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After arresting more than 40 activists and bloggers and convicting about 40 dissidents in 2019, the Vietnamese government continues its oppression of dissidents and activists to ensure stability while the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam is preparing for the 13th National party congress scheduled for January 2021. Those repressive actions are carried out aggressively and intensely throughout 2020.
Meanwhile, Vietnam and the European Union signed the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) in Hanoi at the end of June 2019. The European Parliament has officially ratified this agreement in February this year, despite a number of international and Vietnamese human rights organizations calling on EU parliamentarians to carefully consider and not rush to accept the agreement before the Vietnam government regime shows specific human rights improvements. Sadly, earlier warnings from human rights organizations, coupled with the actual developments in Vietnam, have shown the state’s weak efforts to ensure human rights.
In the early days of this year, to fully control the information related to the rapidly spreading Covid-19 epidemic, the Vietnamese government tightened the supervision on the domestic media. The state carried out suppression campaigns on social networks, especially Facebook, which is the domain to about 60 million accounts in Vietnam. From January to April, authorities in several cities and provinces questioned hundreds of local Facebookers solely due to their posts about the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the Ministry of Public Security, more than 300 Facebook users received administrative fines ranging from 7.5 million to 15 million VND in mid-March. The number of harassment and threatening toward Facebook users has also risen later on. Freedom of speech and information transparency are brutally restricted. Nevertheless, that is not all.
What makes 2020 a horrible year for human rights in Vietnam is the weakness of the judiciary. This weakness has worsened the situation of human rights. Grossly violations of fundamental rights such as the right to life, the right not to be tortured or tortured, the right not to arbitrary arrest, exist as a common-sense for unconvincing
reasons from the competent authority. The court is no longer the destination of justice but where produces judgments that make public opinion stirring. In early 2020, a bloody attack on residents of Hoanh village, Dong Tam commune, My Duc district, Hanoi left 4 people dead and 29 others arrested and prosecuted. Throughout the trial, many contradictions in the indictment with the accused’s testimony and violations were found, but in the end, the case was hastily tried and ended with 2 death sentences, 1 life sentence, and 3 imprisonment sentences, ranging from 12 to 16 years.1
Also, in the early months of 2020, the government continued its moves against the Liberal Publishing House when a reader and also the distributor of the publisher’s publication named Ho Sy Quyet was confiscated all books of this publisher. Initially, the establishment of the Liberal Publishing House was intended to be the publisher of works that wanted to reach the public, without any censorship system permissions. That purpose has become the reason why the Publishing House is suppressed and restricted from its activities. The government’s move has clearly shown a drastic desire to force the publisher to stop operating. The rampant developments in 2019 have pushed Liberal Publishing House into a position to defend its own survival and become a symbol of the fight for freedom of expression. Harassment has occurred in at least three major cities, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hue, as well as other localities such as Binh Duong, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, and Phu Yen.
In any country, the press is always the fastest team in communicating with the people, disseminating the national policies and changes. At the same time, it is also the group that raises a voice to criticize any country’s policy or situation. A progressive government must be one with a free and accurate press. Instead of respecting the journalist’s card worn in front of independent reporters’ chests, the Vietnamese government is willing to take it away, and more seriously, to strip of fundamental human rights. While the case of the Liberal Publishing House had not yet calmed down, in mid- 2020, the authorities arrested the members of the Independent Journalist Association of Vietnam with charges under Article 117 of the Penal Code.
2020 is a year of turmoil for the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and also a year full of turmoil for Vietnam due to gross domestic human rights violations. While other countries are focusing on the problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Vietnam government, in addition to its relentless efforts to prevent epidemics, uses this opportunity to intensify its repression against dissidents without being criticized by the international community. The crackdown has culminated in recent months with the arrest of dozens of activists and accusing them by vague letters of laws relating to national security. With these complicated developments, the research team presents a report summarizing the outstanding issues over the past year to provide the big picture over 365 days of the human rights situation in Vietnam.
Human Rights Information Center