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Activist gets jail for criticising communist govt in Vietnam

Tran Van Bang is handed down an 8-year term for speaking and writing against the communist government’s social injustices
Tran Van Bang (in dark blue shirt) is coming out of a court in Ho Chi Minh City on May 12

Tran Van Bang (in dark blue shirt) is coming out of a court in Ho Chi Minh City on May 12. (Photo: Vo Hong Ly)

Published: May 12, 2023 11:41 AM GMT
Updated: May 12, 2023 11:49 AM GMT

A rights activist who campaigned against the communist government’s injustices and the Chinese invasion of Vietnam’s sea has been sentenced to jail in Vietnam.

The People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City on May 12 handed down an eight-year jail sentence to Tran Van Bang for “making, storing, disseminating or propagandizing information, materials and products that aim to oppose” the Republic of Vietnam,” according to the state-owned Tuoitre newspaper.

The paper said Bang, 62, wrote and posted 39 articles with contents that slander the government and propagate misinformation, causing confusion among people. He expressed hatred and discontent towards communist leaders, the paper further alleged.

Bang, a former Catholic and an irrigation engineer, from Hai Duong province was accused of storing many materials and books, inciting violence, spreading reactionary ideas, and causing hatred among people of different countries.

Bang must be punished strictly so as to deter others, the paper noted.

However, rights activist Vo Hong Ly said Bang was given the harshest jail for his “desire to protect national sovereignty and justice.”

Ly, who was at the trial, said Bang, who was also given three years of probation following his sentence "is completely innocent."

She said the prison can only torture his body but will never kill his will and ideas.

She said before his arrest in March 2022, Bang told her that “If God chooses me to be the next person to bear the cross to defend truth and righteousness, I will do God’s will.” 

Bang converted to Catholicism to marry his wife, but later they divorced due to police harassment.

Human rights activist Professor Mac Van Trang said Bang actively joined public protests against the Chinese invasion of Vietnam’s sea and islands and criticized the government’s oppression of those whose properties were confiscated illegally. 

When China annexed the Paracel Islands in 1974, Vietnam is reported to have tried to keep quiet. Its response to the occupation of Johnson South Reef in the Spratly Islands by China was weak in 1988.

“Vietnam’s leaders show their weakness, not their strength, by arresting, detaining, and prosecuting anyone who expresses critical views about the government on the internet,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said.

He called on the Vietnamese government to immediately drop all charges and release Bang, who simply exercised the basic right to freedom of expression.

The group reported that since 2018, communist-ruled Vietnam has convicted at least 60 bloggers and activists for posting anti-state materials and sentenced some of them up to 15 years in prison.

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