Vietnamese Facebook User Released From Prison One Month Early

Chung Hoang Chuong had posted articles online that authorities said had 'distorted' the official account of the deadly Jan. 9, 2020 land-rights clash at Dong Tam Commune.
2021-06-14
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Vietnamese Facebook User Released From Prison One Month Early Vietnamese Facebook user Chung Hoang Chuong is shown in an undated photo.
Facebook / Chuong May Man

A Vietnamese Facebook user jailed for 18 months for his posts about a violent land-rights clash at the Dong Tam commune outside Hanoi last year has been released from prison one month before the end of his sentence, sources said.

Chung Hoang Chuong, also called Chuong May Man, was released on June 11, after serving 17 months of an 18-month prison term handed down by a court in southern Vietnam’s Can Tho province in April 2020 for “distorting” official accounts of the deaths of three policemen in the January 2020 raid in which a village elder was also killed.

Speaking to RFA while traveling to his home in Can Tho City after his release, Chuong called his time spent in prison “a useful experience,” adding that he had experienced no regrets while in custody over the actions that led to his imprisonment.

“But I am happier today, because I can return home now to live with my wife and children and take over my wife’s work at home,” Chuong said, adding, “She has had a hard time lately.”

During his stay at the An Phuoc detention center in southern Vietnam’s Binh Duong province, Chuong said, he and other prisoners held on political charges had campaigned unsuccessfully to be allowed out of their cells on weekends and at the Lunar New Year to play sports and mingle with other inmates.

Chuong told RFA he is now in good mental and physical health.

No explanation was given for his early release from prison.

Writings about Dong Tam

Born in 1977, Chuong was arrested after posting several short articles on his Facebook page about the early morning Jan. 9, 2020 raid at Dong Tam commune’s Hoanh hamlet by 3,000 security officers intervening in a long-running dispute over a military airport construction site about 25 miles south of the capital, Hanoi.

Dong Tam village elder Le Dinh Kinh, 84, was shot and killed by police during the raid, and Kinh’s sons Le Dinh Chuc and Le Dinh Cong were sentenced to death on Sept. 14, 2020 in connection with the deaths of three police officers who were also killed in the clash.

Chuong had earlier drawn the attention of police because of a Facebook post in which he compared the shape of outdoor decorative lights in Can Tho City celebrating the ruling Communist Party to the shape of women’s underwear.

Harsh forms of persecution

With Vietnam’s media all following Communist Party orders, “the only sources of independently-reported information are bloggers and independent journalists, who are being subjected to ever-harsher forms of persecution,” the press freedoms watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says in its 2021 Press Freedoms Index.

Measures taken against them now include assaults by plainclothes police, RSF said in its report, which placed Vietnam at 175 out of 180 countries surveyed worldwide, a ranking unchanged from last year.

“To justify jailing them, the Party resorts to the criminal codes, especially three articles under which ‘activities aimed at overthrowing the government,’ ‘anti-state propaganda’ and ‘abusing the rights to freedom and democracy to threaten the interests of the state’ are punishable by long prison terms,” the rights group said.

Vietnam’s already low tolerance of dissent deteriorated sharply last year with a spate of arrests of independent journalists, publishers, and Facebook personalities as authorities continued to stifle critics in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party Congress in January. But arrests continue in 2021.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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