Vietnam to Try Three Activists of Reviving Vietnam Campaign on Allegation of Anti-state Propaganda on January 31

Activist Tran Hoang Phuc

Defend the Defenders, January 20, 2018

The People’s Court of Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi will try three activists Vu Quang Thuan, Nguyen Van Dien, and Tran Hoang Phuc on allegation of “conducting anti-State propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code on January, said Nguyen Van Mieng, one of four lawyers of the trio.

The three activists, members of the Chan hung Nuoc Viet (Reviving Vietnam Campaign), will be challenged under Clause 1 of Article 88 and they will face imprisonment of between three and twelve years if convicted, according to the Vietnamese current law.

Particularly, Mr. Thuan and Mr. Dien are accused of producing 17 video clips which defame the ruling communist party and its leaders, and posting them on Internet while Phuc is alleged to assist the two activists in holding and posting three of them.

Mr. Thuan and Mr. Dien were arrested in early March while Mr. Phuc was detained on July 3 last year. They were firstly kidnapped by Hanoi police who later prosecuted them with anti-state propaganda, one of controversial articles in the national security provisions in the Penal Code often used to silence peaceful activists.

Mr. Vu Quang Thuan (right) and Nguyen Van Dien (left) at a meeting with EU diplomat in Hanoi

In several months before being arrested, Mr. Thuan and Mr. produced and posted on their Facebook pages many video clips in which Mr. Thuan as a speaker criticized the Communist leaders and their government for human rights violations, corruption, and weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea).

Late President Ho Chi Minh and incumbent General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong are among figures criticized by Mr. Thuan. Their clips were viewed by millions of Vietnamese Internet users.

The trio was held incommunicado since their arrests until recent months when the investigation was completed. They were allowed to meet with lawyer Son to prepare for their defense. However, they have been yet to be permitted to meet with their families.

After their arrests, some members of the Chan Hung Nuoc Viet had also been summoned to police stations for questioning. However, other members of the campaign continue their live streams on Facebook to provide independent TV channels to describe social situations in the country, especially in land grabbing, miscarriage of justice, human rights abuse, and corruption. Their programs have attracted hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their trust in the state media.

The Chan Hung Nuoc Viet was established by technocrat and entrepreneur Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, who is serving his 16-year imprisonment after being convicted guilty on allegation of subversion in 2010.

The arrests and trials of the three members of the Chan Hung Nuoc Viet are part of Vietnam’s ongoing crackdown on political dissidents, human rights defenders, social activists and online bloggers which started in early 2016 when the Communist Party of Vietnam selected its new leadership with many police generals being appointed to senior positions of the party and its government.

The political persecution was severe last year as Vietnam detained at least 45 activists and charged most of them with serious accusations such as “conducting anti-State propaganda” under Article 88 and subversion under Article 79 of the Penal Code 1999.

Last year, Vietnam convicted at least 19 activists, including human rights defenders Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh and Tran Thi Nga, anti-corruption activist Phan Kim Khanh, and bloggers Nguyen Van Oai and Nguyen Van Hoa. All of them received heavy sentences ranging from five years to ten years in prison.

In order to keep the country under a one-party regime, Vietnam has shown little tolerance to local dissent.

According to Amnesty International, Vietnam is holding around 100 prisoners of conscience while Defend the Defenders’ counting showed that the Southeast Asian nation is imprisoning at least 180 prisoners of conscience.

Hanoi always denies imprisoning any prisoner of conscience but only law violators.