Vietnam denies keeping political prisoners

HANOI • Vietnam denied that it held any “prisoners of conscience”, calling an Amnesty International report — which said the Communist government is jailing more of its critics — “unfounded”.

“Amnesty International has deliberately made repeated non-objective, unfounded judgments based on wrongful information and false prejudices on Vietnam,” Le Thi Thu Hang, spokeswoman for Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in an emailed statement late on Tuesday.

“This is an abusive, politically motivated practice, aimed to obstruct international cooperation and promotion of human rights in the world.”

Amnesty International, in a report released on Monday, said the number of “prisoners of conscience” jailed in Vietnam has increased to 128 from 97 last year as the government implements a controversial new cyber security law.

The group pressed the US to reiterate to Vietnam that closer relations between the two countries will depend on progress on human rights. Vietnam doesn’t arrest citizens for expressing political views, according to Hang.

“The state of Vietnam upholds its consistent policy of respecting and ensuring the residents’ fundamental rights, creating favourable conditions for residents to execute their legal rights,” she said.

“Still, Vietnam has been firm on fighting against any intentional misuse of those rights to break the law, or violate the state’s interests, legitimate rights, and interests of organisations and residents.”

A new penal code took effect in Vietnam in 2018 that includes “vague and overly broad provisions that are often used to prosecute activists and other perceived critics”, Amnesty International said in a statement.

At least 34 people on the group’s list of prisoners of conscience were prosecuted under the new penal code, it said. — Bloomberg