Vietnam using cyber law to jail critics: NGO

Six Vietnamese activists and bloggers are facing lengthy jail terms for their peaceful opposition to the Communist authorities, according to lobby group Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The six are allegedly being prosecuted for peaceful political activities, such as forming an organisation, speaking out on social media and attending public gatherings.

Five of them were tried in October last year for taking part in a pro-democracy group and given jail terms of eight to 15 years.

A high court is scheduled to hear the appeal of Luu Van Vinh, Nguyen Van Duc Do, Nguyen Quoc Hoan, Phan Trung and Tu Cong Nghia in Ho Chi Minh City on March 18.

The five were arrested in November 2016 for alleged affiliation with the Vietnam National Self-Determination Coalition, a political group. Police charged them with “carrying out activities that aim to overthrow the people’s administration”.

Le Minh The is due to face trial on March 20 over his Facebook posts in the Binh Thuy district court in Can Tho.

The 56-year-old is a member of Hien Phap, a pro-democracy group promoting rights enshrined in Vietnam’s constitution.

China’s Xinhua mouthpiece said Laos and Vietnam had agreed to continue co-operation in the development of cybersecurity, e-government and postal services. The move could enable the two repressive governments to share data more effectively.

“Vietnam’s deepening rights crackdown is targeting independent political associations and individual activists who dare to demand that the government respect rights and restore democracy,” said Phil Robertson of HRW. “International donors and trade partners should tell Vietnam that continuing this crackdown will cause problems for the aid and trade deals that Hanoi wants to conclude with North America and the European Union.”

The US-based rights group said at least 142 people had been convicted on charges related to protests in June last year over laws on special economic zones and cybersecurity.

Many have been sentenced to several years in prison for “disrupting public order”.
Vietnam’s Cyber Security Law became effective in January and the authorities have since arrested at least three people – Duong Thi Lanh, Huynh Dac Tuy, and Nguyen Van Cong Em – over alleged Facebook posts, HRW said.

“The authorities are using draconian provisions of Vietnam’s criminal code to suppress peaceful dissent, increasing the rapidly growing population of peaceful dissenters behind bars,” Robertson, HRW’s regional specialist, added. “International donors and trade partners should press Hanoi’s leaders to dialogue with dissidents, not turn the country into a giant prison.”

The Vietnamese authorities are increasingly scrutinising online debate. Picture credit: Wikimedia