Posted on March 18, 2011 by Bjorklundk

Today, the People’s Court of Tra Vinh in Vietnam will consider the appeal of three young labor activists sentenced to long

prison terms in October 2010.

The activists Nguyen Hoang Quoc Hung (age 30), Do Thi Minh Hanh and Doan Huy Chuong (both age 26),were

convicted and sentenced on October 26, 2010 by the People’s Court under article 89 of the penal code for “disrupting

security and order against the people’s administration.” Hung was sentenced to nine years in prison and Hanh and

Chuong were sentenced to seven years each. Their crime? Peacefully organizing.

They distributed leaflets and helped organized a strike of 10,000 workers at the My Phong shoe factory in Tra Vinh

in January 2010.

Human Rights Watched issued this statement yesterday calling for their immediate release: “All that Nguyen Hoang

Quoc Hung, Do Thi Minh Hanh, and Doan Huy Chuong did was assert the rights of Vietnamese workers to peacefully

organize, assemble, and strike for better pay and working conditions,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at

Human Rights Watch. “It was outrageous for the Vietnamese government, which claims an ideological commitment

to workers, to charge them in the first place. The appeals court should reverse this injustice immediately.”

Low wage workers in Vietnam have a difficult time making ends meet especially due to high inflationand rising living

costs. Labor unions independent of the ruling Communist party are illegal and under Vietnamese law, strikes must be

approved by local authorities as well as the government run national trade union.

At their trial in October, the activists did not have access to attorneys and were not even allowed to make a statement

in their own defense.

According to their families, since that time they have been pressured not to appeal their conviction and were not

permitted to discuss their sentence or possible appeal with anyone. Despite this pressure, their families engaged

defense attorneys. According to Human Rights Watch, the lawyers were not granted access to the defendants a

week before their appeal case hearing scheduled for January 24. On January 18, their families filed a complaint

calling for the jailed activists to be given their right to access their attorneys and their hearing date rescheduled.

Today’s appeals hearing is a result of that petition.

Chuong is no stranger to the harsh punishment of the Vietnamese government. A founding member of the

United Workers-Farmers Organization along with his father, he was arrested soon after its founding along with

all of the other members of the organization.

It was the first independent union in Vietnam.  In 2006, he was sentenced to18 months in prison for promoting

the rights of workers and farmers and distributing information to Western news organizations including Radio

Free Asia. He and other activists were sentenced under Article 258 of Vietnam’s penal code, which bars “abusing

democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State.” He was placed in solitary confinement for 48 days

and was subjected to physical and psychological torture. His appeal was denied. Chuong’s father, Doan Van Dien

is currently serving a four-year prison term at B5 prison in Dong Nai province on the same charges.

Chuong was released on May 13, 2008 due to health conditions. After he was released and his health improved,

he reengaged in the his efforts to help workers. On February 11 last year, his wife’s brother was arrested for spreading

leaflets on human rights, regional environment, and territorial integrity, and was promised to be released if Chuong

showed up. To save his brother-in-law, he reported himself on February 13, 2010 and was detained while police

ransacked his house. He, along with Hung and Hanh were officially convicted and sentenced to their outrageous

sentences in October. Hung and Hanh were both active supporters of the movement called Victims of Injustice,

which helps workers and landless farmers to seek compensation from the government.

Secretary of State Clinton mentioned her concersn about the crackdown on activists when visiting Vietnam the

same week these sentences were handed down in October: ”Human rights is an issue of great importance to the

United States, and we regularly raise our concerns, as I did last evening with the Prime Minister, and again today

with the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. We not only raise this in general, but specifically with concerns

regarding severe sentences for political activists, attacks on bloggers, restrictions on Internet freedom, and religious

freedom, tightening control over research organizations and the media. We raise these at all levels, both here in Hanoi,

and in Washington, including through our dialogue on human rights.”

Chuong was awarded the Vietnam Human Rights Network 2010 award. The award provides recognition to the

outstanding works in the field of human rights in Vietnam and expresses solidarity with and support for those

involved in the relentless fighting for basic rights and justice for Vietnamese people.

According to Vietnam Human Rights Network, at the awards ceremony in Houston on International Human Rights

Day, guests listened to a recorded message from Mrs. Chiem Thi Tuong Manh, Mr. Chuong’s wife, thanking Vietnamese

compatriots abroad for their support to the oppressed rights activists in general and her husbands in particular. She said

she believed that Chuong would certainly be happy to learn about the good sentiment from their compatriots

around the world, and would determinedly continue to pursue their just cause.

If only outside pressure and support were enough to stop the unjust imprisonment of activists and lead to their release today.

The arrests and imprisonments of these young activists have not been covered in the Vietnamese press.

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