Vietnam to Try Anti-corruption Fighter Do Cong Duong on Allegation of Abusing Democratic Freedom in October: Lawyer Son

Anti-corruption activist Do Cong Duong

Defend the Defenders, September 4, 2018

 

Authorities in Vietnam’s northern province of Bac Ninh will hold the trial against local anti-corruption fighter Do Cong Duong on allegation of “abusing democratic freedom” in October, his lawyer Ha Huy Son informed Defend the Defenders.

The trial, to be carried out by the province’s People’s Court, will be open for the public, said the Hanoi-based attorney, who often defends activists in politically trumped-up cases.

For this allegation under Article 331 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code, Mr. Duong is facing imprisonment of up to seven years, Son said.

On September 17, the People’s Court of Tu Son town will hold the first-instance hearing of Mr. Duong, Ms. Le Thi Thanh Nga, Nguyen Van Trung and Nguyen Van Vui on charge of “Disturbance of public order”under Article 318 of the 2015 Penal Code. The maximum sentence for people convicted on Article 318 will also be seven years in prison, according to the current Vietnamese law.

Mr. Duong, 54, was arrested by the police of Tu Son commune on January 24 this year when he was filming a forced eviction in the commune.

Mr. Duong, who is a land petitioner, became an activist on land issue. Together with other local residents, he filled letters to the state’s leaders to accuse Tu Son town’s government of illegal land seizure.

Duong is also a citizen journalist, producing hundreds of video clips which he has posted on his Facebook accountto report local officials’ corruption and cronyism, including provincial communist leader Nguyen Nhan Chien, who has big houses and has promoted numerous relatives to key positions in provincial agencies. The state-run media has also covered news affirming the information unveiled by Mr. Duong.

Due to his anti-corruption activities, Duong and his family have been persecuted by local authorities. He was summoned by the police for interrogation many times. Police also came to his private residence to threaten him.

His house has been attacked with a stinking concoction of feces, shrimp paste, and petrol, and his children have been discriminated in schools.

Duong’s arrest is likely reprisal for his efforts to fight illegal land grabbing and corruption, said his fellow My while hisattorney lawyer HaHuy Son said authorities in Bac Ninh provinceand Tu Son townare seeking to silence the anti-corruption activist and citizen journalist without respecting the country’s law and the presumption of innocence.

Land grabbing is a thorny problem in Vietnam where all land belongs to the state and local residents only have lease rights. The central government and local governments are authorized to seize any land from citizens for socio-economic development without paying adequate compensation.

In many localities, authorities have grabbed local residents’ land at very low compensation prices and sold it to property and industrial developers at prices much higher.

Thousands of farmers losing their land in that way are gathering in big cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to demand justice. The land petitioners are treated like second-class residents by the government. They are living in streets and house with cheap renting fees, being subjects of torture and detention by security forces.

Vietnam is among most corrupt nations in the world. According to Trading Economics, the nation scored 35 points out of 100 on the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. Corruption Index in Vietnam averaged 27.80 points from 1997 until 2017, reaching an all time high of 35 points in 2017 and a record low of 24 points in 2002.

In Vietnam where communists have ruled for decades, the government strictly controls media. Dozens of bloggers and independent journalists have been harassed and jailed.

Vietnam’s press freedom index is ranked at the 175th out of 179 countries in the Reporters Without Borders’ 2017 Report.