Religious Freedom Activist - Viet Nam Twice Imprisoned as a Prisoner of Conscience
Mr. Nguyen Bac Truyen, 54, is a lawyer and Hoa Hao Buddhist who has been imprisoned twice for his peaceful advocacy for religious freedom, democratic reforms, and human rights. He is currently serving an 11-year sentence in An Diem Prison in Quang Nam province.
► What You Can Do ► Timeline of Arrests and Imprisonment ► Truyen's Human Rights Work ► Background: From Businessman to Rights Defender ► International Recognition ► UN Reports About Truyen ► Testimonial Videos about Truyen ► Truyen Sings the Prisoners' Lament Song
What you can do:
Send a letter or postcard calling for Nguyen Bac Truyen’s immediate and unconditional release to: ► Mr. To Lam, Minister of Public Security, 44 Yet Kieu St., Hoan Kiem, Hanoi. ► Prime Minister Nguyen Minh Chinh, 2 Hung Vuong St., Ba Dinh, Hanoi. ► Mr. Nguyen Phu Trong, General Secretary, Communist Party of Vietnam,1A Hung Vuong St., Ba Dinh, Hanoi. Send a personal letter to Nguyen Bac Truyen at: ► An Diem Prison, Dai Hung commune, Dai Loc district, Quang Nam province, Vietnam. ► Or call: +84 (0235) 377 4502.
Timeline of Arrests and Imprisonment
► 2006-2010: Arrested and imprisoned for 3.5 years followed by two years' probation on charges of “conducting propaganda against the state" (Penal Code Article 88) for distributing leaflets and posting online articles criticizing the government’s violations of human rights and calling for multi-party democracy .
►July 20, 2017: Abducted by police on the street and held incommunicado for six months.
► April 5, 2018: In a one-day trial closed to the public he was sentenced to eleven years’ imprisonment and three years’ probation. ►June 4, 2018: The Appeals Court upheld his sentence. ►Currently imprisoned in An Diem prison in Quang Nam province.
Truyen's Human Rights Work Includes:
► Documenting rights abuses of religious communities in Vietnam who are persecuted simply because they do not belong to state-sanctioned religious organizations.
Truyen acted as a liaison between persecuted religious communities and the outside world. In June 2017 he and his wife (center, in light-colored shirts) escorted fellow Hoa Hao Buddhists to meet with members of the German Parliament.
► Advocating for the release of prisoners of conscience and providing support and assistance to their families.
In July 2010 Truyen greeted long-time prisoner Truong Van Suong upon his temporary medical leave from Ha Nam Prison.
► Coordinating humanitarian assistance for disabled war veterans who face discrimination from the government.
Truyen with a disabled veteran, one of many former soldiers that Truyen assisted at the Catholic Redemptorist Bureau for Justice and Peace in Ho Chi Minh City.
► Providing pro-bono legal assistance and human rights training to victims of illegal land expropriation, families of prisoners of conscience, and marginalized religious communities. ► Co-founding the Vietnam Coalition Against Torture, which advocates for the abolition of torture and all forms of ill-treatment.
“Nguyen Bac Truyen has repeatedly endangered his own life and the safety of his family in his fight for the rights of people with a faith other than his own.” — Dr. Ingvill Thorson Plesner, Stefanus Prize Committee Chair
Background: From Businessman to Human Rights Defender
Until his first arrest in 2006, Nguyen Bac Truyen was a successful businessman. He was the first Vietnamese entrepreneur to voluntarily introduce workplace standards protecting the rights and safety of workers in his two companies.
He was arrested in November 2006 for his activism and online posts calling for multi-party democracy and respect for human rights.
After his release in 2010, Truyen faced constant government harassment and official reprisals for his human rights work, including at least four instances of physical assault by state security agents and their henchmen.
In one instance in February 2014, hundreds of police violently expelled Truyen and his wife, Bui Thi Kim Phoung, from their home in Dong Thap province, where they had been supporting persecuted Hoa-Hao Buddhists.
“I am still traumatized by the terrorizing act when hundreds of police surrounded our home in Dong Thap province in February 2014, only ten days before our wedding. Several shots were fired. The police shattered our front door and windows. They searched our house and smashed the worship altar. My husband was beaten mercilessly and forcefully taken away.” — Bui Thi Kim Phuong
Activism Behind Bars
Nguyen Bac Truyen is currently held at An Điềm Prison in Quang Nam province, 800 kilometers (500 miles) from his wife and family.
Truyen suffers from several medical ailments, including heart valve disease, gastritis, back pain, and swollen joints. Despite numerous requests, he has not had a proper medical examination since his arrest in 2017.
In prison, Truyen has led hunger strikes in May 2019 and November 2020 to protest mistreatment of fellow prisoners, inadequate medical care, confiscation of mail, and other violations of prisoners’ rights under Vietnamese and international law.
Truyen’s human rights work has earned him the 2011 Hellman-Hammett Award by Human Rights Watch and the 2020 Stefanus Alliance International Prize.
The UN Secretary General, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and six UN Special Rapporteurs have raised concerns with Vietnam about the harassment, persecution and imprisonment of Truyen for defending human rights and cooperating with UN human rights bodies.
In 2020, 68 Members of Parliaments in 28 countries called for Truyen’s release as part of a global campaign by the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief and the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights.
Concerns about Truyen have also been raised by the U.S. State Department, US Commission on International Religious Freedom, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, and legislators from the European Union, European Parliament, German Federation, and US Congress.