(Vatican Radio) An international human rights group has expressed concern that rights activists and bloggers in Vietnam are being increasingly threatened and attacked, often in view of police, and urged the government to investigate the violence and hold those responsible accountable. New York-based Human Rights Watch released a report on Monday highlighting 36 assaults, sometimes resulting in serious injuries, that took place with apparent impunity between January 2015 and April 2017.
Despite being a one-party Communist state, Vietnam is one of south-east Asia's fastest-growing economies, and has increasingly opened to social change. Yet the state maintains a tight control on the media and freedom of expression with zero tolerance for criticism. Hence critics often take to the social media to air their grievances.
“In many cases, the assaults took place in plain view of uniformed police officers who did not intervene,'' Human Rights Watch said in the 65-page report titled, “No Country for Human Rights Activists: Assaults on Bloggers and Democracy Campaigners in Vietnam.” ``In many of the cases, the assaults took place in tandem with and seemingly in support of official repressive measures against the activists in question.'' It added that in almost all the cases the victims of those attacks “were also targeted for arrest and other forms of official repression.”
“The fact that thugs abducted activists in broad daylight, forced them into vans, and beat them demonstrates the impunity with which activists are persecuted,'' said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, in a news release. `“The Vietnamese government needs to make it clear that it will not tolerate this kind of behavior and bring to an end this campaign against rights campaigners,” Adams said, warning that tolerance of these violent attacks would lead to lawlessness and chaos instead of the social order and stability that the state was striving for.
Human Rights Watch said 35 out of 36 cases featured in its report found no identified and prosecuted perpetrator despite the fact that victims often report their beating to the police. The report said there are approximately 110 known political prisoners in Vietnam. The Communist government has said there are no political prisoners in the country, only those who broke the law were put behind bars.
In terms of press freedom, Vietnam ranks among the worst 10 in the world In its 2017 World Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Vietnam the 6th worst out of 180 countries.