Archive for the ‘Amnesty International’ Category

U.N. torture panel to question China on abuses

November 6, 2008

Rights activists hope that China’s appearance before a United Nations torture panel on Friday will shed light on what they say are widespread abuses in the country.

Chinese officials will face questions about alleged mistreatment of prisoners, drug addicts and dissidents in the two-day review by the U.N. Committee Against Torture.

By Laura MacInnis, Reuters

Corinna-Barbara Francis of Amnesty International said the rare public grilling would heap pressure on Beijing to increase its monitoring and do more to reduce the incidence of torture.

“A country like China typically can evade that sort of formal analysis and scrutiny,” she said. “It is important that the U.N. (committee) is looking at China and scrutinizing it.”

Amnesty is among more than a dozen human rights groups that submitted reports to the U.N. panel describing acts of brutality in Chinese police stations, prisons, covert detention centers, and in the streets throughout the country.

The Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), a network of Chinese rights groups, told the committee that while Beijing has introduced some new laws, it defines “torture” too narrowly and lacks the mechanisms to monitor, investigate, and sanction it.

“Except for some progress in the promulgation of legislation and administrative documents, China has made no clear and discernible improvement in prohibiting the use of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” it said.

Falun Gong members carry a banner outside the Chinese Embassy ... 
Falun Gong members carry a banner outside the Chinese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur April 18, 2008.(Zainal Abd Halim/Reuters)

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Human Rights and Journalists Under Siege in Vietnam, Russia, China and Elsewhere

October 16, 2008

Vietnam has tried, convicted and jailed  reporters for several reasons.  Just this week, reporter Nguyen Viet Chien from the Thanh Nien newspaper was sent to jail by Hanoi’s people court.  He wrote stories about government corruption.   During the Beijing Olympics, China instituted temporary Olympics-related regulations that guaranteed reporting freedoms for foreign media — but these freedoms did not apply to Chinese journalists. In Russia, according to Human Rights watch, journalists and human rights activists are under siege.  “Human rights activists and journalists are the ones who bring to the public’s attention the failure of governments to live up to their promises of justice and rights protection made in national law and their obligations under international human rights treaties,” Amnesty International said. 
Reporter Nguyen Viet Chien from the Thanh Nien newspaper at ... 
Reporter Nguyen Viet Chien from the Thanh Nien newspaper at Hanoi’s people court. Chien was sentenced to two years in prison for his coverage of a major state corruption scandal and also jailed his police source for one year.(AFP)


Amnesty International: On Russia

Recent attacks on independent journalists and human rights activists illustrate the risks under which they work in Russia, Amnesty International said on the eve of the second anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder. The organization urges the Russian authorities to end impunity for violence against human rights defenders and the media.

“Human rights activists and journalists are the ones who bring to the public’s attention the failure of governments to live up to their promises of justice and rights protection made in national law and their obligations under international human rights treaties,” Amnesty International said.

“However, it is the human rights activists and journalists in Russia who too often themselves face harassment by the authorities and even become victims of human rights abuses themselves.”

In a country where TV and many other media outlets are controlled by the state, there is less and less space for independent reporting. Those journalists who attempt to report independently are obstructed from conducting their professional work and they may face intimidation and possibly prosecution. For example, the radio station Ekho Moskvy was repeatedly asked to provide transcripts of their programmes to the prosecutor’s office in relation to preliminary investigations into allegations that they had aired extremists’ views.

The space to express critical views in the Russian Federation has been gradually and progressively curtailed in recent years.

“Two years after the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, human rights activists and journalists are still at risk in the Russian Federation, in particular in the North Caucasus region. They may be abducted and tortured, have their property attacked, receive death threats or killed in suspicious circumstances,” Amnesty International said.

Anna Politkovskaya was murdered on 7 October 2006 in the centre of Moscow. Two years after the killing, three people accused of involvement in the crime are in detention, but her murderer is still at large and there has been no independent investigation into those who may have ordered the killing.

“Anna Politkovskaya was one of those courageous people who tirelessly stand up for those who have suffered human rights violations. She was in all likelihood killed because of this,” Amnesty International said.

Amnesty International urges the Russian authorities to ensure on all levels that justice will be done in regard to her murder and to demonstrate clearly that there is no impunity for attacks on human rights defenders and journalists. The human rights organization will continue to follow the case closely and will continue to call for the protection of journalists and human rights defenders in the Russian Federation.


The disputed killing in police custody of Magomed Evloev, owner of an independent Ingush website, on 31 August 2008, needs to be investigated with utmost impartiality, to ensure that the circumstances under which he died are brought to light and that those who are responsible for his death are charged and tried in accordance with the law.

On 25 July 2008, human rights defender Zurab Tsechoev, working for the human rights organization MASHR (peace) in Ingushetia, was taken away from his home in Troitskaia, Ingushetia by armed men, thought to be federal law enforcement officials. A couple of hours later he was found on a roadside near Magas, the capital of Ingushetia, with serious injuries. He had to be hospitalized. Amnesty International calls for the perpetrators of this act against Zurab Tsechoev to be identified and to be brought to justice.

Late on 1 August 2008, an arson attack was allegedly made on the flat of human rights defender Dmitrii Kraiukhin from the town of Orel in the Central Russian Federal District. The arsonists had also allegedly tried to block the entrance door. Luckily, Dmitrii Kraiukhin was reportedly not in the flat, but his relatives who were, were able to alert the fire brigade in time. So far, to Amnesty International’s knowledge, no criminal investigation into this case has been undertaken, as the authorities allegedly considered the damage too insignificant to warrant a criminal investigation. However, this is not an isolated incident as far as threats to Dmitrii Kraiukhin are concerned.

On 14 August 2008, unknown assailants threw a brick through the window of the flat in Nizhnii Novgorod where human rights activist Stanislav Dmitrievskii lives. Luckily, nobody was hurt. At the same time, the entrance of his apartment building was covered with abusive language and threats against Stanislav Dmitrievskii. A criminal investigation into this attack has been opened.


Human Rights Watch: On China

The Chinese government should extend without limitation the temporary Olympics-related regulations that guarantee reporting freedoms for foreign media, and apply them to Chinese journalists, Human Rights Watch said today. The regulations are set to expire on October 17, 2008. The Chinese government should extend without limitation the temporary Olympics-related regulations that guarantee reporting freedoms for foreign media, and apply them to Chinese journalists, Human Rights Watch said today. The regulations are set to expire on October 17, 2008.

Official logo of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games

The temporary regulations were adopted in January 2007 as part of the Chinese government’s commitments to improve its human rights record, a key aspect of its 2001 bid to win the 2008 Summer Olympics. Human Rights Watch has documented the flawed implementation of these regulations, which were supposed to give foreign journalists greater freedom to travel and interview people across China, in two reports detailing the abuses and harassment of foreign correspondents.

Chinese government officials who have suggested that the regulations may be extended past October 17 include State Information Office Minister Cai Wu, who said in December 2007 that, “If practice shows that the regulation will help the international community to know China better, then it is a good policy in accordance with the country’s reforms and opening up.” Asked on October 7, 2008, about the likelihood of the regulations being extended, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Qin Gang stated: “China’s principle of opening up stays unchanged [after the Olympics].  “Foreign media and journalists are welcome to report in China as always.”

“While there were serious problems in implementing Olympics-related media freedom regulations, they did mark a new and much higher standard in Chinese law for reporting freedom,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “But keeping the regulations in effect and extending them to Chinese journalists would be one of the most important legacies of the Games.”

For more of Human Rights Watch’s work on media freedom in China, please see the following:

� October 11, 2008 op-ed by Phelim Kine in The Wall Street Journal, “Censorship Isn’t Good for China’s Health,” at: � August 2007 report, “‘You Will Be Harassed and Detained’: China Media Freedoms Under Assault Ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games,” at: � July 2008 report, “China’s Forbidden Zones: Shutting the Media Out of Tibet and Other ‘Sensitive’ Stories ,” at:

Vietnam Convicts, Imprisons “Whisle Blowing”
Reporter Who Found Government Corruption

China Falls Short on Vows for Olympics

April 21, 2008

By Jill Drew and Maureen Fan
The Washington Post
Monday, April 21, 2008; Page A01
BEIJING, April 20 — China has spent billions of dollars to fulfill its commitment to stage a grand Olympics. Athletes will compete in world-class stadiums. New highways and train lines crisscross Beijing. China built the world’s largest airport terminal to welcome an expected 500,000 foreign visitors. Thousands of newly planted trees and dozens of colorful “One World, One Dream” billboards line the main roads of a spruced-up capital. The security system has impressed the FBI and Interpol.
But beneath the shimmer and behind the slogan, China is under criticism for suppressing Tibetan protests, sealing off large portions of the country to foreign reporters, harassing and jailing dissidents and not doing enough to curb air pollution. It has not lived up to a pledge in its Olympic action plan, released in 2002, to “be open in every aspect,” and a constitutional amendment adopted in 2004 to recognize and protect human rights has not shielded government critics from arrest.
A haze of pollution hangs over China's National Stadium, known as the bird's nest, the main venue for the Beijing Olympics beginning Aug. 8.
A haze of pollution hangs over China’s National Stadium, known as the bird’s nest, the main venue for the Beijing Olympics beginning Aug. 8. (By Greg Baker – Associated Press)

The two realities show that when China had to build something new to fulfill expectations, it has largely delivered. But in areas that touch China’s core interests, Olympic pledges come second.
“To ensure a successful Olympic Games, the government did make some technical and strategic efforts to improve the environment, human rights and press freedom. They did make some progress. But in these three areas, there’s a long, long way to go,” said Cheng Yizhong, an editor who tracks China’s Olympic preparations.
With the Games less than four months away, the International Olympic Committee is scrambling to nail down specifics of how China will treat criticism of its actions during the event. Pressed this month, IOC President Jacques Rogge clarified that athletes would be allowed to speak freely in Beijing’s Olympic venues, calling it an “absolute” human right.
“I can’t help but feel cynical about all this,” said David Wallechinsky, an Olympic historian, who said the IOC should have been more forceful with China earlier. “What are they going to do, take away the Games?”

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Amnesty lays into China on rights before Olympics

April 2, 2008
By John Ruwitch Wed Apr 2, 3:06 AM ET

BEIJING (Reuters) – The Olympics have so far failed to catalyze reform in China and pledges to improve human rights before the Games look disingenuous after a string of violations in Beijing and a crackdown in Tibet, Amnesty International said.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), foreign leaders and overseas companies engaging with China could appear complicit if they failed to speak out about the rights violations, the London-based watchdog said on Wednesday as the volume of criticism of China grows around the world.

Beijing signed up for the Games hoping they would showcase the country’s progress and national unity, but the Olympics year so far has seen pressure mount, chiefly over China’s policy towards Sudan and Myanmar and its human rights record, most recently in Tibet.

In and around Beijing, Chinese authorities have silenced and imprisoned human rights activists in a pre-Olympics “clean up,” Amnesty said.

Amnesty, which introduced a bandana-wearing monkey mascot to head its “Uncensor China” campaign, also said the crackdown on a rash of demonstrations in and around Tibet in recent weeks had led to “serious human rights violations.”

“These actions cast doubt on whether the Chinese authorities are really serious about their commitment to improve human rights in the run up to the Olympics,” Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said in a statement.

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President Bush Lost Credibility, Confidence

September 6, 2007

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
September 6, 2007

It seems obvious to just about all American voters: Bush lost all credibility somewhere after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. He couldn’t or didn’t regain it thus becoming one of the presidents’ with the lowest public support polling numbers in history.

I like President Bush. But when the American people believe you have lost just about all credibility their confidence goes down the drain quickly.

Just yesterday, when a reporter asked Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin about the impending report from General David H. Petraeus on the “surge” in Iraq, he answered, “The Bush report?”

“We know what is going to be in it. It’s clear. I think the president’s trip over to Iraq makes it very obvious,” the Illinois Democrat said. “I expect the Bush report to say, ‘The surge is working. Let’s have more of the same.'”

For right or wrong, President Bush has become the “more of the same” president. As a result, Hillary Clinton and others are running for the White House under a one word banner: “CHANGE.”

I asked a friend who is a registered Republican what he thought about Vice President Cheney and he said (I am paraphrasing a little here) “Cheney represents the worst aspect of American politics. Cronyism. Special interests influencing the White House. Halliburton. Waste fraud and abuse. Lying to the American public. You cannot trust this guy and he has tremendous influence over President Bush.”

Cheney, to many, is the Emperor of the Evil Empire. Karl Rove was just the executioner.

Vice President Cheny was my “boss” in a way at one time while he served as Secretary of Defense (during the first war in Iraq) and I served as a Naval Officer. But Mr. Cheney lost me when he made a long-winded “over the top” defense of President general Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, September 10, 2006. You have to read for yourself the transcripts (see references at the end).

Mr. Cheney is also close to President Karzai of Afghanistan. Mr. Karzai has made no secret of the fact that he believes the Taliban, al-Qaeda and perhaps Osama Bin Laden himself are hiding out in the tribal areas of Pakistan: the land governed by President General Pervez Musharraf. The tribal areas are along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. They form, as the name implies, a semi-autonomous region. Pakistan’s Army does not venture into the tribal areas without severe trepidation.

For more than a year, we at Peace and Freedom have had an almost daily dialogue with journalist Muhammad Khurshid from Khar, Bajaur Agency, Tribal Areas Pakistan. Muhammad has given us at Peace and Freedom, and we hope, many readers, an appreciation for Pakistan, President General Musharraf and especially the tribal areas.

Muhammad I trust. Mr. Cheney: no.

Mr. Cheney was also involved in “the great research project” which prompted the administration to practically guarantee that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and intended to use them. CIA Director Tenet told a room full of Oval Office luminaries this fact was a “slam dunk.” Mr. Tenet lost his job, not too long after that, and was smeared, some say, by the White House as a man without credibility or merit.

Cheney also engineered Secretary of State Colin Powell’s dissertation before the United Nations on Iraq, Saddam Hussein, weapons of mass destruction and the CIA’s “proof.”

Mr. Powell also lost his job and may have been the victim of a smear campaign engineered by the White House. Powell was “thrown under the bus.”

But it is President Bush himself who has disappointed most. Remember, “Brownie, you are doing a heck of a job” after Hurricane Katrina? He lost his job soon thereafter also.

Remember, “I looked into Putin’s soul and saw a man I could do business with”?

Just yesterday, President Bush said of China’s Hu Jintao, the architect or banker, perhaps, of the genocide in Darfur, “He’s an easy man to talk to. I’m very comfortable in my discussions with President Hu.”

President Hu regularly stabs America in the back at the United Nations and elsewhere. The fact that he smiles and is an affable lad is not relevant.

Mr. Putin and President Hu Jintao just cooperated in the largest combined Chinese-Russian military maneuvers ever. They also hosted an international conference that gave the podium to the likes of President Ahmadinejad of Iran. He naturally attacked the U.S. in his speech.

But President Hu is really best known as the villain in the worst Human Rights abuses and the worst violations of ecology on today’s planet earth. Never mind what President Bush sees in his soul. Ask Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the United Nations, Greenpeace and other international human rights or ecology groups. God will mediate this one.

On China, President Bush has enemies on the left and the right.  The right wing of the Republican Party says Bush is soft on China.  The Democrat left says he does too little for Human Rights.

Remember Don Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, the architects of the war against terror in the Pentagon? Mr. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, “wildly off the mark.” Pentagon officials put the figure closer to 100,000 troops.

Neither Rumsfeld nor Wolfie attended General Shinseki’s retirement. But the General, in hindsight, appears to have been right. Rumsfeld retired and Wolfie went to the World Bank where he crashed and burned.

But generally, commentators say, President Bush stands by his people.

President Bush stood by his pal from Texas Alberto Gonzales long past the time most president’s would have summoned, even driven the bus. The president will maybe go down for his loyalty to his guys: but not for his acute judgment.

And who in the United States is responsible for out “Hearts and Minds” effort in the war against terror?

To remind those that don’t even recall: Karen Hughes, another President Bush buddy from Texas.

In 2005 CBS News reported on Hughes’ role this way: “President Bush’s adviser Karen Hughes was named to a State Department post designed to change Islamic perceptions about America.”

And how are we doing on the “Hearts and Minds effort”? Miserable. A total failure (see references at the end about “misunderspinning”).  Ms. Hughes still works at the U.S. Department of State.

President Bush and his vice president are serving out their terms. The next presidential election is a huge one.

But you knew all this. I was the one that only caught on slowly.

Cheney’s Stand on Musharraf May Yet Be Reversed

Pakistan: Bush Team Ignored Experts

China: ‘Trust but verify’ needed

Cold War Redux?

Permanent President Putin?

Misunderspinning: Hezbollah Honored For Sharp Media Acuity; Where’s Ours?

Where is America’s War of Hearts and Minds?

Bush Again Proves Soft on China

Bush, South Korean President Roh Run Amok

China, Vietnam and Russia: Torrid Economies, Rampant Lawlessness

July 24, 2007

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
July 24, 2007

This July 25, what do China, Vietnam and Russia have in common?

Easy answer: torrid economies and rampant lawlessness.

This is a witches brew.

Starting in the middle of June, 2007, Vietnamese peasant farmers staged a sit-in around government buildings in Ho Chi Minh City. The protest was orderly and completely peaceful.

For the most part, the farmers sat on the ground and were not blocking traffic or otherwise causing a nuisance. Because men suffer mightily when they stand up to the communist government of Vietnam, the vast majority of the protesters were women.

The farmers were protesting government seizures of their land.

How would American farmers respond if, after generations in the family had worked a parcel of land, the government took it away and told the family to go away?

On Thursday, July 19, the communist government of Vietnam decided it had enough of this peasant rabble. Police surrounded the area, jammed cell phone reception, and carried the demonstrators into waiting vans. Cattle prods were available for use on those that refused to cooperate (there weren’t any).

Over a thousand uniformed and plainclothes police were apparently used to clear the area of about six hundred peaceful protestors, most of whom were women.

A list of those arrested sent to Peace and Freedom contained ONLY the names of women.

In China, the number of so-called “mass incidents” (sit-ins, riots, strikes and demonstrations) reached 74,000 in 2004. During the last few years, China has made it harder for the west to see how many people are rioting, where and for what reasons. But the dissidents and disenfranchised in China say that rioting and social unrest is on the rise.

The number one reason Chinese insiders give for social unrest is the rampant seizure by the government of land.

Early in July, with the Beijing 2008 Olympics just about a year away, Beijing tightened the screws on social unrest. District and local communist party functionaries were given this notice. “Officials who perform poorly in maintaining social stability in rural areas will not be qualified for promotion.” This pronouncement came from Ouyang Song, a senior party official in charge of personnel matters in the communist party.
Games of the XXIX Olympiad
Logo of Beijing Summer Games;
Olympics 2008.

In Russia, many still live on state owned land or in state controlled properties. As Anne Applebaum catalogued in The Washington Post on Tuesday, July 24, it is not uncommon for people who have lived in apartments for decades in Moscow to find themselves illegally evicted while government bureaucrats and developers get rich.

Anne Applebaum called her essay “Trickle Down Lawlessness.” She summed up the problem this way: “Putinism isn’t just a foreign policy problem. The Russian president’s penchant for breaking weapons treaties, threatening small neighbors, disposing of his enemies and spouting Cold War rhetoric creates dilemmas for the West. Yet the lawlessness that pervades his country creates much worse dilemmas for ordinary Russians.”

Here we are not even speaking about the gross human rights abuses all thse three nations share.  We’ll document that more here at Peace and Freedom but Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International already have a pile of eveidence on the table to tell anyone who cares to listen: these regimes are armed and dangerous: especially if you live as a citizen inside any one of these nations. 

All three countries maintain a veneer of correct, good and honest behavior. Actually, it is more like a suit of armor than a veneer. And how do they do this? Easy: they control the media.

We really do not know what is going on inside China most of the time, unless a dissident makes us aware or the chinese government decides to let word out.

Peace and Freedom will keep tracking these situations but don’t be fooled: “Houston, we have a problem.”

Any time the three fastest growing economies in the world hide rampant lawlessness, we should be interested if not engaged.

Vietnam: Farmers Protest Government Land Seizures

As illegal land grabs increase, so does unrest in China

China tells local authorities to address social instability

Russia’s ‘Land Seizures:’ Trickle-Down Lawlessness

Though no longer “communist,” Russia stands, in a way, as a “club of one.”  But Russia often sides with China on policy issues and against the U.S. and NATO:
Russia must join with West, says Nato chief

Vietnam: Farmers Protest Government Land Seizures

July 23, 2007

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK (IPS) – Democracy movements in Vietnam, a communist country, appear to have got a sudden fillip through solidarity from hundreds of farmers making their presence felt on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City over the past month.

On Thursday, though, Hanoi’s reaction took a predictable turn when a large police force swooped down on the peaceful demonstrators, tearing down banners and signs, and arresting some of them, states Human Rights Watch (HRW), the New York-based global rights lobby.

”Police surrounded the area, jammed cell phone reception, and carried the demonstrators into waiting vans,” added Viet Tan, a pro-democracy group in the South-east Asian nation, in a statement released shortly after the Jul. 19 crackdown. It estimated that ”over a thousand uniformed and plainclothes police” were used to clear the area of ”about six hundred protestors.”

This act of suppression appears to have been timed to avoid further embarrassment for the Communist Party, which has enjoyed a monopoly on power since the end of United States’ war in Vietnam in the 1970s. Thursday marked the opening of a fresh five-year term for the newly-elected National Assembly, based Hanoi. The farmers had staged their protest outside the building of the legislature’s southern office in Ho Chi Minh City.

The farmers took to the streets on Jun. 26 to demand compensation for lands that they allege were seized by authorities for ‘development’ plans. Officials were also accused of rampant corruption during the protests that had attracted close to 2,000 people, according to some estimates. The farmers who had come from at least nine southern provinces in the Mekong Delta clearly showed preparedness for a long-drawn battle, since they put up tents on the pavements close to where they were making their demands.

”Protests for land rights is not unusual because (farmers) have protested for more than a decade. What is unusual is the scale of the protest. It is larger,” says Robert N. Le, president of the Vietnam Human Rights Network, an independent group based in the U.S. state of California, where many Vietnamese who fled the country during and after the war live. The regime believes that land belongs to the government, ”not the people; people have no ownership of land.”Such protests excite the nascent pro-democracy movement in the country due to the repressive political environment that prevails, he added during an e-mail interview. ”

Currently there is no space for opposition groups to operate and they are struggling to have it.”The farmers also won sympathy from the country’s most famous dissident Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Do, the deputy leader of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV).

<< Ven. Thich Quang Do

The 78-year-old monk, who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize several times, has spent the past 26 years in detention — or ‘pagoda arrest,’ under which he was prevented from leaving the premises of his monastery in Ho Chi Minh City.

Do and seven other UBCV monks gave the police outside the Thanh Minh Zen monastery the slip on Wednesday and headed to the protest site. ”Thich Quang Do told the farmers that the UBCV shared their plight, and had come to show them that he shared their despair and distress,” says Vo Van Ai, a leading spokesman of the UBCV’s international network.

”It was a deliberate act of civil disobedience. He hoped that his presence would give encouragement to the farmers, help to focus international opinion on their plight,” he revealed in an e-mail interview with IPS. ”He simply could not stand idle before the misery and despair of these peasants who had spent 25 days under the hot sun and rain, without food or sanitation, and with absolutely no reaction by the authorities, no attempt to listen to them or seek remedies.”

Do’s public speech to the farmers was the first of its kind made in the past 26 years. The rare gesture confirmed that the man who has been a thorn in the side of the Vietnamese regime would not easily give up his struggle for justice. Once, he upset Hanoi by urging governments in the West to consider aid to the country after reviewing its human rights record.

Hanoi’s confrontation with the farmers is the latest in a series of repressive acts in the wake of growing number of individuals challenging the regime’s hold on power. April 2006 saw the birth of one group, which published its ”Manifesto for Freedom and Democracy” and issued an ”Appeal for Freedom of Political Association.” This group, which goes under the name Bloc 8406 — for the date, month and the year it was launched — includes an academic, a writer and a priest as its leaders.

”The Internet has played a crucial role in the recent emergence of a number of pro-democracy initiatives in Viet Nam and amongst exiled dissidents,” says Brittis Edman, of Amnesty International (AI), the international rights lobby. ”Although the authorities try to control it, the Internet has facilitated a lot of discussions about issues previously off-limits. The on-line democracy movement Bloc 8406 is one such initiative, unauthorized unions and political parties are other examples.

”The initial reaction by Hanoi to such opposition voices was not harsh,” adds the South-east Asia researcher for AI in an interview. “Such accommodation was attributed to the country being in the glare of the international media having gained accession to the World Trade Organisation in 2006 and hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit the same year.”

But since the APEC summit last November ”there has been a serious crackdown against lawyers, trade unionists, religious leaders and Internet dissidents, who have been detained or imprisoned, harassed, or been under surveillance,” Edman reveals. ”The rights to freedom of expression and assembly are denied individuals and groups that the authorities — at their whim — deem intolerable.”

Vietnam: Some Suspect Up to 100 Dead in Protest Movement

Vietnam: U.S. Congresswoman Expresses Concern