Imprisoned Vietnamese activist Nguyen Nang Tinh has been awarded the Le Dinh Luong Human Rights Award 2022. The annual prize is presented by the U.S.-based Vietnam Reform Revolution Party, or Viet Tan, to individuals and organizations who advocate human rights and raise awareness of rights violations in Vietnam. This year’s theme was “defending sovereignty against threats from China.”
Nguyen Nang Tinh was a music lecturer at a college in Nghe An province on Vietnam’s North Central Coast when he was arrested in May 2019. He is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence after being convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda.”
Viet Tan spokeswoman Dong Xuyen said Tinh beat many strong candidates in a vote by a council which included Canadian MP Judy Sgro and Asian Democratization Movement President Takayuki Kojima.
“Recognizing and upholding the efforts of peaceful, responsible citizens in contributing to promoting human rights and protecting national sovereignty [while they are] persecuted, smeared and abused by the state shows that their work is very meaningful and valuable for the life and development of the Vietnamese people and the country,” she told RFA.
“The award helps their families visit them in prison and represents a small share of their courage, affirmation, integrity and love of their nation.”
Tinh’s wife Nguyen Thi Tinh told RFA her family were overjoyed by news of the award.
“This is a priceless gift for Nguyen Nang Tinh and our family. It is also a source of encouragement for the family as well as all those who have been, are, and will be fighting for democracy, human rights and justice in Vietnam,” she said.
Authorities in north-central Vietnam’s Nghe An province arrested Tinh, 46, in May 2019 for writing and sharing what authorities called anti-state posts and videos on his Facebook account for seven years.
The posts included protests against a law on Vietnam’s special economic zones that protestors feared would favor Chinese businesses over local enterprises, and demonstrations against a Taiwanese company that dumped toxic waste into the sea, causing an environmental disaster off Vietnam’s central coast in April 2016.
Tinh was also an active participant in civil rights organizations including the Life Defense Group and the Human Development Fund, speaking out in support of political prisoners.
He was charged under Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code for “making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
On Nov.15, 2019 Tinh was sentenced to 11 years in prison and the following year an appeals court upheld the lower court’s verdict. Tinh went on hunger strike for a month ahead of the appeal hearing, during which time his wife said he was not allowed to pray, read religious books, or meet with Catholic priests,
Tinh’s wife said that since being transferred to Prison Camp No. 5 in northern Vietnam’s Thanh Hoa province in May 2020, her husband has not been allowed to leave the cell he shares with one other prisoner and is only able to speak with prison guards. She said in spite of this harsh treatment her husband continues to assert his innocence.
In Nov. 2021, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) issued a document saying Tinh’s arrest and conviction were arbitrary and contravened international law, and called for his immediate release.
The Le Dinh Luong Human Rights Award was established by Viet Tan in 2018. It is named after a Vietnamese human rights and environmental campaigner who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Aug. 2018.
Viet Tan was labeled a terrorist group by Vietnam in Oct. 2016, but describes itself as “committed to peaceful, nonviolent struggle” to promote democracy the country. Vietnam’s state-controlled media has criticized its human rights award, describing it as a joke.
“Every year-end, the ‘democratic society’ is bustling with ‘human rights awards’ and the so-called ‘Le Dinh Luong Human Rights Award’ initiated by Viet Tan is actually a ploy to polish Viet Tan’s name and provoke opposition of democracy, distract public opinion and create an excuse to attack the government,” wrote author Anh Tu on the Binh Phuoc online news site on Nov. 17 this year.
Viet Tan spokeswoman Dong Xuyen said the Vietnamese government constantly uses state-media to support its actions.
“When making justifications, the Vietnamese government repeatedly underestimates the ability of the Vietnamese people to see the truth and their ability to observe and evaluate,” she said.
“They use the police apparatus and prisons to suppress the people’s integrity, but they will never quench the kindness, love of reason, love of originality and intelligence, sensitivity and determination of the Vietnamese people for each other and their homeland.”
This year’s Le Dinh Luong Award ceremony was held on Dec. 10 in Tokyo to mark International Human Rights Day and also the birthday of Le Dinh Luong, who is still serving his prison sentence at Ba Sao Prison camp in Ha Nam province.