Vietnamese Facebooker Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison for Online Posts, First Activist Convicted in 2020

Mr. Chung Hoang Chuong


Defend the Defenders, April 27, 2020


The People’s Court of Ninh Kieu district, Can Tho City on April 27 convicted local resident Chung Hoang Chuong of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the country’s Criminal Code for his post on Facebook, Defend the Defenders has learned.

The court sentenced him to 18 months in prison in the trial the defendant has not been protected by his own lawyer while his wife was informed about the first-instance hearing just 20 minutes before it started.

Mr. Chuong, 43, was detained on January 11 this year. According to the indictment, Mr. Chuong has conducted online activities on his Facebook account Chương May Mắn where he wrote or shared numerous statuses regarding hot issues Vietnam, including human rights abuse, serious nationwide environmental pollution, systemic corruption and the government’s weak response to China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea). His latest statuses on his Facebook page were about the military attack in Dong Tam commune carried out by the Ministry of Public Security and the Hanoi Police Department in the early morning of January 9 in which police killed at least two civilians.

His wife reported on her Facebook page that during the trial, the procuracy representative said Chuong should not write about the Dong Tam assault, because it is the issue of Hanoi and the capital city’s authorities are responsible for settle it.

Mr. Chuong has been the second Facebooker being detained for their online activities amid increasing crackdown on the local dissent. After him, Vietnam’s security forces arrested three others on different allegations. Ms. Ma Phung Ngoc Phu was charged with the same allegation while Ms. Dinh Thi Thu Thuy and Dinh Van Phu were alleged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 while former prisoner of conscience Tran Duc Thach was charged with subversion.

Since the Cyber Security Law become effective in early 2019, Vietnam has arrested more than two dozens of Facebookers on allegations of “conducting anti-state propaganda” and “abusing democratic freedom” in the National Security provisions of the Criminal Code, and sentenced 17 of them to between one and 11 years in prison, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics.

Along with arresting Facebookers and charging them with controversial criminal offenses in the national security provisions of the Criminal Code, security forces in different localities have summoned hundreds of local Facebookers for interrogation about their Facebook posts.

Regarding Covid-19 alone, around 300 Facebookers have been fined between VND5 million ($220) and VND15 million for disseminating news on the pandemic which are considered fake news by the communist regime. They were forced to delete their posts and promised not to repeat “wrongdoings,” according to the state-controlled media.

Vietnams’ regime has also pressured on Facebook, reducing its local traffic by switching off their serves in the country so the American firm has been agreed to censor political posts in a bid to protect its economic interests in the market with over 65 million accounts, according to the recent report of Reuters.