Vietnamese Facebook User Draws Seven-Year Prison Term for ‘Anti-State’ Writings

Dang Hoang Minh is the latest to be jailed for writings 'opposing the State' under Article 117 of Vietnam's Penal Code.
2021-06-02
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Dang Hoang Minh is shown at his trial in the Hau Giang People's Court, June 2, 2021.
State Media

A court in southern Vietnam’s southern Hau Giang province on Wednesday sentenced a Facebook user to seven years in prison for posting writings said by prosecutors to have misrepresented state policies, Vietnamese sources said.

Dang Hoang Minh, 28, had been charged with “creating, storing, and disseminating information, items, and materials opposing the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s 2015 Criminal Code, state media reports said.

Reports by local media did not say when Minh—a resident of the Phu Khoi hamlet in Hau Giang’s Phung Hiep district—had been arrested or whether he had been represented by a lawyer at his trial.

Citing the provincial People’s Procuracy indictment against him, state media said Minh had posted several “untrue stories” concerning current and former leaders of Vietnam’s one-party communist government on his Facebook page from June to December 2020.

Former Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, founder of the country’s communist party, was among the leaders Minh had defamed, prosecutors said, adding that Minh’s postings had been aimed at opposing the national government and ruling party and had caused “confusion and anxiety” to his readers.

Reporting by RFA shows that at least 21 Vietnamese citizens have been charged with political offenses involving social media posts since the beginning of the year, with 21 now serving prison terms following convictions under Article 117.

Among those jailed this year, former RFA blogger Nguyen Tuong Thuy, now in his 70s, was sentenced on Jan. 5 by a court in Ho Chi Minh City to an 11-year prison term following his conviction on charges under Article 117.

On Friday, April 23, a court in coastal Phu Yen province sentenced an independent journalist, Tran Thi Tuyet Dieu, to an eight-year prison term for writing “anti-state” stories and sharing them on social media.

And on May 5, a court in northern Vietnam’s Hoa Binh province sentenced land-rights activist Can Thi Theu and her son Tring Ba Tu to eight years in prison each for posting online articles and livestream videos criticizing the government for its handling of a deadly land-rights clash last year.

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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