ALN has written a statement protesting the arbitrary arrest of Nguyen Van Binh, the head lawyer of Vietnam's Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, as part of a recent crackdown in Vietnam associated with the abusive Directive 24.  

You can read the full statement below and a pdf version here.  

Nguyen Van Binh, head of the legal department of Vietnam's Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs

ALN protests the arbitrary arrest of Nguyen Van Binh in Vietnam Following His Advocacy for Labor Rights Reforms

30 May 2024

ALN protests the arbitrary arrest in mid-April in Vietnam of Nguyen Van Binh, a lawyer and head of the legal department of Vietnam’s Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA), for allegedly disclosing state secrets.[1] Binh is also a former unionist and former staff at the Hanoi office of the International Labour Organization (ILO), and his role at MOLISA was to oversee legal reforms, such as the large role he played in the 2019 Labour Code, which included numerous reforms to better protect workers from, e.g., abusive contract terms and overtime work. Binh’s arrest is part of a wider crackdown the government of Vietnam has been waging against human rights activists, journalists, government officials, and other critical voices in Vietnam over the last several months,[2] the origins of which stem from a shake-up in political leadership and a related policy shift in 2023 in an authoritarian direction associated with Directive 24 as explained below.[3]

Background on Nguyen Van Binh’s Work on Labor Reforms in Vietnam

Binh has a long history of researching trade union organizing and working on strengthening the independence and representation of labor unions in Vietnam, as well as labor policy advocacy on a variety of other issues, such as gender discrimination at work. Much of his work has included extensive engagement and meetings with foreign governments and international organizations such as the ILO, which reportedly isolated Binh at MOLISA as sympathetic coworkers resigned over the last few years.[4] Most recently Binh had been advocating for Vietnam’s National Assembly to ratify ILO Convention 87, which requires governments to respect the rights of workers to form independent labor unions and conduct labor negotiations free from government interference. It is these latest efforts in particular which made him a target for arrest.

Currently Vietnam has only one state-run labor union, the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL), where Binh’s career began, and it prohibits the creation of independent unions. As John Sifton, the Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch has stated, “Not a single independent union exists in Vietnam and no working legal frameworks exist for unions to be created or for workers to enforce labor rights.”[5] Vietnam is required to ratify ILO Convention 87 under a free trade agreement with the European Union, but the process has been delayed by the government for many years. The issue has recently come to a head however when, shortly before Biden’s visit to Vietnam in September 2023, Vietnam requested the US Department of Commerce to review Vietnam’s classification as a non-market economy, as Vietnam’s reclassification as a market economy would give Vietnam more favorable trade terms. The request began a process of a hearing by the Department of Commerce on May 8 and an expected decision around July 26. One of the six factors for “market economy” status in the US is that wages in the country are determined by free bargaining between workers and management, which includes the legal right for workers to form independent unions. At the public hearing, lawyers representing Vietnam argued that Vietnam met all six of the criteria, including the right to collective bargaining.

Nguyen Van Binh’s Arrest and its Probable Motivations Related to Directive 24

Binh was arrested only one day after the hearing, indicating the motivation for his arrest. At the time of his arrest, Binh was working on a legal dossier for the National Assembly to ratify ILO Convention 87, with technical support from the ILO.[6] Binh has been successful in pushing the government to ratify other ILO conventions on collective bargaining and forced labor in the past, so it is reasonable to conclude that Vietnamese officials were concerned about his efforts advocating for ILO Convention 87’s ratification.

The reason why this would be considered such a threat for the government is given by one more important piece of context to Binh’s arrest: Directive 24, a secret directive issued by the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) in 2023 and disclosed in March 2024 by the Vietnam-based rights NGO 88 Project. 88 Project described the directive as waging a “war on human rights.”[7] Directive 24 introduces a policy for the government to take measures to quell threats to the future stability of the CPV, including to “prevent the establishment of labor organizations”, to increase control of state security, and to take other measures explicitly violating Vietnam’s human rights obligations.[8] Directive 24 extends the initiative to direct restrictions on civil and political rights from just the security forces to also include political leadership.[9] Directive 24 also closely parallels Document 9, a directive of the Chinese Communist Party from April 2013 that became a basis for a wave of repressive policies in China since 2013, demonstrating the negative model that China has been providing for other states in the region.[10]

As part of its policy on labor unions, Directive 24 explicitly refers to ILO Convention 87, ordering government officials to direct nominally “independent” trade unions to give the appearance of compliance with ILO Convention 87 while ensuring CPV leadership and management at all levels.[11] The directive also explicitly labels organizations conducting policy advocacy, receiving foreign funding, or participating in international civil society coalitions as threats to national security, providing a basis for their harassment and criminalization. [12] Thus, there is a direct line from the explicit directions of Directive 24 to the arrest of Binh given his policy advocacy for ILO Convention 87 and truly independent unions and his engagement with international civil society networks. To summarize, Directive 24 makes the repression of independent civil society an official and explicit policy goal of the CPV, including reform-minded government officials working with civil society.

The Recent Wave of Crackdowns on Civil and Political Rights in Vietnam

In line with the trend of Directive 24, Vietnam has also been going through a significant political shift over the last year driven by the appearance of an anti-corruption campaign that has brought more authoritarian leadership into power, including most recently the presidential election on 22 May 2024 of To Lam, who oversaw police and state security operations during a period of systemic human rights violations by security services, putting him in a strong position to become the next Communist Party general secretary according to analysts.[13] These political and policy shifts have led to an accelerating crackdown on rights with activists and policymakers being arrested in recent months, including NGO directors, policy advocates, and activists receiving foreign funding or participating in civil society coalitions. Recent cases include:  

On 5 March 2024 it was reported that at least 24 other persons were being detained by police on politically motivated charges waiting for trials.[23] In all, as of January 2024, at least 163 persons are political prisoners in Vietnam.[24] Other recent repressive actions of the government include the Ministry of Public Security shutting the only independent journalists’ association, the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, the only independent publishing house, Liberal Publishing House, and the only independent anti-corruption organization, indicating the disingenuousness of Vietnam’s current anti-corruption initiative.[25]

Conclusion and Recommendations

One theme of the latest wave of crackdowns in Vietnam is that repression has moved from the security forces focusing traditional targets of authoritarian governments, activists and rights workers, to political leaders directly targeting policy advocacy, such as in climate change, labor rights, journalists, publishing, and governance. In this recent brand of repression, we should expect lawyers and government officials will be targeted for arrest and harassment more often, and Nguyen Van Binh’s case exemplifies this trend.

ALN Protests the arbitrary arrest of Nguyen Van Binh and calls for his immediate release, as well as the release of all activists, rights defenders, journalists, publishers, officials, lawyers, and others arbitrarily arrested or detained for their legitimate political opinions, expression, and activities. We also call for the revocation of Directive 24, which openly directs Vietnamese officials to violate Vietnam’s international human rights obligations.


[1] RFA, "Official who pushed for workers’ rights arrested in Hanoi", 10 May 2024,

[2] Francesco Guarascios, "UN worried about Vietnam arrest of energy expert after Biden's visit", Reuters, 27 Sept. 2023,

[3] Khanh Vu, Phuong Nguyen and Francesco Guarascio, "Vietnam's president resigns, raising questions over stability", Reuters, 20 Mar. 2024,

[4] Ben Swanton, Michael Altman-Lupu, "Vietnam Arrests Labor Reformer Ahead of Commerce Department Hearing on Country’s Market Status ", 6 May 2024, The 88 Project,, at 4

[5] HRW, "Vietnam: False Claims on Labor Rights", 8 May 2024,

[6] Swanton & Altman-Lupu, supra, note 4.

[7] RFA, supra, note 1.

[8] The 88 Project, "Vietnam’s Leaders Declare War on Human Rights as a Matter of Official Policy", 29 Feb. 2024,; Ben Swanton & Altman-Lupu, supra, note 4.

[9] Swanton & Altman-Lupu, id., at 7.

[10] Id., at 8.

[11] Id., at 5.

[12] Id., at 6.

[13] David Rising, "Vietnam’s top security official To Lam confirmed as president", AP, 22 May 2024,

[14] RFA, "Vietnam sentences ethnic minority man to 4½ years for religious activities", 26 Jan. 2024,

[15] RFA, "Vietnam court sentences Khmer Krom man to 3½ years in prison", 8 Feb. 2024,

[16] The 88 Project, "Project88 Releases Issue Brief on the Arrest of Energy Think Tank Leader Ngo Thi To Nhien", 30 Nov. 2023,

[17] Agence France-Presse (via The Guardian), "Vietnam detains energy thinktank chief in latest arrest of environmental expert", 1 Oct. 2023,

[18] Koh Ewe, "What to Know About Vietnam’s Persistent Crackdown on Environmentalists", Time, 21 Sept. 2023,

[19] The 88 Project, “Phan Van Loc”,; Bao Quang Ngai, “Khởi tố, bắt tạm giam đối tượng chống phá Đảng, Nhà nước [Prosecute and temporarily detain subjects who sabotage the Party and State]“, 11 July 2023, (in Vietnamese).

[20] The Vietnamese, "Hanoi Police Detain Vietnamese Activist Nguyen Chi Tuyen and Journalist Nguyen Vu Binh", 4 Mar. 2024,; CPJ, "Vietnam arrests high-profile bloggers Nguyen Chi Tuyen and Nguyen Vu Binh", 7 Mar. 2024,

[21] CPJ, id.

[22] HRW, "Vietnam: New Wave of Arrests of Critics", 5 Mar. 2024,

[23] Id.

[24] HRW, "Free Vietnam’s Political Prisoners!", 18 Jan. 2024,

[25] Swanton & Altman-Lupu, supra, note 4.; Stewart Rees, "Independent Journalists in Vietnam: The Clampdown Against Critics Continues", The Diplomat, 3 May 2021,; Civicus, "Repression of Liberal Publishing House, journalists and online critics escalates in Vietnam", 30 July 2020,