Can Tho Imprisons 4th Blogger on Allegation of “Abusing Democratic Freedom”

Blogger Bui Manh Dong at the trial against him on September 27, 2018

Defend the Defenders, September 27, 2018

On September 27, the People’s Court of Thot Not district in the Mekong Delta’s economic hub of Can Tho convicted local blogger Bui Manh Dong on allegation of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code.

According to the indictment, Mr. Dong, 40, was found guilty of posting on social media many statuses and images which defame late President Ho Chi Minh and his successor Ton Duc Thang as well as other senior officials of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and its government.

Mr. Dong was arrested on September 1, one day prior to the country’s Independent Day (September 2) and charged with “Illegal provision or use of information on computer networks or telecommunications networks” under Article 288 of the Penal Code.

Mr. Dong is the 4th blogger in Can Tho City being arrested and convicted within a week. On September 22, the People’s Court in Cai Rang district sentenced Mr. Nguyen Hong Nguyen, 38 and Truong Dinh Khang, 26, to two years and one year in prison, respectively, and two days later, Mr. Doan Khanh Vinh Quang was given to 27 months in prison, for the same charge under Article 331.

Vietnam’s communist regime continues its crackdown on local dissent and online bloggers which started in late 2015 with the arrest of prominent human right attorney Nguyen Van Dai, one of founders of the Brotherhood for Democracy.

Since the beginning of 2018, Vietnam has arrested 23 activists on allegations of subversion (Article 109), conducting anti-state propaganda (Article 117) and “abusing democratic freedom” (Article 331) in the national security provisions of the Penal Code.

The communist regime has convicted 33 activists and sentenced them to a total 225.5 years in prison and 56 years of probation. Environmentalist and human rights defender Le Dinh Luong was given the record high sentence of 20 years in prison and five years of probation for subversion.

In addition, Vietnam arrested hundreds of activists and people participating in the mass demonstration in mid-June which broke out to protest two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security. So far, 52 of protesters have been sentenced to between eight and 54 months in prison and eight others have been given between five and 12 months of probation, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics. More convictions against protesters are expected in coming months.

Despite strong public protest against the draft law on Cyber Security, the communist-dominated parliament approved the bill on June 12 and it will become effective on January 1 next year.

More and more bloggers have been arrested and numerous citizens have been targetted for their online posts on social networks, especially Facebook, the most popular online platform in Vietnam with around 40 millions of users.

Many activists have complained that Facebook suspended their accounts for their posts critical for Vietnam’s communist regime. The situation became worsened since Facebook appointed Le Diep Kieu Trang, a daughter of a senior communist official, as its director in the Southeast Asian nation in March 2018.