Ha Tinh Seeks to Arrest Activist Bach Hong Quyen amid Rising Public Anger about the Formosa Environmental Disaster

Human rights activist Bach Hong Quyen

by Defend the Defenders, May 7, 2017

Authorities in Vietnam’s central province of Ha Tinh have issued a warrant for the arrest of Bach Hong Quyen, one of the key activist bloggers who have provided news related to the environmental disaster caused by the Taiwanese Formosa steel plant in the central coastal region, and to peaceful demonstrations of local residents.

The warrant was signed into effect on April 19. However, Quyen, a pro-democracy and human rights activists and environmentalist, remains free, said his fellows.

In an interview to the Radio Free Asia, Quyen said he is prepared to serve time in prison.

“I accepted it when I chose this path fighting for human rights, because I am a member of the Vietnam Path movement—the mission of which is to act as an advocate and educate people about their rights,” he said, adding: “The possibility of being arrested does not scare me or hold me back, because we must fight when there is injustice.”

Many Vietnamese activists have been harassed by the authorities for covering the April 2016 Formosa toxic waste spill, which caused massive deaths of fish and left fishermen jobless in four coastal provinces, or for their involvement in protests against the company.

In January, Ha Tinh police arrested blogger Nguyen Van Hoa for covering news related to Formosa’s discharge of toxic industrial waste into Vietnamese waters. He was initially charged with “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens” under Article 258 but later with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code instead.

Formosa has agreed to pay $500 million to clean up and compensate coastal residents affected by the spill, but slow and uneven payout of the funds by the Vietnamese government has prompted protests that continue to be held, more than a year later.