In a special program on Wednesday, Vietnam Television channels aired video clips of the five jailed activists confessing to attempting to undermine and overthrow the Vietnamese state, then begging for leniency. A Catholic priest of Hue Archdiocese has denounced the politically orchestrated confession show, warning the public about traditional use of police and state media to override legitimate court.

Fr. Peter Phan Van Loi of Hue ArchDiocese
On Wednesday Aug. 19, in a TV show lasting for 10 minutes, 5 recently arrested dissidents including Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Le Cong Dinh, Le Thang Long, Nguyen Tien Trung and Tran Anh Kim were shown “bending their heads, admitting their sins against the Vietnamese State,” 700 state newspapers and other media outlets simultaneously reported on the next day.

Nhan Dan newspaper, the mouthpiece of the communist party reported that “Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, former General Director of the OIC Company (Ho Chi Minh City), Le Cong Dinh, a lawyer, director of the law limited company named Le Cong Dinh; Nguyen Tien Trung, all residents of Tan Binh district, Ho Chi Minh City; Le Thang Long, General Director of the INNOTECH company, residing in the residential quarter of the Hanoi Polytechnic University and Tran Anh Kim [former Lieutenant Colonel in Vietnam’s Communist Army] in Thai Binh province have pled guilty and begged for leniency.”

The Saigon Liberated Newspaper also revealed that based on their “confessions of crimes”, “The Investigation Security Agency of the Ministry of Public Security is working together with the Procuracy and court to quickly bring to trial a serious case involving the violation of national security.”

Responding to the TV show, many Vietnamese people have expressed their disappointment and their anger to see the five democracy activists were defeated so soon by police. Some have even gone as far as condemning them as “cowards”.

Among democracy activists in Vietnam, they have been well-known and admired for their courage and their bold challenges against the tyrannical government over various sensitive social and political issues. Their quick and easy defeat has obviously stunned so many people.

“We cannot condemn them as cowards or those who give up so early just because of what we have seen in such a TV show. Doing that we forget proper standards of a civilized law system,” said Fr. Peter Phan Van Loi, an outspoken critic against the Party, during an interview with Radio Free Asia on Friday. Expressing his sympathy to the said democracy activists, Fr. Peter Phan said such political confessions are almost always obtained under duress.

Fr. Peter Phan, a Catholic priest of the archdiocese of Hue, also warned: “We must know that police and the state media are beating these democracy activists hastily to prepare public opinion against them. They are taking the role of procuracy. It is completely illegal.”

“Such politically charged confessions bear no merit to me. It just shows to the world the dark, brutal but very real side of this government. A defendant can only plead guilty or not guilty during a court upholding a fair and legitimate proceeding,” he concluded.

Fr. Peter Phan himself is at possible risk of arrest for suspected links to a group including veteran democracy activists. He and some others “were identified in the police report and indictment for follow-up investigation,” Human Rights Watch stated in a report on Aug. 19

Human Rights Watch and other rights organizations have demanded Vietnam government to immediately release peaceful democracy activists facing trial on groundless charges of threatening national security, in contravention of its obligations under international and Vietnamese guarantees of free expression.

Facing growing criticism of its bauxite plan, its silence vis-à-vis Beijing's stance and its disgraceful land and maritime border concessions to China, and the widespread graft, the Vietnamese government opted for brutal force in order to create a climate of fear and suspicion in society. Despite international protests, at least 24 dissidents have been jailed since July, state media disclosed.