This is a guest blog entry from Trinh Nguyen, Viet Tan Fellow. Viet Tan is a pro-democracy group with members inside Vietnam and around the world. Viet Tan aims to bring about democratic changes in Vietnam through nonviolent means and civic engagement.
Pham Minh Hoang, a blogger and lecturer at the Ho Chi Minh City Polytechnic Institute, was arrested on August 13, 2010 for blogging about democracy and social justice in Vietnam.
Initially, the Vietnamese government detained him quietly but later acknowledged his arrest. This was only after the detention was brought to international attention by Viet Tan.
Authorities continue to remain silent on the detentions of three other Viet Tan members: Pastor Duong Kim Khai, Ms Tran Thi Thuy and Mr Nguyen Thanh Tam.
Believing in the potential of young leaders in Vietnam, Professor Hoang refused to let a stalled education system fail his students and sought innovative ways to empower and encourage civic participation among his pupils through workshops on leadership skills. Known by his pen-name Phan Kien Quoc, Hoang is a politically committed blogger whose articles on corruption, the environment, and the defence of Vietnam's sovereignty have been widely circulated online.
Currently detained at the Ministry of Public Security Detainment Center at 238 Nguyen Van Cu, District 1, Saigon, Hoang was officially charged on September 29, 2010 under Article 79 of the penal code, which bans “carrying out activities with intent to overthrow the socialist government.” This charge of subversion carries a maximum penalty of capital punishment.
The Vietnamese authorities violated their own Criminal Procedure Code by holding Pham Minh Hoang beyond the time limit permitted without an official detention order and notification to his family. By covertly arresting and denying him his right to legal representation, the authorities’ possess unchecked power to commit physical abuses and force confessions.
Freedom of expression is one of the many basic human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Vietnam is a signatory.
You can help Pham Minh Hoang by signing a petition calling for his and other activists’ release. You can also contact your embassy/consulate in Vietnam asking them to intervene and demand the release of these peaceful activists. For more information, you can visit the Free Pham Minh Hoàng campaign blog or Free Them Now.