Posts Tagged ‘Pham Doan Trang’

Pham Doan Trang: UN experts call for release of Vietnamese human rights defender

November 1, 2021

On 30 October 2021 AFP reported that a group of UN human rights experts called for the immediate release of Vietnamese activist Pham Doan Trang (pic), who is awaiting trial after a year in detention. The prominent Vietnamese author, who campaigns for press freedom and civil rights, was arrested in October last year. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/fe8bf320-1d78-11e8-aacf-35c4dd34b7ba]

Trang has pushed for change on a host of controversial issues, including land grabs and LGBTQ rights. “Pham Doan Trang is only the latest victim of the authorities’ use of vaguely-defined propaganda charges to persecute writers, journalists and human rights defenders,” the experts said in a statement.

The UN experts said the charges against her stem from at least three human rights reports she co-authored, plus interviews with foreign media. They accuse the authorities of “criminalising the exercise of their right to freedom of opinion”.

We urge the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Ms Pham Doan Trang.

The UN experts included the special rapporteurs on the right to freedom of opinion, on human rights defenders, and on the right to physical and mental health.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/08/vietnam-detaines-human-rights-defender-pham-doan-trang-just-after-concluding-its-annual-human-rights-dialogue-with-the-usa/

https://www.thestar.com.my/aseanplus/aseanplus-news/2021/10/30/un-experts-call-for-release-of-vietnamese-activist

Worries about RSF Laureate Pham Doan Trang jailed in Vietnam

April 8, 2021

Reporters without Borders (RSF) learned of the arrest exactly six months ago of Pham Doan Trang, a well-known Vietnamese journalist, was arrested at her Ho Chi Minh City home by plain-clothes policemen last October. There’s been no news of her since then. She’s not been allowed to talk to a lawyer or her family and she is facing up to 20 years in prison on a charge of “anti-state propaganda.”

Pham Doan Trang has been awarded the RSF Press Freedom Prize in 2019 and the Homo Homini award in 2017 [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/fe8bf320-1d78-11e8-aacf-35c4dd34b7ba]
 
As she completed her sixth month in detention, several RSF Press Freedom Prize  laureates recorded video messages expressing their support for her in order to help draw international attention to her fate. All of them called for her immediate and unconditional release by the Vietnamese authorities. She continues to be held by the Vietnamese authorities and is exposed to the possibility of further acts of torture. We now fear the worst for her and we urge you to sign the #FreePhamDoanTrang petition demanding her release. Let’s save one of Vietnam’s most respected journalists. Every signature counts: SIGN THE PETITION

https://mailchi.mp/rsf.org/phamdoantrang-6months?e=2f43be35bd

Vietnamese Human Rights Defenders Targeted with Ocean Lotus Spyware

February 25, 2021

On 24 February 2021 a new Amnesty International investigation has identified a campaign of spyware attacks targeting Vietnamese human rights defenders (HRDs) from February 2018 to November 2020. Amnesty International’s Security Lab attributes these attacks to an attack group known as Ocean Lotus. The group has been active since at least 2014, targeting the private sector and HRDs. The spyware attacks investigated and identified by the Security Lab are the latest evidence of a crackdown on freedom of expression in Viet Nam and against Vietnamese activists outside the country.

Viet Nam’s history of Online Repression: Human rights are increasingly under attack both offline and online in Viet Nam. Over the past 15 years, repression linked to online activity has intensified, leading to a wave of harassment, intimidation, physical assault, and prosecution. Amnesty International has documented multiple cases of the arrest and prosecution of HRDs in Viet Nam in retaliation for their online expression since 2006. That year, former prisoner of conscience Truong Quoc Huy was arrested at an internet café in Ho Chi Minh City. Many activists and bloggers have been convicted for “conducting propaganda against the state.” Human rights blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (Mother Mushroom) was sentenced to 10 years in prison in June 2017 on such charges. Activists and bloggers also face frequent physical assaults by officials or government-connected thugs. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/70F07728-1E21-4D33-F0BE-460D5A188B9D] Police place activists under house arrest or briefly detain them to prevent them from participating in public events. The government also uses travel bans to prevent activists and HRDs from going abroad and engaging with the international community. In December 2020, Amnesty International published “Let Us Breathe”, a report documenting the widespread criminalization, online harassment and physical attacks faced by activists and bloggers and the rising numbers of individuals detained for peacefully expressing themselves online. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/12/01/facebook-and-youtube-are-allowing-themselves-to-become-tools-of-the-vietnamese-authorities-censorship-and-harassment/ ]

What is Ocean Lotus?

The cyber-security industry, comprised of individual and company-based researchers, routinely researches and publishes information about attack groups targeting companies and governments. The industry often gives informal names to groups they continuously track based on each group’s unique tactics and tools. Ocean Lotus (also commonly called APT32 or APT-C-00) is one of these groups. The first known Ocean Lotus attack happened in 2014. It targeted US-based NGO Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Associated Press international news organization and two Vietnamese activists. This group was named Ocean Lotus in a report from the Chinese company Qihoo 360 in May 2015. In 2017, the American cyber-security company FireEye published a report linking the 2014 EFF and other attacks to this same Ocean Lotus. Over the years, Ocean Lotus has developed a sophisticated spyware toolkit comprised of several variants of Mac OS spyware, Android spyware and Windows spyware. They also strategically compromise websites in order to identify visitors and conduct further targeting. More recently, Ocean Lotus was found creating fake media websites based on content automatically gathered online. A significant part of the group’s activities is the targeting of HRDs and civil society. In 2017, the cyber-security company Volexity revealed that over 100 websites were compromised, including many belonging to human rights organizations from Viet Nam, in an attack campaign that they attributed to Ocean Lotus. Numerous other spyware attacks linked to Ocean Lotus against human rights organizations have also been reported, such as the targeting of the Cambodian human rights organization, LICADHO, in 2018. The cyber-security company FireEye describes Ocean Lotus’ operations as “aligned with Vietnamese state interests” based on the list of targeted companies and civil society groups they identified. In December 2020, Facebook published a threat report linking Ocean Lotus’ activities with a Vietnamese company named CyberOne Group. Although Amnesty International was unable to independently verify any direct connection between Ocean Lotus and Cyber One or with the Vietnamese authorities, the attacks described in this investigation confirm a pattern of targeting Vietnamese individuals and organizations.

Attacks against HRDs.

The investigation conducted by Amnesty International’s Security Lab revealed that two HRDs and a non-profit human rights organization from Viet Nam have been targeted by a coordinated spyware campaign. This spyware allows to fully monitor a compromised system, including reading and writing files, or launching other malicious programs. Bui Thanh Hieu is a blogger and pro-democracy activist who goes by the name “Nguoi Buon Gio” (The Wind Trader). He writes about social and economic justice and human rights. He is also critical of the Vietnamese government’s policies and actions regarding its relations with China, including the dispute over sovereignty in the South China Sea. Due to his writing and activism, the licence for an Internet Café he owned in Ha Noi has been revoked and he has been repeatedly subjected to reprisals. He was arrested along with activists Pham Doan Trang [see https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/fe8bf320-1d78-11e8-aacf-35c4dd34b7ba] and Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh in 2009 and was kept in police custody for 10 days for“abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State.” In January 2013, Bui Thanh Hieu reported on the trial of 14 dissidents in Viet Nam and was arrested and released a few days later. He has since left Viet Nam and has lived in exile in Germany since 2013. Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment (VOICE) is a non-profit organization supporting Vietnamese refugees and promoting human rights in Viet Nam. It was established in 1997 in the Filipino capital of Manila as a legal aid office, before formally registering in the United States in 2007. The organization continues to operate out of Manila and has helped 3,000 Vietnamese refugees resettle in third countries. Since 2011, VOICE has operated an internship programme to equip Vietnamese people with knowledge, skills, and tools to become effective activists. The organization has faced reprisals from Vietnamese authorities several times. Staff at VOICE told Amnesty International that employees and interns have been harassed, banned from travelling, and have had their passports confiscated when they have returned to Viet Nam. Furthermore, state-owned media has run an unsubstantiated smear campaign against VOICE, claiming that the organization is a terrorist group. A blogger residing in Viet Nam has also been confirmed as an Ocean Lotus target by the Security Lab, but due to security concerns their name has been omitted. They are known to have spoken out publicly about the Dong Tam incident on 9 January 2020, when approximately 3,000 security officers from Ha Noi raided Dong Tam village and killed the 84-year-old village leader Le Dinh Kinh. Three police officers were also killed. The Dong Tam incident sparked a national outcry in Viet Nam. Activists and bloggers were at the forefront of the public debate online, prompting a nationwide crackdown on on-line expression by the government. VOICE and the two bloggers all received emails containing spyware between February 2018 and November 2020. These emails pretended to share an important document. They either contained spyware as an attachment or as a link. Once downloaded and launched on the victim’s computer, the spyware would then open a decoy document in line with what the email pretended to share to trick the victim in believing the file was benign. Screenshot of the email sent to VOICE in April 2020The spyware identified by the Security Lab were either for Mac OS or Windows systems. The Windows spyware was a variant of a malware family called Kerrdown and used exclusively by the Ocean Lotus group. Kerrdown is a downloader that installs additional spyware from a server on the victim’s system and opens a decoy document. In this case, it downloaded Cobalt Strike, a commercial spyware toolkit developed by the American company Strategy Cyber and routinely used to lawfully audit the security of organizations through simulated attacks. It allows an attacker full access to the compromised system including executing scripts, taking screenshots or logging keystrokes. Unlicensed versions of Cobalt Strikes have been increasingly used by attack groups, including Ocean Lotus, over the past three years.Example of Windows Spyware Infection Chain from one of the emails received The Mac OS Spyware was a variant of a malware family for Mac OS developed and used exclusively by Ocean Lotus, analysed by Trend Micro in April 2018 and November 2020. It allows the perpetrator to access system information, download, upload or execute files and execute commands.

Vietnam detaines human rights defender Pham Doan Trang just after concluding its annual human rights dialogue with the USA

October 8, 2020
Prominent Vietnamese activist Pham Doan Trang was arrested on the night of October 6 [File: Adam Bemma/Al Jazeera]
Prominent Vietnamese activist Pham Doan Trang was arrested on the night of October 6 [File: Adam Bemma/Al Jazeera]

On 7 October 2020 al-jazeera reported that Vietnam has detained prominent human rights defender and writer Pham Doan Trang just hours after the conclusion of its annual human rights dialogue with the United States. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/16/rsfs-press-freedom-award-2019-goes-to-three-women-journalists/]

Trang, a 42-year-old former journalist-turned-activist, was arrested at her home in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday night, and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda”, an offence that carries a jail term of long as 20 years, Defending the Defenders said in a statement.

So far this year, Vietnam has arrested at least 25 activists as well as 29 land petitioners, bringing the total number of prisoners of conscience to 258, the rights group added. Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s Asia deputy director, said Vietnam was taking a “scorched-earth response” to political dissent.

Despite suffering years of systemic government harassment, including severe physical attacks, Trang has remained faithful to her principles of peaceful advocacy for human rights and democracy,” Robertson said. “Her thoughtful approach to reforms and demands for people’s real participation in their governance are messages the Vietnam government should listen to and respect, not repress.

Trang’s writing covers a wide range of issues including LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, the environment, and democratic activism. Most of her work is published clandestinely including the best-selling Politics for the Common People, which is akin to a guide for fledgeling activists.

She is also known for her on-the-ground activism, taking part in rallies in support of imprisoned dissidents, the environment and in response to China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Trang has been on the radar of the security forces for more than 10 years and has been detained and harassed a number of times, including while she was on her way to a meeting with then-US President Barack Obama in 2016, and, a year later, after she met a European Union delegation on a fact-finding mission ahead of its annual human rights dialogue with Vietnam.

Her latest arrest came only a few hours after Vietnam had wrapped up its annual human rights dialogue with the US. The US State Department said in a statement that the virtual meeting lasted three hours and covered a range of rights issues including “continued progress and bilateral cooperation on the rule of law, freedom of expression and association, religious freedom and labor rights”.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/7/vietnam-arrests-leading-democracy-activist-after-us-rights-talks

https://thediplomat.com/2020/10/scorched-earth-vietnam-arrests-leading-dissident-activist-and-blogger/

RSF’s Press Freedom Award 2019 goes to three women journalists

September 16, 2019

On 12 September Reporters Without Borders (RSF) awarded its 2019 Press Freedom Prize to Saudi journalist Eman al Nafjan, Vietnamese journalist Pham Doan Trang and Maltese journalist Caroline Muscat, at a ceremony held for the first time in Berlin. The award used to be called the Reporters Without Borders Prize {see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/reporters-without-borders-prize} but is increasingly referred to as Press Freedom Award which could be confusing as there are other awards with that name such as: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/international-press-freedom-awards-canada and http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/international-press-freedom-awards-cpj.

The Prize for Courage, which is given to journalists, media or NGOs who demonstrate courage in the practice, defence or promotion of journalism, was awarded to Saudi journalist Eman al Nafjan. The founder of the SaudiWoman.me website and author of many articles in the international media including the Guardian and New York Times, Eman al Nafjan spearheaded the Saudi women’s campaign for the right to drive and against Saudi Arabia’s oppressive male guardianship system. Arrested along with other women’s rights activists in May 2018, she was freed conditionally on 28 March 2019. According to the Saudi media, she is accused of endangering “national security,” maintaining “suspicious contacts with foreign entities” and of being a “traitor,” for which she could be jailed for up to 20 years.

The Prize for Impact, which is given to journalists whose work has led to concrete improvements in journalistic freedom, independence and pluralism, or to an increase in awareness of these matters, was awarded to Vietnamese journalist and blogger Pham Doan Trang. She is the founder of Luât Khoa, an online magazine that specializes in providing information about legal issues, and she edits another, thevietnamese, which also helps Vietnamese citizens to defend their rights and resist the Communist Party’s arbitrary rule. The author of many books including one defending the rights of Vietnam’s LGBT communities, she has been beaten by the police because of her work and was detained arbitrarily twice for several days in 2018.

The Prize for Independence, awarded to journalists for resisting financial, political, economic or religious pressure, went to Malta’s Caroline Muscat. After fellow Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered in October 2017, she helped to create The Shift News, an independent investigative news website committed to combatting corruption and defending press freedom in Malta. In this small island nation where most media outlets are subservient to the government, she has exposed many cases of corruption implicating local politicians. Although the repeated target of gag suits, The Shift News has refused to comply with content take-down demands from Henley & Partners, a British firm that advises governments on residence and citizenship-by-investment policy. She received an award from the European Commission in 2015 for her journalism,

Every year, award-winners are unable to attend because the leaders of their countries prevent them,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said. “Two of this year’s three laureates have been unable to collect their awards personally,………… These journalists, who should be honoured in their countries, are denied the freedom to travel and often their freedom, period. But their commitment transcends borders without the dictators being able to do anything to prevent it.”

https://rsf.org/en/news/journalists-saudi-arabia-vietnam-and-malta-honoured-rsfs-2019-press-freedom-awards

New documentary series highlights the struggle of women human rights in Vietnam

August 7, 2019

A new series of video interviews highlights the perspectives and struggles of human rights women in Vietnam.

The 88 Project, an organisation supporting freedom of expression in Vietnam, released the first video of an ongoing interview series with female activists in Vietnam. In the first interview with Pham Doan Trang, a dissident journalist and political activist, she discusses the challenges women face as bloggers and human rights activists: “In general, Vietnamese women are not respected. Not only in democracy activism but in all fields. In democracy activism, female activists are disadvantaged because they get attacked no less than male activists. They get beaten and assaulted. The work they do is no less than their male counterparts. But what they often get from other people is pity. I think it is not respect.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/18/overview-of-recent-campaigning-for-human-rights-defenders-in-vietnam/

Other women including social activist and blogger Tran Thi Nga, who is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence, have also been seriously injured following physical attacks, often conducted by hired men. Tran Thi Nga’s attack was documented and posted on Youtube with recordings of her being wheeled into a hospital accompanied by her two young children. According to family reports, Tran Thi Nga has been subjected to both physical and psychological harassment after her arrest, receiving death threats and beatings from a cellmate.

According to the 88 Project database, there are currently more than 200 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam with over 30 identifying as female. Bloggers and journalists are frequently arrested and charged for “activities attempting to overthrow the state” or “conducting propaganda against the state”. According to Amnesty International, the Vietnamese government has been conducting a growing crackdown on freedom of expression and peaceful activism over the past few years.

Nguyen Dang Minh Man, a photojournalist and the woman who has served the longest time in prison so far, is expected to be released at the beginning of August.

Overview of recent campaigning for human rights defenders in Vietnam

November 18, 2017

The NOW! campaign, founded by 14 human rights organizations, calls for the immediate release of 165 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam. The campaign has established a comprehensive online database containing information about Vietnam’s prisoners of conscience. According to the database, Vietnam’s prisoners of conscience included bloggers, journalists, environmentalists, students, farmers, and workers who were arrested for their peaceful activism. Together, these men and women are serving 955 years and one month in prison, followed by 204 years under house arrest. Most of them were charged with violating article 79 of the criminal law, “plotting to overthrow the government”, and article 88, “conducting propaganda against the state”. But Civil Rights Defenders, one of the members of the NOW! campaign, said that the number of prisoners of conscience could be higher. [see also earlier post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/01/14/assaults-on-human-rights-defenders-on-the-rise-in-vietnam/]

A letter signed by 17 civil society organizations urged leaders who attended the 2017 summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Vietnam to raise the issue of human rights violations committed by state forces. The letter informed APEC leaders that Vietnam has detained at least 25 peaceful activists and bloggers since last year. “This crackdown is contrary to the goal of “Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future” which is the stated theme of this year’s APEC gathering. Arbitrary detention, censorship, and state-sponsored violence against activists and human rights defenders are not only an affront to our common humanity but a grave violation of international human rights laws and standards. We believe it is in the strong interest of APEC and of the international community to speak out against the widespread and systematic violations of human rights violations in Vietnam.”

Nine human rights groups launched the #StopTheCrackdownVN campaign decrying the crackdown of bloggers and activists in recent months and the harsh prison terms handed out to critics of the state. Don Le, a writer and member of Viet Tan political party, explained how the notorious articles 79 and 88 of the law are used by authorities to silence citizens: The law also allows authorities to filter, block or temporarily shutdown networks on the basis of any information that may be seen to “incite” mass gatherings that disturb national security and order. Given the Vietnamese government’s broad interpretation of national security, we might expect to see more attacks and shutdowns aimed at independent media and bloggers and arrests of peaceful community mobilisers.

But Vietnam is not easily impressed as the recent case of reprisals shows: Front Line Defenders reports that three human rights defenders were briefly arrested after meeting the EU Delegation in Hanoi. [On 16 November 2017, human rights defenders Pham Doan Trang, Bui Thi Minh Hang and Nguyen Quang were arrested by police after attending a meeting with the European Union Delegation in Hanoi to discuss human rights issues ahead of the EU – Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue, scheduled for 1 December 2017. After being kept incommunicado without access to legal representation, the human rights defenders were released. They remain under surveillance.] From Line adds that: Authorities in Vietnam have a habit of tightening the grip over human rights defenders and civil society ahead of international meetings. During the APEC Summit in Danang between 6 and 10 November 2017, and afterwards, during the state visits of U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, several human rights defenders and activists were kept under house arrest and heavy surveillance. Reports also state that human rights defenders were harassed by policemen in plainclothes to prevent them from meeting with international officials or organising demonstrations.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement in July 2017 expressing concern about the detention and persecution of citizen journalists: We urge the Vietnamese authorities to immediately release all those detained in connection with their exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, and to amend the overly broad ill-defined laws that are used – under the pretext of national security – to crack down on dissent.