Vietnamese Dissident Receives Death Threats Over Criticism of China’s COVID Vaccines

Mac Van Trang told officials in Ho Chi Minh City not to accept Sinopharm doses donated by a local conglomerate.
2021.09.23
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Vietnamese professor and dissident Mac Van Trang in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Mac Van Trang/Facebook

A professor and popular Vietnamese dissident said Thursday that he has received death threats by phone after publishing a series of social media posts criticizing the use of China’s coronavirus vaccines in Vietnam.

Mac Van Trang, known for his critical voice on sociopolitical issues in Vietnam, said he received threatening calls after he posted stories on the Chinese vaccines on his Facebook page, including a letter he wrote to the Ho Chi Minh City leaders, advising them not to accept millions of doses of the Sinopharm vaccine.

“One recent evening, an anonymous man called me on the phone, saying that I shouldn’t keep talking about it and should behave myself; otherwise I would put my life in danger,” Trang told RFA. “He also said that people are dying, and it’s good to have vaccines, and it would be a crime to prevent it. Therefore, I should mind my tongue!”

Vietnam is experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases with the spread of the more contagious Delta variant, and large areas of the country of more than 98 million people have been under lockdown. Only about seven percent of Vietnamese adults have been fully vaccinated.
On Thursday, Vietnam reported a total 728,435 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including nearly 9,500 news ones, and more than 18,000 deaths with 236 new fatalities.

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Health decided to allocate an additional 8 million doses of China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine donated by the Van Thinh Phat Group to 25 cities and provinces, the country’s Tuoi Tre News reported.

But citizens throughout the country have expressed concern, fearing the Sinopharm doses might produce hidden side effects, Ngo Tri Long, former rector of the Ministry of Finance’s Price and Market Research Institute, told RFA in an earlier report.

Trang, 83, was a long-term member of the Communist Party of Vietnam, but he resigned on Oct. 26, 2018, when the party decided to discipline Chu Hao, a well-known intellectual who criticized the government. Trang currently lives in Ho Chi Minh City and posts critiques of sociopolitical issues on his Facebook page.

It was not the first time that he had received such calls, Trang said, adding that threats were made after he spoke out about sensitive incidents in Vietnam, including a deadly land-rights dispute in January 2020. At that time, about 3,000 security officers raided a hamlet in Dong Tam commune to intervene in a long-running dispute over a military airport construction site about 25 miles south of Vietnam’s capital Hanoi.

“In our society, there are many people who have been indoctrinated for a long time that whatever contradicts the [Communist] Party’s policy and guidelines is considered hostile,” he said of the threats he has received.

“From the general secretary, prime minister, and president to others in the government, they always talk about enemies and hostile forces,” Trang said. “This has created a dangerous mindset among party fanatics who exist when the party exists, and who see anyone who criticizes it as a hostile force.”

In addition to the 8 million new shots, Vietnam has received roughly 50 million vaccine doses, including 20 million Sinopharm doses — more than six million of which were donated by China and five million of which were purchased by Ho Chi Minh City, Tuoi Tre News said.

Before the new allocation, 5.5 million Sinopharm vaccine doses had been administered to people in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Quang Ninh province, Hai Phong city, Binh Duong province, and Dong Nai province, the report said.

Vietnam’s President Nguyen Xuan Phuc traveled to Havana last weekend for an official visit, where he met with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and finalized a deal for Vietnam to buy 10 million doses of Cuba’s Abdala vaccine.

Italy has also promised to donate 800,000 doses of the British-Swedish AstraZeneca vaccine to Vietnam, raising Rome’s commitment to Hanoi to over 1.6 million doses through the COVAX program co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the World Health Organization; and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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