Government against dissent: four more activists convicted
by Bich Lien

Vũ Quang Thuận, Nguyễn Văn Điển, Trần Hoàng Phúc and Hồ Văn Hải have been convicted for "propaganda against the state". More than a hundred people are currently held as political prisoners or prisoners of conscience for exercising their fundamental rights. Catholics too have paid a price for their actions.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Four bloggers and human rights activists have been recently sentenced to a total of 24 years in prison and 15 under house arrest.

On 31st January, the People's Court in Hanoi convicted Vũ Quang Thuận, Nguyễn Văn Điển and Trần Hoàng Phúc, a student, (pictured) for "propaganda against the state".

The following day, a court in Ho Chi Minh City convicted Hồ Văn Hải for the same crime. He had already been in custody for more than a year.

Vũ Quang Thuận, 51, and Nguyễn Văn Điển worked together on behalf of Vietnamese migrant workers in Malaysia. They also organised environmental protests.  

Both were arrested on 2 March 2017 for posting online 17 videos criticising the government. Vũ Quang Thuận was given an eight-year sentence plus five years under house arrest, whilst Nguyễn Văn Điển got six and a half years in prison and four more at home.

Trần Hoàng Phúc, a 23-year-old student at the Law University in Ho Chi Minh City, is a member of the Youth Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI).

In recent years, he took part in many social activities, assisting flood victims in central Vietnam and contributing to human rights initiatives organised by the Redemptorist Fathers in Ho Chi Minh City.

He was also active in the protests following the environmental disaster caused by Formosa Plastics Corp, a Taiwanese company, in April 2016, in the central coast of Vietnam.

On 29 June 2017, police arrested Trần in Hanoi for storing and posting documents online that amount to propaganda against “the Socialist Republic of Vietnam", a crime that landed him six years in prison and two under house arrest.

At his trial, he told the court: “You can put me in prison for 10, 20 years, but can this regime survive for all that time?  I am going to fight until there is democracy in Vietnam.”

"Propaganda against the state" also cost former physician Hồ Văn Hải, 52, four years in prison and two years under house arrest.

He had set up a scholarship programme to study in Western countries (Quĩ Khuyến Học Tây Du, Journey to the West). On his blog and Facebook account he had posted many documents and articles promoting education and environmental protection, as well as criticising the communist government for its misdeeds.

Government newspaper Người Lao Động (Labourer) reports that the court also accused Hồ Văn Hải of "calling on people to take part in demonstrations” against Formosa Plastics, and to join a “civil disobedience movement” in violation of Communist Party policy and plans.

In recent months, Vietnamese authorities have been engaged in a campaign against dissent. More than a hundred people are currently held as political prisoners or prisoners of conscience for exercising their fundamental rights.

Dissidents face harassment, intimidation, surveillance and police interrogation on an almost daily basis, and are subjected to long periods of provisional detention without access to lawyers or family members.

Many Catholics have also paid a price for their action. Catholic activists have often received harsh sentences, as in the recent cases of Nguyễn Văn Oai (five years), Trần Thị Nga (nine), Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh (ten) and Nguyễn Văn Hóa (seven).