The People’s Court of Lam Dong province on Tuesday sentenced a local Facebooker to eight years in prison for posting anti-state messages on his Facebook account, Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security said.
Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong, 29, was convicted of “Making, storing, distributing or disseminating information, documents, and articles against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code.
Commenting on the verdict, activist Pham Minh Vu wrote: “Vuong is a very young generation who has voiced his desire to contribute to eliminating injustice in society, he is the 9X generation but always awake for the destiny of the country. Vuong did not remain silent but took to the streets in protest against the Special Economic Zones bill in June 2018.
In the judge’s sentence today, it stated that Vuong’s impeachment states that: In June 2018, Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong once went to Ho Chi Minh City to participate in protests against two bills on “Special Economic Zones” and Cyber Security. With a sense of opposition, dissatisfaction with the regime, Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong used social networks to post and distribute 98 Livestream videos with the equivalent of 110 hours of broadcast and 366 posts on his Facebook page “Vượng Nguyễn.”
That is, because of protesting against the bill which aimed to provide incentives for foreign investors, mostly Chinese ones, and many live streams expressing his feelings that he did not ignore the injustices in society due to corrupt officials who focus only on land grabbing, and police’s torture leading to many deaths in police stations nationwide. So what is wrong with Vuong that he is being jailed with the heavy sentence?
Even in the police’s proposal for arresting it was written: “Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong is a Catholic, … affected by the hostile thought because Vuong’s father (…) had time joining the Republic of Vietnam’s army in 1968-1974 with the rank of a private soldier.”
It is a revenge of the communist regime against soldiers and officers serving for the Republic of Vietnam backed by the US during the Vietnam War. The communist always call for national reconciliation, as well as always shouting for equality of religions. However, the reality shows that they speak and work differently.
Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong has accepted everything he did, but shows his right perspective on social issues in a right way, but does not consider it a violation of the law.
The final words of Mr. Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong are recorded by lawyer Nguyen Van Trai:
“According to the law of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, I violated the law, but for conscience, I do not see myself guilty at all.”
Posting on personal Facebook
Arrested on September 23, 2019, Mr. Vuong allegedly played a live video several times for a total of 110 hours, and posted 336 posts on his personal Facebook page during the period from June 28, 2018, to September 3, 2029 “with illegal content.”
Hanoi Mới (New Hanoi) newspaper quoted the content of the indictment, saying that the videos and articles “slandered the people’s administration; defamed the socialist regime, opposed the Communist Party and the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, distorting the government, insulting late leader Ho Chi Minh, and smearing senior leaders of the Party and State.”
The indictment also stated that Mr. Vuong “once went to Ho Chi Minh City to participate in protests against the two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security on June 10, 2018.” He was arrested by Ho Chi Minh City’s police. He was fined VND750,000 ($32) for “Gathering many people in public places to cause public disorder.”
In addition to eight years in prison, Vuong has to spend three years of probation after completing his imprisonment.
“Expressing a different viewpoint from the Communist Party of Vietnam is not a criminal offense,” said
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), adding the sentencing of Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong was “excessive and unacceptable.”
The bulletin posted on HRW’s website on October 7, 2019, just a few days after Mr. Wang’s arrest, wrote:
“Although it is unclear exactly which Vuong’s posts on Vuong make the government the most discontent, his account presents many independent perspectives that may upset the Communist Party and the Vietnamese government.”
“However, no news article relating to inciting crimes, violence, hatred or other content that violates criminal law is consistent with the right to freedom of speech that Vietnam has committed to respect when participating in the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.”
“Vietnam must recognize that expressing political views different from the Communist Party’s line is not criminal,” Mr. Phil Robertson told Reuters after the trial of Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong.
Just one day earlier, the Lam Dong court convicted three other people and sentenced them to a total 19 years in jail on the allegation of “acting to overthrow the people’s administration.”
Dang Toan Trung (68 years old), Dang Quang Khanh (56 years old) and Tran Thi Anh Hoa (57 years old) were found guilty of propagating content that distort history and denied the role of the ruling Communist Party, defaming its leaders, and taking other actions “against the state,” Thanh Nien newspaper said.
The arrest of political activists in Vietnam has been going on steadily, continuously since the end of last year until now, while Vietnam is preparing to hold an important event, the 13th National Congress in January 2021.
Lawyer Nguyen Van Trai, who defended Vuong, said the sentence was too heavy and said the irregularities in the trial were as follows:
“They relied on the assessment conclusion on December 31, 2019. Actually, this assessment conclusion only had 14 video clips, and there were 98 of them.
They only had 14 inspections, but they concluded 98 violations.
In that assessment conclusion, the first one, I told them that they both kicked the ball and blew the whistle.
The Department of Culture and Information of Don Duong district denounced and the Department of Information and Communication assessed, that is the same system on the one side denouncing a person going to assess.”
According to lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng, , the assessment conclusion of the Department of Information and Communications of Lam Dong province said that they had no basis to identify 366 articles and 98 video clips of live stream made by Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong have affected life of the local people.
Vietnam News Agency announced at the trial, Mr. Vuong still believes that his behavior is only presenting personal opinions on social networks, admitting his behavior is a violation of the law of the Socialist Republic but said that he did not commit crimes against the nation and asked to be heard in accordance with Vietnamese law.
Judge Nguyen Nhu Hoai on behalf of the Trial Council of Lam Dong Provincial People’s Court declared that Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong’s behavior was dangerous to society and very serious and the accused did not really repent his behavior.
Therefore, the trial panel sentenced Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong to 8 years in prison from the date of his arrest.
Mr. Phil Robertson, Deputy Director in charge of Asia for Human Rights Watch, announced the first instance trial for Vuong as follows:
“Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong is at risk of being jailed for daring to express his opinions on Facebook. This is cruel and unacceptable.
Vietnam must recognize that it is not a crime to express political views contrary to the Communist Party’s line.
He acted in accordance with the freedom of speech promised by Vietnam but has not been implemented for decades.
The Lam Dong People’s Court should dismiss all charges against Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong and release him immediately.
The Vietnamese government should stop the persecution of bloggers and activists, and release all those they have detained just because they dare to say what they think.”