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Vietnam Committee condemns Vietnam’s harassment of dissident Communist Party veteran Hoang Minh Chinh

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The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights strongly condemns the current harassment and unlawful treatment of prominent dissident Hoang Minh Chinh by Security Police in Saigon. Former Dean of the Hanoi Institute of Marxist-Leninist Philosophy and a vocal advocate of democratic reform, Hoang Minh Chinh, 83, has been subjected to intimidation and acts of violence, and Police threaten to expel him to Hanoi despite his poor state of health.

Suffering from prostate cancer, Hoang Minh Chinh was authorized to undergo treatment in the United States in late August 2005. During his stay, he testified before the Congressional International Relations Committee, spoke at Harvard University and made a number of declarations about the lack of democratic freedom in Vietnam which were widely denounced in the Vietnamese official media. Returning to Vietnam on 13th November, Hoang Minh Chinh and his wife went to stay with their daughter (96/5 Le Thi Rieng Street, Ben Thanh District, Saigon). Still weak from his illness, he applied to stay in Saigon for a period of convalescence, but Police gave him a 10-day temporary residence permit which expired on 23rd November.

On 19th November, a local Security agent warned Hoang Minh Chinh’s daughter that her father’s presence caused serious unrest and dissatisfaction in the neighbourhood because he was a “traitor, an enemy of the people”. They said Police would not protect him if any violence broke out, and that he must go back to Hanoi when his permit expired. Two days later, on Monday 21st, a crowd of 50 people gathered outside his daughter’s house, stabbed the gate with knives and threw eggs at his son-in-law’s car. A few moments later, a neighbour named Mrs Hai threw buckets of water with sulphuric acid through his front door. Although no one was harmed, Hoang Minh Chinh and his family all fell sick and dizzy after inhaling the acid fumes. His son-in-law vomited violently and had to be taken to a doctor. Police drew up a report on the incident, but did not give the family a copy and took no further action.

Later that evening, a gang of 10 young men banged loudly on the door and shouted threats against Hoang Minh Chinh, menacing violence if he did not leave immediately and go back to Hanoi. Again, Police repeated that they could not protect him, and that he must “take the consequences” if ever he stepped outside his door. Hoang Minh Chinh requested an extension of the temporary residence permit on grounds of his ill health, but Police have refused to comply and Hoang Minh Chinh is currently in an illegal situation.

The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights strongly denounces this arbitrary treatment. Hoang Minh Chinh is simply exercising his constitutional right to freedom of expression (“all citizens enjoy the right to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of the press and the right to information”, Article 69, 1992 Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam). Moreover, these Police threats and arbitrary treatment are grave violations of Article 71 of the Vietnamese Constitution, which stipulates that all citizens “enjoy inviolability of the person and the protection of the law with regard to his life, health, honour and dignity”. Moreover, the Constitution guarantees “freedom of movement and residence in accordance with the provisions of the law” (Article 68). Since Hoang Minh Chinh and his wife applied for temporary residence permits in full compliance with Vietnamese legislation, the local Security Police are acting unlawfully by denying them this permit and ordering them back to Hanoi.

Moreover, Hoang Minh Chinh continues to be the target of attacks in the official Vietnamese media because of his declarations on democracy. On 31st October, he filed a formal libel suit against seven official newspapers in Vietnam. The press campaign against him continues, however. In cities such as Bien Hoa in Dong Nai province, articles criticising Hoang Minh Chinh continue to be read publicly on loud-speakers several times a day over the past month.

The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights solemnly appeals to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and the UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders to urgently intervene on this case, and urges all concerned governments and human rights organisations to press Vietnam to respect fundamental freedoms and rights. Hoang Minh Chinh and his wife should be granted a temporary residence permit in accordance with the law, their security must be guaranteed, Security Police condoning violence should be sanctioned, as well as all persons involved in violence and harassment against Hoang Minh Chinh and his family.

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