German lawmaker Renate Künast said Pham Chi Dung “did not conduct propaganda against the state”
“Today, I was shocked to hear that Mr. Pham Chi Dung does not want to appeal to the inhumane verdict,” German lawmaker Renate Künast announced on January 26, “because he had no hope for a fair trial in Vietnam.”
Pham Chi Dung, from the Chi Hoa Detention Center, issued a statement on January 18, saying he “decided not to appeal.”
He said this “did not mean he accepts his unjust and very heavy judgment” but because he “understood that this was a sentence that was intended for us to suppress press freedom in Vietnam.”
German legislator adopts Dr. Pham Chi Dung
Ms. Renate Künast, who is adopting independent journalists in Vietnam, said adopting was absolutely not about “interfering with the internal situation.”
Before that, the politician of the “Coalition 90 – Green Party” – member of the German Parliament (Bundestag) and Chairman of the German Parliamentary Group on Relations with ASEAN, released a press statement shortly after receiving the news of the first-instance hearing in Ho Chi Minh City against Mr. Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy and Le Huu Minh Tuan on January 5.
The case of Dr. Pham Chi Dung, who has been detained by authorities since November 2019, represents people with the same mindset – journalists, Facebookers, bloggers being detained in Vietnam, according to Ms. Renate Künast.
Since August 2020, Ms. Renate Künast has advocated for him.
“At the request of Veto Human Rights Organization and my suggestion, Dr. Pham Chi Dung has been accepted to the “MPs to protect the MPs” or (PsP) program of the Federal Republic of Germany’s parliament.”
“Germany does not interfere in the internal affairs but does not ignore human rights issues”
Answering the BBC’s question why Germany adopted Pham Chi Dung and if this was an “interference in Vietnam’s internal affairs,” Ms. Kunast said she could not consider it “foreign intervention in Vietnam’s internal affairs “as the Vietnamese government often labeled it.
She said that although the Vietnamese people are “the ones who decide to promote the direction of their country’s politics and their own democracy,” protecting human rights is a common responsibility, not an exclusive issue of a country.
“Before his arrest, Dr. Pham Chi Dung repeatedly called on the European Parliament to decisively not approve the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) if there is no release of the prisoners of conscience and human rights improvement in Vietnam. His arrest prior to EVFTA’s ratification makes this connection clear,” she said.
“Human right is a universal right. Any country that wants to join the bloc, become a country that has commercial and trade relations with another country, politically, should raise the issue of human rights.”
“Freedom of expression is a human right, and therefore it is only natural for MPs like us to care about human rights.”
“I believe we cannot sign commercial deals but ignore human rights. Without human rights, there can be no commercial relationship.”
“It is impossible for Vietnam to be given preferential access to the domestic market for European apparel and we have to wear ‘Made in Vietnam’ clothes made where fundamental rights are violated.”
Freedom of expression in a democratic society
Rep. Renate Künast (born in 1955) said that “the crime of propaganda against the state” is a permissive accusation, aimed at preventing government critics.
Labeling government criticism as a crime is inconsistent with the framework of a rule of law, she said.
“There has also been an abduction of Vietnamese from Germany and brought to Vietnam in prison. These are actions we cannot tolerate.”
“For freedom of expression to be exercised, reporters need to have the right to evaluate and report on political issues.”
“Whether each reporter is part of the government’s media system or on the opposite side, they need to have the right to analyze and criticize independently, not controlled by the state. It’s about checking and maintaining balance in a democracy.”
“If someone does something that destroys something or hurts someone else, it’s against democracy.”
“But analysis, criticism is contributing to a better democracy, and it is not propaganda against the state.”
Ms. Künast, former Chairperson of the Green Party – the leading opposition party in Germany also explained to the Vietnamese side to change their perception, that the opposition is not “the enemy.” She herself is also an opposition politician who has strongly criticized the German government in the parliament.
What does adoption for a prisoner mean in Vietnam?
A few days ago, Congressman Künast informed the Vietnamese Ambassador to Germany that she was adopting Dr. Pham Chi Dung on behalf of Germany, and expressed concern over the treatment of the Vietnamese government against Mr. Dung and other journalists.
Ms. Künast suggested having a face-to-face meeting with the Vietnamese Ambassador.
Mediated by the Veto organization, Ms. Künast and her organization kept in regular contact with Mr. Dung’s family.
“The Vietnamese government needs to know that we are observing the human rights situation there, looking at what they are doing.”
“Must put pressure from all sides.” Together with other members of the European Parliament, Ms. Künast will call on the EU Commission to address human rights violations in Vietnam and promote contacts with the Vietnamese side at the highest level.
Many parliamentarians have signed a written request to the EU Commission, which is a statement of concerns about freedom of expression in Vietnam.
Ms. Künast said: “Our stance is very clear. We are not making a trade deal with Vietnam while there are many serious human rights violations there.”
The German congresswoman will also write to private manufacturing enterprises in Vietnam asking what they have been doing to improve working conditions for the workers.
“You have to put pressure from all sides and continue to strain the responsible people. Vietnam cares about the manufacturing facilities there. There are a lot of people who need jobs. But this has to be done under acceptable conditions.”
“The German side will regularly pay attention to the Vietnamese government, asking the Vietnamese side to end the trial process and immediately and unconditionally release these journalists. The Vietnamese government must have a feeling of surveillance when they get messages from us. They will have to change.”
“I wrote the letter to the Vietnamese Ambassador to Germany, and I also wrote to the German Ambassador to Vietnam asking him to take action in Vietnam. I want to find the answer.”
“On the other hand, I have other activities as well. For example, I questioned these German government officials, asking what they have been doing in holding the responsible people accountable. It is not good to sign a free trade agreement but ignore the right to freedom of expression.”
“Adopting is a long-term job. On the one hand, it is to help concretize people, to improve detention conditions, and finally to free them. On the other hand, to improve the rule of law in the country.”
According to German Green Party MP Renate Künast, the main content of the patronage is to promote the idea of free, independent journalism, free, independent journalists, who are only committed to morality. my career, diligent in journalism and not being oppressed politically.
According to the BBC, after the conviction of three Vietnamese journalists Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and Le Huu Minh Tuan, the Special Commissioner for Human Rights of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, Ms. Bärbel Kofler, announced on Jan 5, as follows:
“Once again activists in Vietnam have been sentenced to long-term imprisonment for their peaceful fight for freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and the establishment of free and independent unions …”
“With this conviction, Vietnam has violated the international conventions it has committed to comply with. Even Vietnam’s Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Imprisoning citizens because their peaceful activities are not justified.”
After Brexit, Germany is the most influential politically populated country in the European Union and the government has a strategy to reach the Asia-Pacific region while influencing the relations of major powers like Russia, China.
The Ho Chi Minh City Court in January 2021 sentenced three independent journalists to a long term prison term on the charges of “Making, possessing, distributing or disseminating information, documents, and articles aimed at opposing the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.“, as defined in Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code.
Mr. Pham Chi Dung was sentenced to 15 years in prison, Nguyen Tuong Thuy for 11 years, and Mr. Le Huu Minh Tuan for 11 years.
“Vietnam Times” under the trio’s management was accused of having written and published “contents against the State of Vietnam” and at the same time “enticed and developed members at home and abroad into activities against the State of Vietnam”, according to the court indictment.
Their articles are aimed at “distorting and defaming the people’s administration, harming the interests of the Communist Party and the State of Vietnam,” the state-controlled media wrote.
“These are extremely dangerous behaviors that would otherwise harm national security,” said the Ministry of Public Security.
Observers in Europe believe that recent prison sentences in Vietnam are unprecedented in the history of mankind, and compared with the fact that the person who repeatedly criticized President Vladimir Putin, Alexei Navalny, was sentenced for 30 days only by a court in Russia after returning from Germany where he was for poisoning treatment.