March 31, 2021
Defend the Defenders, March 30, 2021
Vietnam’s communist regime has convicted four activists named Mr. Vu Tien Chi, Ms. Nguyen Thi Cam Thuy, Ms. Ngo Thi Ha Phuong, and Mr. Le Viet Hoa of “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the country’s Criminal Code for their online activities.
In two separated trials held in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong and the central coastal province of Khanh Hoa on March 30, the four activists were sentenced to a combined total 31 years in prison and six years of probation. The People’s Court of Lam Dong gave Mr. Chi 10 years in prison followed by three years of probation while the People’s Court of Khanh Hoa sentenced Ms. Thuy to nine years in prison and three years of probation, Ms. Phuong- seven years and Mr. Hoa- five years in prison.
According to the indictment, from the beginning of 2018, Mr. Chi shared 338 articles and conducted 181 livestreams on his Facebook page with content distorting the regime’s policies and defaming senior communist leaders, including late President Ho Chi Minh, who founded the communist regime. These online posts are harmful for the regime and affected the people’s beliefs in the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and its government, the trial panel of the People’s Court of Lam Dong concluded.
The People’s Court of Khanh Hoa province concluded that Ms. Thuy, a former school teacher fired for her political opinion, was responsible for 181 livestreams and many posts on her Facebook accounts “Nguyễn Cẩm Thúy” and “Cẩm Thúy Cô” to defame the regime. She was also accused of burning the red flags of the ruling party and the regime as well as cutting portraits of senior leaders, including the regime founder Ho Chi Minh.
On March 29, the Khanh Hoa newspaper, the mouthpiece of the province’s Party Committee reported that the province’s People’s Court will hold the first-instance hearing on March 30-31 to try Ms. Thuy and two others named Ngo Thi Phuong Ha and Le Viet Hoa, however, the state-controlled media has not reported their activities which can be used for their conviction.
The state-run newspapers also reported that Mr. Chi and Ms. Thuy know each other, having a joint plan to expand a network of people sharing the same thoughts to establish a political opposition.
Both Chi and Thuy were arrested on June 24 last year. There is no information about their pre-trial detention. It is unclear whether the four activists have their own lawyers during their trials or not.
They are among 51 activists being imprisoned on the charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code 2015 (or Article 88 of the Penal Code 1999) which is condemned by the international community as an effective tool to silence government critics. President of the unregistered professional group Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) PhD. Pham Chi Dung and his deputy Nguyen Tuong Thuy as well as world-recognized human rights defender and well-known political blogger Pham Doan Trang were also arrested on this charge. Mr. Dung and Mr. Thuy were sentenced to 15 years and 11 years in prison, respectively, in early January this year while Ms. Trang is still held incommunicado in pre-trial detention after her arrest on October 7 last year.
In March, Vietnam’s security forces arrested three Facebookers on the same allegation, two of them Tran Trong Khanhand Le Trong Hung have declared to run as self-nominated candidates for the country’s highest legislative body National Assembly in the election scheduled in late May.
Vietnam continues to intensify its crackdown on the local political dissidents, social activists, and human rights defenders which started in late 2015. Since the beginning of this year, it has arrested five activists on the allegations of “conducting anti-state propaganda” or “abusing democratic freedom,” and convicted nine others and sentenced them to a combined total of 76 years in prison and 15 years of probation, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics.
The persecution tendency is expected to be severe in the next five years after many conservative senior leaders such as General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and Minister of Public Security To Lam of the communist regime were re-elected to the party’s leadership in its 13th National Congress which ended on February 1.