Each year on May 11, the United States observes Vietnam Human Rights Day - a day to remember the importance of advancing fundamental freedoms including freedom of expression, assembly, association, and religion.
Vietnam remains an authoritarian state ruled by the Communist Party of Vietnam. The most recent National Assembly elections, held in May 2016, were neither free nor fair.
According to the State Department Human Rights report, prison conditions were austere and occasionally life threatening. Amnesty International and former prisoners of conscience noted that prison authorities singled out political prisoners and ethnic minority prisoners, particularly in the Central Highlands, for physical abuse, solitary confinement, and denial of medical treatment.
In 2017, the government arrested over 30 individuals for peacefully expressing political or religious views, an increase from approximately 10 such arrests in 2016. The arrested included members of the prodemocracy group Brotherhood for Democracy, Viet Labor, bloggers, students, and individuals involved in expressing dissent related to the 2016 industrial spill by the Taiwanese-owned Formosa Ha Tinh Steel company.
They include former political prisoner Pham Van Troi, who was arrested on July 30, 2017, reportedly based on his connections to Brotherhood for Democracy. He was sentenced to 7 years in prison on April 5. In February, authorities sentenced rights activist Hoang Duc Binh to 14 years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms” after posting online content about the government’s response to the Formosa spill.
During 2017, there continued to be credible reports that Vietnamese authorities pressured defense lawyers not to take religious or democracy activists as clients. Authorities also restricted, harassed, arrested, disbarred, and, in some cases, detained human rights attorneys who represented political activists.
According to Human Rights Watch, more than 100 persons were in prison in Vietnam for political or religious reasons.
Indeed, a Vietnamese court convicted International Woman of Courage awardee and human rights blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known as Mother Mushroom, to 10 years in prison after she gained a large social media following on her blog covering human rights, land issues, and environmental concerns.
The United States calls on Vietnam to release all prisoners of conscience immediately, and to allow all individuals in Vietnam to express their views freely and assemble peacefully without fear of retribution.