Harsh repression of dissidents continued, with severe restrictions on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Critics of government policies were targeted, including social and political activists. At least nine dissident trials took place, with 20 defendants. Vaguely worded provisions of the 1999 Penal Code were used to, in effect, criminalize peaceful political and social dissent. The government continued to censor the internet, although use of social networking sites reportedly increased as people used circumvention tools to bypass restrictions. Dozens of prisoners of conscience remained in prison. Religious and ethnic groups perceived to be opposing the government continued to face human rights violations. According to media reports, 23 people were sentenced to death and five executed; the true numbers are believed to be higher. Official statistics on the death penalty remained classified.
A new government was formed in July, with the Prime Minister elected for a second five-year term.
Between June and August, the authorities allowed a series of anti-China protests in the capital, Ha Noi, as tensions increased over disputed ownership of the Paracel and Spratly islands in the South China Sea.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health visited in December. He called for the immediate closure of rehabilitation centres for drug users and sex workers, citing concerns over compulsory admittance and treatment administered without consent.
In December, donor countries attending a consultative group meeting in Ha Noi called on the government to improve its human rights record, warning that the ongoing crackdown on dissidents was threatening Viet Nam’s international credibility.Top of page
Severe restrictions on freedom of expression and association continued, with dissidents critical of government policies harshly repressed. Individuals most at risk included pro-democracy activists, and those calling for reform or protesting about environmental issues, land and labour rights, and the rights of ethnic and religious minorities. The authorities used vaguely worded provisions of the national security section of the 1999 Penal Code, in particular Article 79 (aiming to “overthrow” the state) and Article 88 (“conducting propaganda” against the state), to punish peaceful dissent.
At least nine dissident trials of 20 defendants took place. More than 18 individuals were arrested and in pre-trial detention at the end of the year, including at least 13 Catholic activists supporting dissident Cu Huy Ha Vu.
Dozens of prisoners of conscience arrested in previous years remained held after receiving long sentences in unfair trials. Many of them were connected with the online pro-democracy movement Bloc 8406.
A small number of prisoners of conscience were released. Dissident writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was released in July before the end of her prison term after agreeing to go into exile overseas. Truong Quoc Huy, a mobile phone technician, was released in December, eight months before the end of his six-year prison sentence. Human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai was released in March, after serving his four-year sentence. Both men were placed under house arrest for up to four years.
Security officials continued to harass and closely monitor members of religious and ethnic groups perceived to be opponents of the government. Disputes continued over land ownership between local authorities and the Catholic Church, in some cases involving unnecessary or excessive use of force by security officials against peaceful protesters. The Supreme Patriarch of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Viet Nam remained under de facto house arrest. An unknown number of ethnic Montagnards remained imprisoned following protests in the Central Highlands in 2001 and 2004.