Police in Viet Nam’s capital, Hanoi, shut down a major annual meeting of grassroots groups and non-government organizations (NGOs) this morning in an alarming step-up of the authorities’ repression of civil society, said Amnesty International.
This is an absurd and shocking crackdown on a well-established, peaceful event.
“This is an absurd and shocking crackdown on a well-established, peaceful event. To use an arcane wartime decree about holding events in public spaces to stop a private gathering at a hotel is clearly unjustified and cynical,” said Minar Pimple, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Global Operations.
A coalition of local groups were holding their third annual workshop today at the Hanoi Club Hotel. As in previous years, the meeting aimed to discuss approaches to social issues including public service access, health and gender equality.
Once the workshop was underway, local police entered the premises and ordered organizers to shut it down. Police accused organizers of violating a wartime law from 1957, Decree 257-TTg, which provides that public authorities must be informed of events at least 24 hours in advance.
“Viet Nam’s Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of assembly and association, which it also must respect and protect under international human rights treaties, so to close down this event violates both international law and Viet Nam’s own Constitution. The authorities must allow this vital gathering of respected grassroots groups to go ahead and put an end to this worsening crackdown on civil society groups,” said Minar Pimple.
The two-day event was organized by the People’s Participation Working Group (PPWG), the Partnership for Action in Health Equity (PAHE), the Group of Public Administration Reform, Human Rights Space, the Gender and Community Network (Gencomnet), the Ethnic Minority Working Group (EMWG), the Evidence-Based Health Policy Development Advocacy Group (EBPHD), and the Vietnam Non-Communicable Disease Prevention Alliance (NCDs-VN).
This annual meeting is a civil society platform for Vietnamese organizations to discuss ways to advise and engage with the government on solutions to social issues.