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Vietnam falls far short of its committment to freedom of expression, report says

Vietnam has a long way to go before it can realize its goal of joining the UN Human Rights council, according to the Vietnam Human Rights Network (VNHRN). The pressure group points to Vietnam’s treatment of journalists, who the government says are protected from all forms of discrimination and violence.

“In fact, the arrests and imprisonment of those who use the right to freedom of expression to voice their opinions are at their peak,” the report said. From the beginning of 2021 to May 31 this year, VNHRN said at least 48 people were arrested and detained, and 72 were given heavy sentences.

“Most of them were convicted for allegedly using the media to express their opinions and aspirations other than the ruling party’s. To our knowledge, Vietnamese authorities currently imprison at least 290 political and religious prisoners with multi-year sentences,” the report said.

Along with restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and information, VNHRN’s president Nguyen Ba Tung told RFA the government is ignoring many more basic human rights, describing the 2019 labor law as an empty promise and also criticizing the government’s track record on religion.

“Regarding the right to religious freedom, the government has increased its control and manipulation of religious organizations and eliminated non-registered religious groups,” he said, adding that the government has promoted political dogma over religious faith.

“We raised the issue of children being indoctrinated in schools as well as in organizations like Uncle Ho’s Good Children – an issue that has not been raised in any international report on the issue of children’s rights.”

Nguyen said that no international research agency has talked about the discrimination faced by non-party members no matter how well they had served the country in the past.

“Someone raised the fact that military officers must be party members, which violates the basic rights of people in the political sphere and even as a citizen in defending one’s homeland,” he said.

VNHRN’s report covers last year and the first few months of 2022. It was put together with help from several activists in Vietnam. The study focuses on the areas outlined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Conventions on Human Rights that Vietnam has committed to observing. Those rights are: liberty, security of person, a fair trial by an independent, impartial tribunal; the right to participate in national political life, freedom of expression and information, freedom of religion and worship; the right to work and enjoy the fruits of that labor, equal treatment and non-discrimination, and well-being.

VNHRN said the aim of the report is to alert the world about what it called “the alarming human rights situation in Vietnam today.” The report also offers the Vietnamese government what VNHRN called “concrete and feasible recommendations for the Vietnamese government to terminate its repeated violations throughout the years.”

VNHRN said that until Vietnam improved its human rights record members of the United Nations General Assembly should vote against Vietnam’s membership of its Human Rights Council.