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International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR)
Joint Press Release
Vietnam - Clampdown on peaceful protests: another illustration of the Government’s disregard of its international human rights obligations
2012-07-04 | | FIDH & Vietnam Committee on Human Rights
PARIS/BANGKOK, 4 July 2012 (FIDH & VCHR) - The heavy-handed interference in the peaceful protests in several locations across Vietnam on Sunday 1 July 2012, including restrictions on freedom of movement and intimidation of participants, especially followers of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), is yet another indication of Vietnam’s flagrant disrespect for the internationally protected right to freedom of peaceful assembly, said the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organization, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR).
The peaceful protests took place on 1 July in Hue, Ho Chi Minh City and the capital Hanoi, following calls made by bloggers as well as by the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, Supreme Patriarch of the UBCV, for a nationwide demonstration to peacefully protest China’s recent incursions into areas in the South China Sea that Vietnam considers as its territory.
In Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, there have been reports of police harassment, surveillance and brief detention of bloggers before and during the peaceful protests. Blogger Nguyen Hoang Vi told reporters that she and about five to six people in Ho Chi Minh City were detained by the police and released later on 1 July.
Restrictions on followers of the outlawed UBCV are especially harsh leading up to and on the day of the protests. On 30 June, police forces tightly surrounded the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City, where the Patriarch Thich Quang Do is under de facto house arrest, and the Giac Hoa Pagoda, Secretariat of the UBCV and residence of its Deputy leader Venerable Thich Vien Dinh. In the evening of the same day, police also broke into the private quarters of Venerable Thich Thien Hanh, head of the UBCV’s provincial committee in Hue, and demanded that he calls off a protest planned for the next morning at the Buddhist Martyrs Memorial. On 1 July, police surrounded Thich Thien Hanh’s pagoda to prevent him from leaving, and set up road-blocks around the memorial.
All monks, nuns and Buddhists in Hue attempting to join the protest in Hue and Ho Chi Minh City were either intercepted on their way or prevented from leaving their pagoda or homes. Police forces assaulted a group of UBCV followers at the An Cuu Bridge in Hue, injuring one monk on the head.
The right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed by article 69 of the Vietnamese Constitution of 1992 and by article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Vietnam has acceded to since 1982.
“Vietnam has a long trail of record in disregarding its human rights obligations under domestic and international law,” said Ms. Souhayr Belhassen, president of FIDH. “Vietnam’s intention to run for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council is its latest attempt to embellish a façade of legitimacy over its human rights record, which is one of the worst in Asia.”
“The demonstrations of 1 July mark a turning point in Vietnam’s movement for human rights. Thich Quang Do’s appeal has inspired a new generation of Vietnamese, and for the first time in Vietnam, young people, Buddhist monks and people from all walks to life are joining together to express in public their opinion on an issue of public interest. Vietnam should heed the people’s voices rather than stifling them.” said Mr Vo Van Ai, President of VCHR.
FIDH and VCHR call on the government of Vietnam to conduct a prompt, effective, independent and impartial investigation into the conduct of the police and other government officials before and during the 1 July protests, with a view to holding to account all those responsible for actions that violated both Vietnamese and international laws protecting the right to peaceful assembly.