Đời SốngVietnam

Human Rights Watch dismisses Vietnam govt criticism

New York-based Human Rights Watch has hit back at the Vietnamese government for accusing the non-governmental organization of fabricating its World Report 2024.

The report, published on Jan. 11, accused Vietnam of suppressing people’s rights “to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, movement, and religion,” and said the communist party “severely punishes anyone who challenges its monopoly on power.” 

On Thursday, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Pham Thu Hang called the report “factually inaccurate and fabricated,” claiming that, “the efforts, determination and achievements of the government of Vietnam in ensuring the basic rights of humans has been demonstrated through the results of the socio-economic development of Vietnam, and has been already recognized and highly appreciated by people domestically and the international community.”


Responding to the criticism Human Rights Watch (HRW) Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson told Radio Free Asia Vietnam’s response was predictable. 

“This is the last defense of a government that has slid so far backwards on human rights that it literally has no plausible rationale left to claim that it follows any of the international human rights treaties that it has ratified,” he said. 

“Every single civil and political right, whether it be freedom of expression, right to public assembly, or freedom of association, is being systematically violated by the Vietnamese government.”

Robertson said he thought it was laughable that the Vietnamese government equated delivering economic growth with fulfilling its human rights obligations.

“The bottom line fact is the Vietnamese government has the second worst human rights record in ASEAN after the brutal military junta in Myanmar, and Hanoi is systematically moving to dismantle any sort of organized civil society groups outside the government’s control,” he said, claiming the only reason why Vietnamese citizens don’t complain is that they would face constant surveillance and harassment if they criticized the government. He said silence does not mean agreement.

In its report, HRW said Vietnam is currently detaining more than 160 people for peacefully exercising their civil and political rights. In the first ten months of 2023 alone, at least 28 human rights advocates were given long prison sentences, including RFA blogger Nguyen Lan Thang; Tran Van Bang, accused of “anti-state propaganda” for Facebook posts criticizing the government; and Dang Dang Phuoc, also charged with “propaganda” for anti corruption posts on social media.

Economic growth doesn’t equal human rights

Sweden-based academic Hoang Minh Trang told RFA she thought HRW’s report was accurate, particularly in pointing out “the Vietnamese government’s increased repression of civil society activists.”


Trang, who has a master’s degree in Rights and Rights Practice, said Hanoi needs to stop using economic achievements to cover up the poor human rights situation in the country. 

A Ho Chi Minh City-based human rights activist, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, told RFA the government will always say critical reports are “fabricated” or “slanderous.” 

“When it comes to defamation and fabrication, Hanoi is better than anyone else, falsely accusing more than 160 people who were sent to prison for unthinkable crimes such as ‘abusing democratic freedoms’ or ‘propaganda against the state’ … and even brazen enough to falsely accuse many environmental activists of ‘tax evasion’,” the activist said.

HRW is not the only international human rights organization to criticize Vietnam in recent months.

In December 2023, CIVICUS named Vietnam as one of 28 countries in the world ‘closed’ to democratic freedoms.

It criticized the government for failing to honor its obligations as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2023-2025 term.

Also last month, Reporters Without Borders ranked Vietnam fourth in the most dangerous countries for journalists this year, behind China, Myanmar and Belarus.

Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Vietnam was among the top five countries for jailing journalists in 2023 with a total of 19 reporters in prison, behind only China, Myanmar, Belarus and Russia.

Separately, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom continues to push the U.S. government to put Vietnam on the List of Countries of Particular Concern because of religious persecution.

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang.


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