Europeans condemn – but is Hanoi listening ?

Nguyen Van Hoa received a seven year sentence for reporting protests.

The European Parliament has condemned growing repression in Vietnam and appealed for the release of independent bloggers jailed under national security provisions.

The resolution, expressing grave concern about abuses in Vietnam, comes at a time when many Western governments are easing pressure on the Communist government over its human rights record.

The MEPs highlighted the case of the blogger, Nguyen Van Hoa, who was jailed for seven years in November for reporting on the Formosa environmental disaster.

They also urged the release of the blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (known as Me Nam or Mother Mushroom), whose ten year prison term was recently confirmed by an appeal court.

“Parliament expresses its concern about the rise in the number of detentions, arrests and convictions of Vietnamese citizens related to the expression of their opinions,” said the resolution.

It underlined Vietnam’s increasing application of national security provisions in the penal code, notably articles 88 and 79, to silence dissenting voices.

Human rights eclipsed

Some MEPs said that relations between the EU and Vietnam should not develop further until the authorities in Hanoi release political prisoners and change their approach to domestic criticism.

Some campaigners have urged the EU to link ratification of a free trade agreement, signed with Vietnam last year, to improvements in the political climate.

Germany has also threatened further retaliation against Hanoi following the abduction of a former oil executive from Berlin in July, allegedly by armed Vietnamese agents.

There has been no clear signal from Brussels, however, that member states are prepared to jeopardise the trade pact.

Human rights is increasingly being eclipsed by economic and strategic considerations, as is also seen in relations between Western countries and China.

The Trump administration’s lack of interest in promoting democracy has also fuelled the confidence of hardliners in Hanoi, who appear intent on suppressing civil society movements.

Diplomats involved in human rights dialogue with the Vietnamese government say their counterparts have become increasingly belligerent and sensitive to criticism as the campaign against bloggers and other activists gathers pace.