ucanews.com reporter, Hanoi
Updated: March 08, 2018 05:11 AM GMT
Rights activist Tran Thi Nga, 40, stands during her appeal at a local people's court in the northern province of Ha Nam on Dec. 22, 2017. She was earlier sentenced to nine years in prison for producing so-called anti-state propaganda, capping a grim year for activists in the one-party state. (Photo by Vietnam News Agency/AFP)
Vietnam's communist government severely cracked down on human rights and democracy advocates as well as other protesters last year, according to local rights defenders.
"The year 2017 was the worst year for Vietnamese dissidents given that at least 43 human rights activists were arrested," the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience (FVPOC) said in its latest annual report.
The group said plainclothes police, opinion shapers and pro-government thugs carried out physical assaults targeting political dissidents, peaceful demonstrators and others who disagreed with the government's policies.
"These brutal and severe attacks took place in public and in the presence of uniformed police officers," they said.
The Report on Human Rights Violations in Vietnam 2017, published on March 5, stated that the government increased its surveillance of activists.
It claims they were prevented from leaving their homes to meet foreign diplomats or attend national and international commemorations.
Meanwhile, human rights defenders often had their meetings interrupted or dissolved, it said.
The 36-page report detailed 61 serious cases of environmentalists, rights defenders and religious activists being severely beaten, harassed, detained, banned from travelling abroad or given heavy prison terms for campaigns against the state.
Environmental activist Hoang Duc Binh was jailed for 14 years on Feb. 6 over protests against a toxic waste dump that killed tonnes of fish in the communist country. His co-accused, Nguyen Nam Phong, 38, received two years for 'resisting public officers.' (Photo by Vietnam News Agency/AFP)
In many cases, police prevented Catholic communities from building churches, brutally attacked parishioners, and even soiled people's homes by throwing garbage inside them.
The report was prepared by seven former prisoners including Father Peter Phan Van Loi, who is still under house arrest, and the Most Venerable Thich Khong Tanh, a devout Buddhist.
It listed 94 prisoners of conscience, many of whom are serving out prison sentences ranging from two to 17 years. Others have yet to be tried.
The authors of the report said the list of prisoners of conscience does not include those from ethnic groups or others whose cases are not publicly known.
They also listed 43 people who were arrested in 2017 for challenging the state, over the double the number in 2016 and 2015.
The report stated it was based on data collected from FVPOC members and other activists and victims of persecution. They said many more cases are believed to have gone unreported.
The group called on the government to respect its citizens' basic rights as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory party. Those rights include freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, and freedom on movement.
They also asked foreign trade partners to raise human rights issues while negotiating free trade agreements with Vietnam.
Another of their demands was that the government recognize independent civil societies and allow people to freely express their opinion.
The FVPOC was founded in 2014. The group aims to build a legal system that respects the core values of dignity, human rights, freedom and democracy in line with international standards.
The group has striven to improve Vietnam's prison system and support prisoners of conscience.
Its members also provide material support for those who are incarcerated unfairly and their relatives.
….as we enter the last months of 2021, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.