Vietnam intensifies crackdown on basic freedoms, Human Rights Watch says

Vietnam stepped-up its crackdown on domestic and international non-governmental organizations in Vietnam last year, Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2023.

As the country takes its seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2023-2025 term, the New York-based group of independent international rights experts accused the government “under the dictatorial one-party rule of the Communist Party of Vietnam” of cracking down on independent unions, human rights groups and political parties.

Human Rights Watch said these groups face “harassment, intimidation and retaliation from the authorities,” severely restricting their rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, movement, and religion.

The government has also severely restricted online expression, blocking access to political websites and social media pages and putting pressure on site operators to remove material critical of the government and Communist Party, the group said.

Human Rights Watch highlighted the cases of journalists Mai Phan Loi and Bach Hung Duong; and environmental activists Dang Dinh Bach and Nguy Thi Kahnh.

Mai Phan Loi, is chairman of the Committee for Science Affairs at the Center for Media in Educating Community; Back Hung Duong is the center’s director. Dang Dinh Back is director of the Research Center for Law and Policy for Sustainable Development; Nguy Thi Khanh the award-winning director of the Green Innovation and Development Centre

The four were sentenced to two to five years in prison in separate trials last year on what Human Rights Watch called “politically motivated” tax evasion charges.

In Nguy Thi Khanh’s case, the environmental campaigner was charged with failing to pay 10% tax on the U.S.$200,000 prize money she won for the 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize and sentenced to two years in prison.

“The Vietnamese government’s blanket repression of rights activists and dissidents extended to include mainstream environmental leaders and international groups in 2022,” said Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson. “Vietnam’s international donors and trade partners should speak out against the government’s abusive practices.”

The Vietnamese government has locked up more than 160 people for “peacefully exercising their basic civil and political rights,” Human Rights Watch said, at least 35 of them in 2022 alone.

World Report 2023 looks at human rights practices in nearly 100 countries.

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