Pham Chi Dung’s case: UN questions Vietnam; Nguyen Tuong Thuy summoned

A group of UN human rights experts earlier this year sent an appeal to question the Vietnamese government about the detention of independent journalist Pham Chi Dung, chairman of the Independent JournalistsAssociation of Vietnam (IJAVN), requesting a response in 60 day.

Also related to this case, journalist Nguyen Tuong Thuy, vice chairman of the association, said he was summoned by the police.

According to the UN Human Rights Commission (OHCHR) ‘s media report, updated on March 22, the letter from the UN team of experts said: ” We also express our concern about the alleged arbitrary detention of Mr. Pham Chi Dung and the fact that he may be held without access to his family or his lawyer.”

Four UN human rights experts – including the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of expression, the Vice President of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of assembly and Association, and Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders – describing Mr. Pham Chi Dung’s alleged detention “as an act of revenge for his human rights propaganda activities.”

We are concerned that a lengthy period before being allowed any outside contact puts him at a higher risk of torture or cruel and inhuman treatment,” the letter continued.

He has not met a lawyer,” Bui Thi Hong Loan, wife of Mr. Pham Chi Dung, said in a recent message.

From Hanoi, IJAVN’s Vice President Mr. Nguyen Tuong Thuy said on March 25 that the UN’s interest in those who fight for human rights in Vietnam is “a valuable thing.” He added “I hope that the UN and other international organizations should make this issue clear, especially for freelance journalists … to continue to support and defend the persecuted in Vietnam.”

Official announcement ceremony of the establishment of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam on July 4, 2014 by journalist Pham Chi Dung (far right) as its chairman

Also related to the case of Pham Chi Dung, journalist Nguyen Tuong Thuy said on March 25 that he was also summoned by the Hanoi Police Investigation Agency but he refused because of health and concerns related to Wuhan Flu outbreak.

Mr. Thuy said: “Recently, they gave me an invitation and I told them that I will not go. Two days later, a group of 6 people including the city security, the police of Thanh Xuan district came to my house to ask why I did not go.”

I say that it is currently [Covid-19] pandemic period and my health is weak, and I say that I have nothing about Mr. Nguyen Chi Dung to tell them. They said they would continue to summon me and warned that they would take me away by force if I do not go voluntarily.”

Mr. Thuy added that in the past week, the government has not seen any action other than sending security guards to guard his house.

In the UN appeal letter, experts asked the Vietnamese government to respond within 60 days about the allegations, as well as provide legal grounds for the arrest of Mr. Pham Chi Dung and explain explain how these are compatible with international human rights norms and standards.

In addition, experts asked the Vietnamese government to indicate what measures have been taken to ensure that human rights defenders and journalists in Viet Nam are able to carry out their legitimate work in a safe and enabling environment without fear of threats, harassment or acts of intimidation and reprisals of any sort.

It has been more than 4 months since his arrest, and Mr. Pham Chi Dung has not been allowed to meet his family members and lawyers, although his family has been allowed to supply food twice a month.

No one has heard any news about Mr. Dung. Family members only received messages from detention center officials at 4 Phan Dang Luu twice that he had insomnia and needed sedation. However, anyone knows his real situation with exception of himself and his guards.

At first, Mr. Dung was not allowed to meet his family members because he was “recently arrested.” And since the Wuhan virus outbreak, the police said the reason was the need to “prevent the spread of the disease.”

The lawyer has also been informed from the People’s Procuracy of Ho Chi Minh City at the end of last year, that Mr. Dung is charged with “anti-state propaganda” so his lawyer can only meet with him after the investigation is completed.

What Dung has done for so long is no secret as he has thousands of online articles criticizing Vietnam’s policies only to promote democracy, human rights, transparency, press freedom, freedom of information and freedom of assembly. These are all basic rights stipulated in the constitution or in international conventions that the Vietnamese government has signed.

In early January 2020, in response to the European Parliament on why Mr. Dung was arrested, the Vietnamese Ambassador in Belgium said that he was arrested for setting up an illegal association, not because of the letter he has sent to the European Parliament. The explanation is unreasonable because the IJAVN has been in operation for more than five years.

Dung was freed from the ideology of the Communist Party, but upheld the ideals of freedom and equality that the party thought was set up to promote. After graduating from the Military Technical Academy, he joined the Party at the age of 25 and worked for the HCM City Party Committee for Internal Affairs for 16 years. During his last years working here, Mr. Dung secretly wrote articles with a pseudonym.

Dung said “The Party is at a dead end. The party is on the side of the rich; there is no socialism anymore, and inequality is growing.”

After an emergency arrest and imprisonment in 2012, Mr. Dung followed Mr. Le Hieu Dang to quit the Communist Party in 2013. Mr. Dang is a lawyer joining the party 40 years before leaving it.

In his “Quitting the Party” letter on November 5, 2013, Mr. Dung wrote: “I have been enthusiastic in contributing to a socialist country of justice and charity … But everything that the Party Communism has played a “comprehensive leadership” role for at least a quarter of a century, which has made me, like many other party members, go from frustration to despair.”

He later helped to establish the IJAVN, an organization that was never allowed to operate by the Communist Party, but continued to operate. Journalist David Hutt said that like Vaclav Havel, the former Czech President, Pham Chi Dung, along with many other journalists and activists living as if Vietnam were free.

A screenshot of the video in which Pham Chi Dung spoke calling for the European parliament to postpone EVFTA was shown at a human rights conference in Europe on December 3, 2019.

In August 2019, Pham Chi Dung was put up in an Opposite program of state media, called “The Left Side of Social Networks” which described independent journalists and activists as conspirators. Mr. Dung stated: “I challenge any party organization, radio or television station that may point to an incorrect event in my articles or interviews, or point out any any sentences are false or provocative.”

He added that he had the right to sue. “I know it’s very difficult to win a case in a Vietnamese court, but I can sue them later, not now.”

On December 3, 2019, a video of Mr. Pham Chi Dung’s speech calling for the European parliament to postpone EVFTA was shown at a human rights conference in Europe.

According to human rights organizations, Mr. Dung issued this message just two days before his arrest on November 21.

In a video presented in English, Mr. Dung emphasized: “The Free Trade Agreement between Vietnam and the European Union (EVFTA) and the Vietnam – European Union Investment Protection Agreement (IPA) only make the EU to suffer losses due to annual trade deficit from Vietnam of between $20 million and $25 million.

In addition, Mr. Dung stated that “the eight EU-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogues over the years have been useless” and “95% of the EU’s recommendations for improving human rights have been abandoned by Vietnam.”

 “Hanoi has only promised to revise it by 2023 or 2025 to ratify Convention 87 on the Freedom of Labor International Labor Union’s Freedom of Establishment of the Union and the Convention on Freedom of Labor. But this is only a “hoax” to buy time, and frustrates the European Union and the International Labor Organization,” and “There is no detailed announcement of the ratification time nor any commitments Hanoi will implementation,” Mr. Dung asserted.

Mr. Pham Chi Dung ended the message by calling on the European Parliament to postpone ratification of the two treaties EVFTA and IPA “until the Vietnamese regime commits to the implementation of human rights,” with the warning that the EUVFTA will never end Hanoi’s intolerable persecution.

The regime is imprisoning more and more dissidents soon after the European Union ratifies EVFTA and IPA. Famous dissidents against EVFTA on the grounds that Vietnam does not respect human rights as well as those who stand up against China violate territorial waters will face heavy prison sentences,” Dung said.

The bitter Message of Pham Chi Dung is a prophecy for his own destiny,” the Vietnam Committee for the Protection of the Human Rights (VCHR) and Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said in a statement.

Hoang Lan from Hanoi – (Translated)