Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A Vietnamese court has sentenced two student activists, one a Catholic, to between six and eight years in prison for distributing leaflets against China's "imperialist" policies in the South China Sea and the Vietnamese Communist Party's subservience.
Today's court rulings are the latest in an intensified government crackdown against people who protest on behalf of human and property rights or express their patriotism against foreign powers (i.e China) that interfere in the country's domestic affairs or violate its sovereignty in the case of the Spratly and Parcel Islands.
According to their lawyer, Nguyen Phuong Uyen, a 21-year-old Catholic woman (pictured), and Dinh Nguyen Kha, 25, were arrested in Ho Chi Minh City, southern Vietnam, in October of last year for handing out anti-government leaflets during a protest against China.
The two were charged with "conducting propaganda against the state" under Article 88 of the penal code, whilst Kha faced the additional charge of "terrorism" under Article 84 in a separate case. Vietnamese Catholics had mobilised for the young woman. The two will serve six and eight years in prison respectively.
For Vietnam's ruling Communist Party, the dispute with China is difficult to handle because, despite patriotic claims, it has forged strong trade political and links with the mainland.
During court hearings, one of lawyers repeatedly stressed, in vain, that the "patriotism" of the two young defendants should be taken into consideration and that neither had the intention of opposing the government.
Recently, the mother of the Catholic woman also found out that her daughter had suffered physical abuse and violence whilst in prison.
However, the authorities did not address the issue and kept silent over her request for help and protection.