam’s foreign ministry and the German Embassy in Hanoi did not immediately comment. Dai’s release was confirmed by a European Union official in Vietnam.

“On plane to Germany,” the official, who declined to be identified, said in a text message when asked about Dai’s whereabouts.

Viet Tan said in statement that Dai’s wife, Vu Minh Khanh, and Ha were also on the flight to Frankfurt.

Dai and Ha were among six Brotherhood members charged with activities “aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” and convicted by a Hanoi court in April.

The Brotherhood conducted anti-government activities to “build multi-party democracy”, according to a copy of the official indictment.

Dai and Ha did not appeal the verdict, but four other members of the group had their appeals rejected on Monday, with the court upholding their prison sentences of between seven and 12 years.

Despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness to social change, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate criticism.

“Vietnam must end its systematic repression against human rights defenders who simply seek to reform the government in the country where they live,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said on Sunday.

Reuters

Vietnam jails Facebook user for 4-1/2 years for posts seen as anti-state propaganda

May 10, 2018

Mark Zuckerberg helping to suppress dissent in Vietnam?

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Vietnam has jailed a Facebook user for 4-1/2 years over posts that “distorted” the political situation in the Southeast Asian country, a branch of the ruling Communist Party said.

Reuters

Despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness to social change, including gay, lesbian and transgender rights, Vietnam’s Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate criticism.

At a one-day trial on Wednesday, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City convicted 56-year-old Bui Hieu Vo of carrying out anti-state propaganda, according to a statement posted on the website of the party’s Ho Chi Minh City branch.

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Police searched Vo’s apartment in the city last year to find 57 posts on his Facebook account that expressed views against the party and the state, it added.

The posts “encouraged people to be terrorists and could have caused public panic and hurt the economy,” it said.

The statement said Vo had collected material on Vietnam’s worst environmental disaster in April 2016, when a steel plant being developed by Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Corp contaminated coastal waters and unleashed an outpouring of anger not seen in four decades of communist rule.

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Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, known as Mother Mushroom, and her two young children, is also a jailed Vietnamese blogger

Vo used “fake” and “inaccurate” information to spread news on social media about the disaster and attacked individual leaders of the Communist Party and the state, it added.

“During the investigation Vo admitted guilt and submitted a letter asking for leniency and promising not to commit the same crime again,” it said.

Last month, Vietnam human rights activists and independent media groups wrote to Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, questioning if the social media platform was helping to suppress dissent in the country.

In a separate case, police in the northern city of Thanh Hoa said they had arrested a 37-year-old man over a bid “to defame party, state and provincial leaders,” police said in a statement on the department’s website.

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 Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, left, stands trial in the south central province of Khanh Hoa, Vietnam, June 29, 2017.

Nguyen Duy Son was detained on Tuesday after a police investigation found he had used his Facebook account to “humiliate and discredit” several officials, it added.

An official who answered the telephone at the Thanh Hoa police department declined to make Son available for comment.

Reporting by James Pearson; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Related:

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Committee To Protect Journalists

Vo, known as “Hieu Bui” on his Facebook page, was arrested on March 17, 2017, in the Go Vap district of Ho Chi Minh City, the commercial capital, reports said.

The statement claimed Vo had “fabricated [and] distorted… information” against the government, including incitement to violence against leaders of the ruling Communist Party, the state, and police.

Many dissident bloggers in Vietnam, where all traditional media is owned by the state, use Facebook as a platform to circumvent state censorship.

The government statement also claimed Vo was affiliated with the pro-democracy Viet Tan, an outlawed political party the government considers a terrorist group.

He was charged with “propagandizing against the state,” an anti-state offense outlined under Article 88 of the penal code punishable by up to 20 years in prison, according to Civil Rights Defenders, a human rights group. As of late 2017, CPJ was not able to determine where Vo was being held.

https://cpj.org/data/people/bui-hieu-vo-hieu-bui/

Two more activists jailed in Vietnam amid widening dissent crackdown — Vietnamese wonder if Facebook is helping the government to harass, detain, prosecute and imprison

April 12, 2018

 

HANOI (Reuters) – Courts in Vietnam handed prison sentences to two activists on Thursday, as the communist-ruled government widens its crackdown on dissent.

A court in Nghe An province sentenced 32-year-old Nguyen Viet Dung to seven years in prison for posting “anti-state propaganda” on his Facebook account, police said after a trial that lasted a few hours.

Despite sweeping economic and social reforms in Vietnam, the ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate criticism. It has been stepping up sentencing and arrests of activists and handing them longer jail terms.

Two more activists jailed in Vietnam amid widening dissent crackdown

Activist Nguyen Van Tuc, center, stands trial in Thai Binh, Vietnam, Tuesday, April 10, 2018. Nguyen Van Tuc is accused of the same charges as Nguyen Viet Dung (The Duyen/ Vietnam News Agency via AP)

Dung was charged with posting information on his Facebook account last year that distorted the policies of the party and the state and defamed state leaders, the police said, citing the indictment.

Dung, who was jailed for a year in 2015 for causing public disorder, will also face five years of house arrest after serving his latest prison term, police said.

“These trumped up charges, used to attack peaceful activists like Nguyen Viet Dung and many other dissidents before him, show just how easy it is for the government to harass, detain, prosecute and imprison any person,” said Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director at New York-based Human Rights Watch.

 

He said Vietnam should heed calls from the United Nations and foreign diplomats demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Dung.

Separately, a court in the nearby province of Ha Tinh on Thursday jailed Tran Thi Xuan for nine years after she was convicted of “attempting to overthrow the people’s administration”, police in the province said.

Police said Xuan was a member of a group called the Brotherhood for Democracy, whose other members were jailed at other trials this month.

Lawyers for Dung and Xuan could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

FOCUS ON FACEBOOK

Their trials followed heavy sentences for at least seven other activists convicted of attempting to overthrow the people’s administration.

This month, a Hanoi court sentenced human rights lawyer and activist Nguyen Van Dai to 15 years in prison on the grounds that he “aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration”.

Five other activists affiliated with Brotherhood Democracy were jailed for seven to 12 years.

On Tuesday, a court in the northern province of Thai Binh handed a 13-year prison sentence to another activist, Nguyen Van Tuc, accused of the same charges.

Vietnamese human rights activists and independent media groups wrote this week to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Inc’s chief executive, questioning whether the social media platform was helping suppress dissent in Vietnam.

The letter, released on Tuesday by U.S.-based human rights group Viet Tan and signed by nearly 50 other groups, said Facebook’s system of automatically pulling content if enough people complained could “silence human rights activists and citizen journalists in Vietnam”.

Facebook said its community standard in Vietnam was in line with that elsewhere.

“There are also times when we may have to remove or restrict access to content because it violates a law in a particular country, even though it doesn’t violate our community standards,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement.

Reporting by Hanoi Newsroom; Editing by Darren Schuettler

U.S. Expects Human Rights Improvements in Vietnam

August 22, 2014

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A Chinese Coast Guard vessel (R) passes near the Chinese oil rig, Haiyang Shi You 981 (L) in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) from the coast of Vietnam June 13, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Nguyen Minh

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Remarkable changes are afoot in Vietnam, a country that Americans left in humiliating fashion nearly 40 years ago when Saigon fell to communist forces.

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Do Ba Ty, left, deputy defense minister and chief of general staff of the Vietnam People’s Army, review an honor guard at the Defense Ministry in Hanoi on Aug. 14, 2014. (AFP Photo/Hoang Dinh Nam)

Last week, the U.S. Army’s highest-ranking official visited Hanoi to mend old war wounds and to set the stage for a new, friendlier era that goes beyond diplomacy to possibly include arms sales to Vietnam. Here’s what U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told USA Today in a Aug. 18 news report:

“That’s not to say it won’t happen without some effort. But I think there’s a possibility that Vietnam could be a very strong partner. Look at our history with the British or the Germans or the Japanese. It could be like a phoenix rising from the ashes. That’s what I hope happens here in this relationship.”

For many in Seattle’s large Vietnamese-American community, including myself, it’s difficult to view any actions by Vietnam’s government without skepticism. Overseas Vietnamese — predominantly made up of refugees and citizens of the former South Vietnam forced to flee after the communist takeover — have long staged protests and movements for democracy, religious freedom and human rights in their homeland. The regime has largely ignored those pleas— until now.

Vietnam has few options. Its leadership needs allies to fend off China’s aggression in the South China Sea and to increase trade.

Among the reasons to believe the tide has turned and Vietnam is on the verge of a substantive political shift:

  • In July, a band of journalists formed the country’s first independent journalism organization to protect freedom of the press and reporting free of government censorship, according to the group Reporters without Borders.
  • The U.S. is actively engaged and interested in balancing Beijing’s powers in the region, reports Voice of America. The Vietnamese are just as interested in keeping China at bay and maintaining sovereignty.
  • This month, 61 members of the Communist Party signed an open letter calling “for more political openness,” according to The New York Times.
  • Vietnam badly wants to join the Trans Pacific Partnership, a major free trade agreement under negotiation by the U.S. and 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific.

This represents a golden opportunity to ensure Vietnam follows through with its obligation to improve labor conditions and its human rights record, which Human Rights Watch warns “deteriorated significantly in 2013.” At least one analyst tells the BBC that Vietnam stands to benefit the most from joining the TPP because of the high volume of apparel and footwear now made and exported to the U.S.

Prominent Vietnamese political dissident and constitutional scholar Cu Huy Ha Vu was released from a Vietnamese prison in April. In a stirring May 16 guest column for The Washington Post, he called for future negotiations to include forcing the Communist Party to release some 400 prisoners of conscience and to repeal a series of laws designed to maintain one-party control.

The U.S. and other TPP countries should insist upon those reforms before diplomatic relations with Vietnam are extended to include the sales of military weapons and membership in a lucrative trade agreement.

 http://blogs.seattletimes.com/opinionnw/2014/08/20/continue-the-push-for-human-rights-in-vietnam/
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 ByDuy HoangEarlier this month, Senator John McCain indicated that it was time for the United States to consider selling lethal weapons to Vietnam after a 30-year embargo. The recent maritime standoff between Beijing and Hanoi over Chinese oil exploration off the central coast of Vietnam exposed Hanoi’s many strategic weaknesses.
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Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung receiving Senators John McCain in Hanoi on August 9.

Providing Vietnam with coast guard and maritime systems as a first step – and eventually radar, fighter aircraft and spare parts for leftover American military equipment – would bolster Hanoi’s strategic capabilities vis-a-vis China and give substance to the “comprehensive partnership” announced last year between Hanoi and Washington.

But more than modern weapon systems, what Vietnam really needs for its long-term security is modern political values. Only through a free and open society can the country mobilize the national unity and prosperity needed to safeguard its sovereignty.

The Hanoi leadership’s dilemma between pursuing the national interest and ensuring the communist regime’s preservation has often led to incoherent and contradictory actions. Since the 1950s, that has meant acquiescing to Beijing’s territorial grabs at the expense of Vietnamese sovereignty. In recent years, Hanoi has accommodated Beijing by suppressing domestic criticism of Chinese expansionism.

Communist contradictions
During the war, communist North Vietnam relied heavily on Chinese military support. But Beijing’s assistance was costly. In a 1958 diplomatic note, then prime minister Pham Van Dong implicitly recognized Beijing’s claim over virtually the entire South China Sea. In 1974, Hanoi was deafly silent when China invaded and occupied the Paracel Islands, which were then held by South Vietnam.

Following the war, Hanoi’s tilt toward the Soviet Union and invasion of neighboring Cambodia resulted in a break with China that culminated in a bloody border war in 1979. But by 1990, with the Soviet Union no longer providing aid and communist states in Eastern Europe collapsing like dominoes, Hanoi re-established diplomatic relations with Beijing.

The rapprochement was brokered at a secret summit held in the southern Chinese city of Chengdu in September 1990. The agreements concluded by the senior leadership of both communist parties have still not been publicized. Based on limited revelations by retired officials, Vietnamese bloggers speculate that Hanoi made key concessions regarding land and maritime borders as the price for normalization.

Since Chengdu, Hanoi has closely followed Beijing’s model of “Market Leninism”, characterized by a quasi-open economy and closed political system. While the average Vietnamese citizen is undoubtedly wary of China based on two millennia of conflict, communist regime elites have profited from Chinese economic investment and ideological support.

This may explain why Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh recently described China’s violation of Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as just a small disagreement among “brothers”. Speaking at the Shangri-La defense dialogue on May 31, General Thanh was reluctant to openly criticize Beijing, even as its naval forces were harassing Vietnamese coast guard and fishing vessels in the vicinity of an oil rig operated by state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation.

In apparent deference to Beijing, the ruling Communist Party’s politburo reportedly barred Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh from traveling to the US during the maritime standoff. Only after China removed the oil rig did Hanoi send a senior party official to the US, though surprisingly not the perceived as pro-West foreign minister.

Nor is it clear why Vietnam has still not initiated a legal case at the United Nations, as the Philippines has done for its maritime dispute with China. Even though most outside observers regard Vietnam as holding the legal high ground against China, Hanoi is deeply conflicted on whether to internationalize the dispute. As a result, Beijing is still able to define the issue bilaterally, a one-on-one interaction that allows China to leverage its large country advantages.

Until the Hanoi’s Communist Party leadership demonstrates a willingness to break away from Beijing’s influence, lifting the American arms embargo will not fix Vietnam’s core weakness, which is political rather than military.

Rights roadmap
Senator McCain was correct to link military assistance to human rights: “How much we can do in this regard, as with our other most ambitious trade and security objectives, depends greatly on additional action by Vietnam on human rights.”

Indeed, now is the time for the US to establish concrete and sensible conditions for lifting the arms embargo. By spelling out conditions that ultimately bolster Vietnam’s security, US policymakers can elevate the bilateral relationship to the next level in good faith.

The foremost condition should be the unconditional release of all political prisoners. It is ironic that while Hanoi is pushing for Washington to take a stronger public stand on the South China Sea, it continues to detain Vietnamese citizens who have peacefully spoken out against Chinese aggression.

Second would be the repeal of vague national security provisions which systematically criminalize free expression and peaceful political activity. As long as Vietnamese authorities confuse blogging or pro-democracy advocacy with threats to national security, they will not be able to focus properly on the existential threat arising from an increasingly aggressive China.

Third would be to focus the mission of the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) solely on external defense. Currently, the PAVN is mandated with three roles: protecting the regime, external defense, and economic development. American weapons should never be delivered to a military that’s geared toward suppressing dissent in the name of internal security.

Salient sentiments
An online poll conducted by the BBC’s Vietnamese language service in July asked readers which country they preferred Vietnam to ally with. The US was chosen by 87% of respondents, while China was selected by a mere 1%.

The poll results confirm the observations of nearly all Vietnam watchers: the Vietnamese people want closer ties with the US and greater diplomatic distance from China. The survey confirmed another hard truth: that the vast majority of Vietnamese citizens currently do not have a voice in their national affairs under the current authoritarian regime.

The issue of providing lethal weapons to Vietnam will likely be considered by the Obama administration and Congress in the near future. Concerned by a rising China, some American policy makers might view the arms embargo as the chief impediment to closer US-Vietnam ties.

But American weapons alone won’t result in a stronger Vietnam, nor a deeper strategic relationship. The upcoming debate should also be guided by an appreciation for what would most empower Vietnam and its people – improved human rights and greater civil liberties.

Duy Hoang is a US-based leader of Viet Tan, an unsanctioned pro-democracy political party in Vietnam.

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Vietnamese Americans agitate for human rights in their homeland — seeking political change in the communist country

July 27, 2013

Vietnamese refugees in the United States and a reform party press for political change in the communist country.

By Anh Do
The Los Angels Times

Until Communist captors locked his dad in a 9-by-9-foot jail cell, Khoa Nguyen did not fully appreciate the battle his father was fighting.

As a boy, he remembered him talking about the struggles in his homeland, the basic human rights he believed his countrymen in Vietnam had been denied.

His parent’s activity with a pro-democracy group finally drew his father from the family’s comfortable Garden Grove home to Vietnam, where he hoped to train residents to use nonviolent methods in lobbying for reforms. Instead, he was charged with subversion and arrested.

“I did not completely understand his passion until he went to prison,” Nguyen said. “Then it became important. It became urgent.”

Nguyen Quoc Quan of Viet Tan, the Vietnam Reform Party, was imprisoned for nine months after returning to Vietnam to help his countrymen advocate for change. (Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times)

From UC Davis where he studies chemistry, the 20-year-old monitored his father’s nine-month captivity, which ended suddenly — and unexpectedly — in January when officials allowed Nguyen Quoc Quan to return to the U.S., where he received a hero’s welcome in the Vietnamese American community.

Now, at a time when Vietnam’s top leaders make their first visit to the U.S. since 1995, when the two nations resumed diplomatic relations, Khoa Nguyen is among those pushing for improved human rights and free speech in a country that many Vietnamese Americans haven’t seen since the fall of Saigon.

Tiến sĩ Nguyễn Quốc Quân, Đảng Việt Tân

Ahead of President Truong Tan Sang’s meeting with President Obama on Thursday, Vietnamese American activists branded Vietnam “the new Myanmar in terms of repression,” blasting its government’s history of detaining dissidents, censoring the Internet and stifling the “development of civil society.”

The group Viet Tan, also known as the Vietnam Reform Party, is one of the strongest voices in the effort to bring political change to Vietnam. Regarded by the United Nations as a “peaceful” organization, it is seen as an enemy of the state in Vietnam, where it is banned.

In Vietnamese American communities, such as Orange County’s bustling Little Saigon, Viet Tan is a source of both news and inspiration to some.

“I’ve been reading Viet Tan news and catching up on the names behind the news,” said Mary Tran, who researched the party for a term paper at UCLA. “Every Vietnamese newspaper covers the human rights abuses that they highlight and the ongoing arrests of dissidents. That they document this is fascinating because their purpose is a purpose I believe in.”

Ha Nguyen, eating lunch at Pho Quang Trung in Little Saigon, spent part of the week in the Vietnamese enclave passing out fliers that urged Obama to “push for the release of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience” in Vietnam — as a condition of an expanded U.S.-Vietnam partnership. The Anaheim retiree said he supports Viet Tan’s campaign.

“I like how they work behind the scenes to try and inspire change,” he said. “It must start with improving social welfare and restoring civil rights.”

Viet Tan pushed hard for the release of Nguyen Quoc Quan, a former math teacher and longtime member who helps mobilize young people to join the cause.

Like his father, Khoa Nguyen has now applied to join the party. Founded in 1982 as the National United Front for the Freedom of Vietnam, the group operated underground for more than two decades. Potential members still must find sponsors within the party and enroll in training, learning about history, political strategy and social media, especially how to use video to spread messages.

Viet Tan leaders work to roll back restrictions against basic rights in Vietnam, promoting freedom of the press, boosting grass-roots movements and engaging in international advocacy, said Dung Tran, the group’s Southern California spokesman. “We selectively recruit those with energy and passion and a deep understanding of what it means to bring democracy to our country,” he says.

“I am proud that others know of the party’s work and my father’s work,” said Khoa Nguyen, who has attended training sessions in Canada. “Him being jailed unjustly is the first time I felt this is real. We’re doing something other people might not like, and if needed, we can go to jail as a family. My dad was always talking to me about fighting to give power back to the people — to empower people.”

Now back in Orange County, Nguyen Quoc Quan said he never considered his jailing as something “heroic.

We carry out our mission quietly,” he said. The real heroes, he said, are the “brave political prisoners” who remain in Vietnam.

Nguyen Quoc Quan said last year, when he went to the place he and other refugees still call Saigon (it was renamed Ho Chi Minh City after the war), it was to conduct “nonviolent training.”

But according to the Vietnamese consulate in San Francisco, he flew to his homeland in April 2012 using an alias, “Richard Nguyen.” He “acknowledged to authorities that he planned to cause social turmoil and disturb public events in Vietnam through Viet Tan agents inside Vietnam,” officials said.

“In reality, they don’t have any proof” to bolster their accusations, Nguyen Quoc Quan responds.

Someday, he expects to return to Vietnam to resume his mission. “There will be a time when I need to come back because we value life and bringing good to people’s lives.

“I am simply doing social work.”

anh.do@latimes.com

President Barack Obama meets with President Truong Tan Sang of Vietnam in the Oval Office on July 25, 2013 in Washington, D.C.  (Photo by Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images)

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Vietnam: Internet Challenger To Google Redirecting Searches to American Web Sites

May 16, 2013

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — A Russian-financed search engine seeking to challenge Google’s dominance in Vietnam is redirecting queries for some politically sensitive terms to the American company’s website, apparently as a way of avoiding government anger or legal liability for sending surfers to sites containing criticism of the ruling party.

The move Thursday follows an Associated Press story on the well-funded start up, Coc Coc, that noted it didn’t seem to be censoring results. The shift appears to illustrate the difficulties facing companies in Vietnam’s booming Internet sector, which must negotiate the government’s intent on stifling online dissent that is posing a challenge to its authoritarian, one-party rule.

For Coc Coc, it sends a message to the ruling party that it doesn’t have to worry about it encouraging dissent. But it points to possible difficulties for Google if it wants to open offices and promote its products in Vietnam — and not have to act as a government censor. Google currently doesn’t have a presence in Vietnam because it is concerned about liability for content on its servers.  Coc Coc has more than 300 staff and a large office in Hanoi, the capital.

The AP story Wednesday noted that Coc Coc searches for “Viet Tan,” a well-known overseas pro-democracy group outlawed in Vietnam, were similar to Google’s. Each brought up the English and Vietnamese language websites of the organization. By Thursday, that had changed. Searchers were greeted with a message saying the search “was not valid” before being automatically redirected to the Google page displaying the returns for “Viet Tan.” Searches for one of the country’s most well-known dissidents, Le Quoc Quan, were dealt with in the same way.

In an interview with a Coc Coc representative over an instant message service, the company said it “decided not to serve the segment of political queries at all.”

“We are computer geeks completely out of politics and keen on technologies only,” the representative said. “It’s not our focus at all. So that whenever you want to find something in English, French or about politics in Vietnamese — just please use Google.”

Google declined comment.

In 2010, Google shifted its search engine division in China to Hong Kong after censorship requests from Beijing’s one-party government. The decision allowed Baidu, a Chinese search engine that censors on behalf of the government, to dominate the market. Google does take down some material at the requests of governments around the world, but balks at wholesale censoring of content at the request of authoritarian governments.

Coc Coc, which means “Knock Knock” in Vietnamese, is the latest in a series of challengers to Google’s dominance in Vietnam, a country of 90 million people with one of the fastest-growing Internet penetration rates in the world. It believes that its algorithms make for a better search in the Vietnamese language. It is also photographing and filming commercial businesses on streets around the country, data that is used for a richer search experience.

Shaken by the explosion in online dissent, the government is drafting laws that would tighten freedom of expression on the Internet and possibly force companies such as Google to keep their servers inside the country. It routinely blocks and filters sensitive sites, sentences bloggers to long jail terms and is alleged to be involved in hacking attacks on websites critical of the ruling party.

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Vietnam jails activists for subversion amid crackdown on dissidents

February 4, 2013

Reuters in Bangkok

Pro-democracy activists convicted of trying to overthrow communist government, sparking human rights concerns

guardian.co.uk, Monday 4 February 2013 04.43 EST

This picture taken on January 28, 2013 s

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Vietnamese activists jailed – Phan Van Thu, centre, and affiliates have been handed lengthy jail terms for subversion. Photograph: Vietnam News Agency/AFP/Getty

A court in Vietnam has sentenced a man to life in prison and given jail terms of up to 17 years to other defendants after they were found guilty of “subversive activities”, according to the state-run Vietnam Television.

The verdict follows a series of harsh punishments handed down for dissent in the communist-ruled country, at a time of reported political infighting among the leadership centred on how to reform the economy and tackle management problems at big state firms that have led to bad debt.

The people’s court of Phu Yen province gave a life sentence to Phan Van Thu, head of a group that wanted to establish a new government in Vietnam, the television station said in a news bulletin.

Jail terms of between 12 and 17 years were handed to others in the case, the television station said without elaborating. “Their action has seriously violated the laws,” it added.

People’s Police newspaper, run by the public security ministry, said Thu and others had joined forces in a tourist resort in the central province of Phu Yen from 2004, printing anti-government documents until their arrest in February 2012.

Thu had spent time in prison for anti-government activities in the late 1970s, the newspaper said.

In January, 13 political activists were found guilty of anti-state crimes and sentenced to prison, a ruling condemned by rights activists as part of a crackdown on dissidents.

Late last month police arrested the human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan in Hanoi after he wrote an article criticising the Communist party, Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2013, published on Friday.

“The Vietnamese government is systematically suppressing freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and persecuting those who question government policies, expose official corruption, or call for democratic alternatives to one-party rule,” the report stated.

The government has made no comment on the report.

Among other cases, on 24 January security forces detained a blogger in the northern province of Hung Yen and sent him to a mental institution, according to a letter to Vietnam’s leaders from the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights.

Last week, the authorities deported Nguyen Quoc Quan, a US national of Vietnamese origin, after keeping him in prison without trial since April last year.

Quan was accused of subversion and of being a member of Viet Tan, an outlawed pro-democracy group based in the US, the Communist party newspaper Nhan Dan wrote.

Quan’s trial, which had been scheduled for 22 January, was dropped, He was freed on 30 January, the Viet Tan group said.

Vietnam Finds 22 Guilty of “Subversion” — Prison Sentences Begin

February 4, 2013
Phan Van Thu (R-standing) and others on trial in Phu Yen province, Vietnam (28 Jan 2013).
 
These men are on trial in Vietnam for  for subversion and trying to overthrow the government

BBC

A court in Vietnam’s Phu Yen province has jailed 22 people for between 10 years and life on subversion charges.

Prosecutors said the group had set up an eco-tourism company as a front for activities aimed at overthrowing the government.

The week-long trial was the largest of its kind in several years, as the government cracks down on dissent despite international criticism.

Last month, a court convicted 14 activists on similar charges.

In that case, 13 people – mostly Catholics, including bloggers and students – accused of having links to the banned Viet Tan group were jailed for between three and 13 years, while one received a suspended sentence.

Documents

State-appointed defence lawyer Nguyen Huong Que said the 22 men convicted in Phu Yen had “admitted their crime of aiming to overthrow the people’s administration”.

They were members of a little-known group called the Council for the Laws and Public Affairs of Bia Son [a mountain in Phu Yen].

The group’s leader, Phan Van Thu, was sentenced to life, while other defendants received jail terms of between 10 and 17 years, with five years of house arrest after that.

At the time of his arrest last year, state media had accused Phan of setting up two companies and investing in an eco-tourism park as a cover for recruiting supporters.

The defendants were accused of writing documents critical of the government.

Rights groups say the charges laid against the activists are routinely used by the Vietnamese government to silence dissent.

Dozens of people have been jailed under the laws since 2009, and the government has been accused repeatedly by overseas critics of stepping up repression.

An annual round of dialogue on human rights between Vietnam and the US was cancelled in December because of Washington’s concerns about Hanoi’s worsening rights record.

Last week, Human Rights Watch said the country was “systematically suppressing freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and persecuting those who question government policies”.

Above: Vietnam’s usual response to reporters, cameras and recorders: “No Comment” followed quickly by “You Under Arrest!” Vietnam, like China, has no real free media, no real freedom of speech and no real freedom of religion. The government of each nation is not accountable to the people…..

Vietnam Expels American Human Rights Activist

January 31, 2013

Vietnamese legal agencies on January 30 decided to expel Nguyen Quoc Quan from the country, realising the Vietnamese State’s humanity policy.

Quan, of the US nationality, was born in Hanoi on November 20, 1953, and is a member of the reactionary organisation in exile Viet Tan.

On April 17 last year, the Investigation Security Agency under the Ministry of Public Security arrested Quan in Ho Chi Minh City on a charge of carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration under Article 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.

The agency also seized many documents reflecting his illegal activities.

Quan pleaded guilty and begged for clemency so he could return to the US and reunite with his family.

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Nguyen Quoc Quan
Photo: VNA

Read more: http://www.tuoitrenews.vn/cmlink/tuoitr
enews/society/reactionary-expelled-from-vietnam
-1.97725#ixzz2JXDqHhrg

Human rights activist Nguyen Quoc Quan with his wife Huong Mai Ngo smile during a news conference after his arrival at the Los Angeles International Airport from Vietnam on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, in Los Angeles. Quan has been released after being detained since April 17, 2012 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)