Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.
Today is May 12, 2015. I am here at the invitation of the human rights committee of the Parliament of Canada. lt is an honour for me personally as well as for my friends who have been or are fighting for human rights and freedom in Vietnam.
Ladies and gentlemen, before going into the details of human rights issues in Vietnam, I would like to speak briefly about myself.
Because I participated along with many friends in the peaceful demonstrations in 2006 to protest against the Chinese authorities who had opened fire and killed many Vietnamese fishermen in the Paracel and Spratly Islands of Vietnam, the Vietnamese Communist Party authorities closed my computer business shop and prevented me from getting another job.
Later, I wrote the book entitled “The Truth Must be Known”, published on the Internet and printed as a hard copy book, about the historical truth in Vietnam, so I have been suppressed and hunted by the authorities.
Even when I escaped to Thailand, the Vietnamese Communist Party accused me of many false crimes that I did not commit in order to silence the truth. Lucky for me, with the help of the Government of Canada, Senator Thanh Hai Ngo, the UNHCR, and Amnesty International, I am here to tell the truth about the Vietnamese Communist Party authorities. Thank you, Canada, and thanks to all the friends who helped me overcome misfortune.
Not as lucky as me, one of my best friends who participated in the peaceful demonstrations calling for the protection of our fishermen, blogger Pham Thanh Nghien, who tried to speak out for freedom and democracy for Vietnam, received a jail sentence. After her prison term ended in September 2012, she was placed under house arrest, which is another type of jail, for three consecutive years, and she has met so many difficulties in life.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is a long list of crimes by the VCP authorities in the past that I cannot detail today due to the limited time allowed in this hearing. Here, I would like to limit it to the actions of the VCP authorities that violated human rights in the 2014 to 2015 period.
ln its report on the world human rights situation in 2015, which was published on January 29, 2015, the U.S. human rights organization Human Rights Watch said that the human rights situation in Vietnam in 2014 was still alarming. Although the number of activists and bloggers who were arrested was smaller than in 2013, the state security forces have intensified their harassment and intimidation toward government critics in many forms.
ln reality, Vietnam has refused to implement key recommendations such as the release of political prisoners and those detained without formal charges or trial, and legal reform to stop the politically motivated sentences aimed at those who demand basic human rights peacefully. The communist regime of Vietnam still often uses the rules of “undermining national unity policy” and “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State” to suppress dissenting political views.
Independent writers, bloggers, and human rights activists are frequently subjected to police intimidation and harassment, arbitrary arrest, and detention for several days without legal aid or family visits. Widespread police brutality, including causing death while in custody, has almost reached a rampant level. ln 2014, even the state media, which are tightly controlled, often reported on the status of police violence. Many detainees said that they were beaten to force a confession even though they did not commit the violations they were accused of. Among the beaten victims were also children. ln many cases, those who died in police custody only because of a small error. The police explain the cause of the deaths in custody as suicide, which is often unbelievable and a signal of a systematic cover-up.
ln 2014 Vietnam still maintained the characteristics of a single-party regime, with trial verdicts politically motivated, with factory workers not entitled to full rights, with rampant police brutality, and with unfair or unreasonable land confiscation. The Vietnamese government tightly controlled freedom of speech and freedom of association.
Bloggers, human rights defenders, activists for the rights of workers and landowners whose property has been confiscated, as well as advocates for religious freedom and democracy continue to be harassed, intimidated, assaulted, detained without trial, and imprisoned.
Police still hinder travel to prevent people attending events related to human rights and continue monitoring the state-unapproved sections of Cao Dai, Hoa Hao Buddhists, Protestant, and Mennonite churches, including places of worship in the home. ln the first nine months of 2014, at least 20 people were sentenced for participating in religious groups not approved by authorities. There is no freedom of religion; only religions that can be controlled by the state are allowed.
The independent trade union was outlawed and workers' rights seriously violated. Recently, nearly 100,000 workers demonstrated in March and April in 2015 to protest against the communist authorities for refusing to pay fair and timely worker's compensation. At the same time, the state union is the tool of the VCP to repress workers.
Ladies and gentlemen, as a blogger and a communist refugee, I would like to provide greater detail on bloggers in Vietnam. ln Vietnam, we who write blogs to tell the truth in society against injustice or demand freedom and democracy will be jailed by the VCP. Previously many journalists or songwriters who wrote just one song praising patriotism were imprisoned, such as Ms. Ta Phong Tan and musicians such as Viet Khang, Tran Vu Anh Binh, etc., yet abuses to bloggers, freelance journalists, musicians of patriotic ideals still continued at a rampant pace in 2014.
Let me give some specific examples. Correspondent Anna Huyen Trang of the Saigon Redemptorists media was stopped from leaving the Tan Son Nhat airport at 21:30 on April 13, 2014. At 23:30, the security men arrived and beat her up, seized her by the neck and dragged her out in the presence of a very large crowd of people and friends of the reporter.
Because of the blogs exposing the corruption of public officials, the People's Court of Hanoi sentenced last March 19, writer-blogger Pham Viet Dao to 15 months in prison for abusing democratic freedoms under article 258 of the Penal Code. Pham Viet Dao, himself, worked at the department of cinematography of the Ministry of Culture and then as inspector of the department until 2007.
Mr. Dao was a member of the state's writers association and also has translated many works into Romanian. He had studied abroad and was a college graduate in literature. On Monday, June 9, 2014, the appeal court, in a secret session to review the sentence, approved the sentence, the original verdict of a 15-month prison sentence for writer Pham Viet Dao. What is even more deplorable is that the court did not inform his wife and children, so the wife and children were not present and he did not have a lawyer. He had to defend himself.
In February 2014, activists Bui Thi Minh Hang, Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh, and Nguyen Van Minh were arrested on their way to Nguyen Bac Truyen, an activist, with the fabricated charge of obstructing traffic. These three people were sentenced in August 2014 on charges of disturbing public order, with a sentence of two to three years in prison.
The crackdown on bloggers continues. Notably, in the month of May 2014, the authorities detained prominent blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh, commonly known under the name of Anh Ba Sam, and collaborator Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, on a charge of violating article 258. ln total, at least 10 people have been convicted under article 258 in 2014.
Another very common and alarming situation is that human rights activists are severely beaten. For example, police-supported thugs attacked and severely wounded the former political prisoner and blogger Truong Minh Duc in the month of November 2014, resulting in his having to be hospitalized for several weeks.
At 10:30 a.m., on November 29, 2014, the investigation security agencies of Ho Chi Minh City police raided and arrested blogger Hong Le Tho and charged him under article 258. Mr. Tho was born in 1949 and was a permanent resident at 32 Cuu Long street in ward 15 of district 10 of Ho Chi Minh City. He was quite popular and was hosting a blog, Nguoi Lot Gach. He actually wrote about the social situation and problems of corruption of officials.
Writer Nguyen Quang Lap of the reputable Que Choa blog had his home searched on the morning of June 12, 2014, and was arrested at 2 p.m. the same day in Saigon. His computer was confiscated because he constantly expanded his reports on the shortcomings of society with a view that opposes the state. He was arrested under article 258, that is, “abusing democratic freedoms”, but later he was prosecuted under article 88, which is the offence of propaganda against the state.
Blogger Nguyen Ngoc Gia was arrested on December 27, 2014. His real name is Nguyen Dinh Ngoc. He was born in 1966. He has written regularly for six years on the issues of prisoners of conscience, wrongly accused petitioners, and critics of the policies of the Communist Party of Vietnam. Upon his arrest, the state police website mentioned his arrest but did not specify what offence he had been charged with nor where he was.
Most recently, a young blogger, Nguyen Viet Dung, with his friends, marched peacefully in Hanoi to protest the indiscriminate cutting down of trees. They were investigated by the police agency of the Hoan Kiem district and prosecuted under article 245 of the criminal code for the offence of causing public disorder.
Ladies and gentlemen, there are many other incidents of repression by the VCP government on human rights and freedom of expression in Vietnam, but we can not say them all because time does not allow it. What I would like to raise here is a small part of the human rights violations of the communist authorities, and also to bring awareness to the Canadian Parliament and the human rights and democratic committees of the world, to see the urgency of the problem of human rights violations in Vietnam.
A country such as Vietnam that has joined the Human Rights Council has to respect human rights. Therefore, as a condition to increased suppression of freedom and democracy in Vietnam, I wish the Parliament of Canada and other countries, and also the United Nations, to carry out effective sanctions against the VCP authorities. Do not let the government of Vietnam join the TPP because Vietnam does not meet the human rights requirements. You also must apply pressure on the VCP government to respect freedom of speech, the press, and democracy. They must release all prisoners of conscience, abolish article 4 of the constitution, and conduct free elections.
If Vietnam continues to disrespect human rights, the Canadian government should reconsider the reduction of aid to the communist regime.
As I understand it, the human rights set out in all international declarations are the natural rights of anyone. We come here to propose to the world human rights organizations, as well as to the Canadian Parliament, that human rights in Vietnam cannot be disregarded.
We also expect the Government of Canada, and particularly the human rights committee of the Parliament of Canada, to have a delegation of independent people to monitor human rights situations in Vietnam and to identify the problem of human rights violations in Vietnam. The people of Vietnam want to have human rights and freedom in our country.
Finally, we will continue to monitor the issue of human rights violations by the communist authorities and will inform the Human Rights Council and the Parliament of Canada when there are conditions to protect the legitimate rights of the people of Vietnam.
Thank you very much for your attention.