New York--Under pressure from Beijing, the Vietnamese authorities have been escalating intimidation and abuse of the local Falun Gong community in recent weeks, further intensifying a trend that began last year. Two Falun Gong practitioners are scheduled to stand trial next week for broadcasting uncensored news to China. Since the end of August, local practitioners have on two occasions been abducted by police or assaulted by thugs while practicing their exercises in a park.
A court in Hanoi is scheduled to hold a trial on Thursday (October 6) for two Vietnamese Falun Gong practitioners for broadcasting information to China, following a request from Beijing to crackdown. This is the second attempt to sentence Mr. Vu Duc Trung, a 30-year-old CEO of a high-tech company, and his 35-year-old brother-in-law Mr. Le Van Thanh. The first trial scheduled in April 2011 was postponed following international pressure and criticism from press freedom groups like Reporters without Borders (news).
A Vietnamese Falun Gong practitioner shows scars on his elbow where police burned him with a lit cigarette in late August 2011
The escalated harassment comes on the heels of direct Chinese Communist Party pressure on the Vietnamese authorities. According to the indictment used, the Vietnamese government arrested the men after a diplomatic memo was sent on May 30, 2010, from the Chinese Embassy to Vietnam's Ministry of Investigation and Security.
“The memo stated that the Police Department in China discovered radio signals coming from Vietnamese territory containing the same content about Falun Gong as heard on the ‘Sound of Hope’ radio station,” the indictment reads. “It was recommended that all ... activities of Falun Gong individuals in the Vietnam territory must be attacked and stopped.”
The Falun Dafa Information Center calls on the Vietnamese government to resist Chinese pressure and immediately cease actions to curtail Falun Gong practitioners' rights to freedom of belief and expression.
"By improving people's health and encouraging integrity and kindness, Falun Gong is good for any society and has been welcomed in over 100 countries around the world," says Falun Gong spokesman Erping Zhang. "We hope the Vietnamese authorities can resist the Chinese Communist Party's arm-twisting and stop intimidating Falun Gong practitioners. Despite their claims, Falun Gong is NOT illegal in China and persecuting practitioners in Vietnam violates local laws too."
"The quick and forceful international response to the trial scheduled in April helped offset Chinese pressure on Vietnam to target Falun Gong," says Zhang. "Now these two innocent men--and others like them--are in danger again. The international community should immediately advocate for their unconditional release, lest the situation deteriorate further."
Physical Attacks, Intimidation, and Detention
In addition to the pair on trial, other Falun Gong practitioners have encountered intimidation and abuse, in violation of Vietnamese law:
- On August 31, 2011, three practitioners in Long An were carried away by police without a warrant while doing the Falun Gong exercises in Three Precinct Park. In custody, police used cigarettes to burn one man's hand and nose (see photo) and confiscated the practitioners' cell phones and car keys. Police then searched their homes without warrants, taking Falun Gong spiritual books, CDs, DVDs of the film "Sand Storm" and most of their other personal possessions. In a worrisome sign that the incident had approval from high levels, state-run media later broadcast a report of the incident, stating that the arrest was because they were "illegally promoting" Falun Gong.
- On the evening of September 7, 2011, practitioners were attacked by thugs while exercising in a park. Ha Van Dung, one of the victims, reports:
"I was badly beaten by thugs. Both sides of my arms were scraped ... I ran away. When I returned to the park, they took off my shirt and belt in public. One thug kicked me in the head so hard it caused dizziness ... Three safety police officers were standing in very close proximity and just watching me being beaten without intervening. We noticed the presence of police officer Nguyen Van Be Hai, who was ordering several plainclothes police around. Those thugs repeatedly came to report to him after beating me, then returned to beat me again."
- More recently, a small group of Falun Gong practitioners who have been holding a quiet meditation sit-in in front of the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi have been seriously harassed by police and pressured to leave the premises. The police have used measures including playing loud music, blowing exhaust fumes, having thugs attack, and throwing rotten food at the practitioners to try to scare them away.
The pressure applied on Vietnam by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in this case is not an isolated incident. Rather, it is part of a broader and disturbing pattern of the CCP leaning on East Asian governments to assist in suppressing Falun Gong practitioners and silencing Chinese people's efforts outside the country to expose CCP abuses.
On September 6, in a decision condemned by press freedom groups, a judge in Indonesia handed down a six-month jail sentence to the manager of a radio station that had aired Sound of Hope broadcasts about human rights in China, including the persecution of Falun Gong (news). Meanwhile, South Korea has been deporting Falun Gong asylum seekers, with at least two at immediate risk of repatriation to China where they would face torture (news).
Details on Upcoming Trial
Trung and Thanh are two Vietnamese men who practice Falun Gong. They are charged with “transmitting information illegally onto the telecommunications network” for having broadcast news programs of Sound of Hope radio via short-wave radio into China. Sound of Hope’s programs typically report on human rights abuses, corruption, and repression of Falun Gong practitioners and other minorities. Trung initiated the broadcasts in April 2009.
The two men were abducted on June 11, 2010 and have remained in custody since, with little possibility for their family members to visit them. At the time, in addition to computers and broadcasting equipment, police also confiscated their personal Falun Gong-related materials.
Eight days after their detention, charges were pressed against the pair, an action that their lawyer says is unjust and in violation of Vietnam’s own laws.
In April, the case was condemned by Reporters without Borders (news) and reported on widely by international media, including Radio Free Asia (news), the Economist (news), the Epoch Times (news) and Agence France Presse (news).
For more information see:
* Urgent Appeal: Vietnam Must Halt Trial of Falun Gong Practitioners over China Broadcasts: http://www.faluninfo.net/article/1129/
* Urgent Appeal Update: Falun Gong Trial in Vietnam Postponed, but Practitioners Remain in Custody, April 8, 2011: http://www.faluninfo.net/article/1130/