Tue, Sep 11, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Rights advocates invited to WEF barred by Hanoi

AFP, HANOI

Vietnam has denied entry to two prominent rights campaigners invited to attend this week’s World Economic Forum (WEF) in Hanoi, as the government continues its hard line on critics of its dismal rights record.

Leaders from Amnesty International and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) were barred from entering Vietnam for the meeting, the groups said.

FIDH secretary-general Debbie Stothard was held at Hanoi’s airport for 15 hours after arriving on Sunday before being deported to Malaysia early yesterday morning.

Her “arbitrary detention” was “based on the absurd accusation that she poses a threat to Vietnam’s national security,” FIDH Asia Desk director Andrea Giorgetta said in a statement.

Amnesty said its senior director of global operations, Minar Pimple, was also denied a visa to attend the summit, which will host regional leaders and big names from global business.

“We condemn this decision to stifle debate ... this comes at a time when freedom of expression is under deep threat in Vietnam,” Amnesty secretary-general Kumi Naidoo said yesterday.

Vietnam routinely jails activist, lawyers and bloggers, but a tough new administration in power since 2016 has been accused of upping the ante on its critics.

About 40 activists have been convicted so far this year on charges ranging from acting against the state to disturbing public order, including three US citizens, according to an Agence France-Presse tally.

Amnesty says that as of April there were 97 known activists behind bars.

Vietnam is trying to boost its diplomatic profile, hosting a slew of dignitaries and summits, but with trade on the table, critics say its allies are not pressuring the leadership enough to protect human rights and free expression.

A WEF spokeswoman confirmed that Stothard and Pimple had been denied entry to the meeting, but that their invitations to the forum remained in place.

The World Economic Forum on ASEAN opens in Hanoi today under the official banner of “Entrepreneurship and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

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