05/16/2017, 15.47
VIETNAM

Authorities crack down on activists fighting for Formosa victims

Hoàng Đức Bình will be detained for 90 days. He was with Fr Nguyễn Đình Thục, one of the two priests denounced by the government. Hundreds of people gathered to demand Bình’s release. The Catholic Church supports local grievances and is the victim of government reprisals. Catholic activist Thái Văn Dung is wanted by the authorities.

Hanoi (AsiaNews/RFA) – Vietnamese authorities on Monday detained Hoàng Đức Bình, a prominent human rights activist, for anti-state activities, and announced an arrest warrant against human rights defender Thái Văn Dung for violating probation. This comes amid a crackdown on people protesting the government’s handling of the devastating 2016 toxic waste spill.

Police in central Vietnam’s Nghệ An province arrested Bình, 34, for “opposing officers on duty” and “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the state”, the Nghệ An Public Security newspaper reported.

Bình will be detained for 90 days for defaming the ruling Communist Party on social media and using the April 2016 waste spill by Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics Group’s steel plant as an excuse to cause social disorder through protests in Nghệ An and Hà Tĩnh provinces.

Bình was travelling with Fr Nguyễn Đình Thục, a Catholic priest, after leaving Song Ngoc parish in Nghệ An’s Quynh Luu district when plainclothes officers pulled them and arrested him. His whereabouts are at present unknown.

Fr Nguyễn Đình Thục is one of two priests who, in early May, was denounced by the Vietnamese government for organising protests against Formosa Plastics. In 2016, the latter’s toxic waste spill killed about 115 tonnes of fish and left fishermen jobless in the four most affected coastal provinces.

The Taiwanese company voluntarily paid US 0 million to clean up and compensate coastal residents affected by the spill, but slow and uneven payout of the funds by the Vietnamese government has prompted protests that continue to be held more than a year later.

Security personnel were deployed to stop a demonstration by hundreds of people gathered in front of the Diễn Châu District government office to demand Bình’s release. The Catholic Church supports local grievances and is itself the victim of reprisals by the authorities.

Also on Monday, the official Nghệ An newspaper announced a nationwide hunt for Catholic activist Thái Văn Dung, citing an arrest warrant signed by the provincial police on 8 March 2017 for failing to comply with his sentence from an earlier prison term.

According to the paper, Dung, who has helped to organise anti-Formosa protests, violated his terms of probation and “fled his residence”.

Dung was arrested on 19 August 2011 and sentenced on 9 January 2013 to four years in jail and four years of probation for trying to “overthrow the government' and for his alleged affiliation with banned opposition party Viet Tan.

Upon his release in August 2015, Dung said that prison authorities had offered to reduce his sentence if he signed a confession admitting to the charges against him, but said he had refused.

He also noted that he was forced to routinely fight for his limited rights and conduct hunger strikes to get his way, including a 12-day fast in early 2014 to try to win the right read religious books.

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