Vietnam Arrests Three Critics Amid Crackdown Against Activists

Published: 07 March 2024

Vietnam Nha bao Nguyen Vu BinhOne of those arrested, Nguyen Vu Binh, is a former political prisoner who has twice received the prestigious Hellmann/Hammett Writers' award for writers who have been victims of political persecution. (Photo: Nguyen Vu Binh's SoundClould podcast, Wikimedia, License)

By Lieth Carrillo

Vietnam has arrested three independent voices on anti-state charges, Human Rights Watch reported Tuesday. The human rights watchdog said that the country is cracking down on bloggers, rights campaigners, and activists.

YouTube influencer Nguyen Chi Tuyen, also known as Anh Chi, and journalist and former political prisoner Nguyen Vu Binh were arrested on Feb. 29. Hoang Viet Khanh, a critic of the government and police brutality on social media, was arrested on March 1. All three have been charged with " carrying out propaganda against the state."

The three have criticized the Vietnamese one-party regime, denouncing human rights violations in the country and advocating for the country's democratization. Subsequently, they have faced police intimidation, harassment, house arrests, bans on international travel, arbitrary detention, interrogations and serious physical attacks, as in the case of Nguyen Chi Tuyen, who was assaulted and beaten near his house in 2015.

Said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, “These three activists are not guilty of anything except exercising their basic rights to freedom of speech. Unfortunately, the Vietnamese government treats all online expression of peaceful political views as a dire threat to the ruling party and government, and crushes such dissent with politically motivated arrests, trials, and prison sentences.”

Human Rights Watch also noted that these arrests took place just after Vietnam announced its candidacy for another term on the United Nations Human Rights Council.

“The Vietnamese government likes to boast about its respect for human rights when seeking a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, but its brutal crushing of dissent sends the opposite message,” Robertson said.

Earlier this year, activists Danh Minh Quang, Nay Y Blang and Phan Van Loc were convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to seven years.

The country has at least 163 political prisoners in detention, and another 24 or more in custody on politically motivated charges awaiting trial, Human Rights Watch said.