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Vietnam upholds prison terms for dissidents interviewed by “foreign radio stations”

Ho Thi Bich Khuong

Ho Thi Bich Khuong (photo: Human Rights Watch; c. Ho Thi Bich Khuong)

The government of Vietnam has rejected the appeals of two activists convicted of “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” The alleged crimes involved being interviewed by “foreign radio stations” and membership in human rights groups that include “reactionary people,” according to Radio Free Asia.

The most prominent of the dissidents is blogger Ho Thi Bich Khuong, described by the outlawed Vietnam Reform Party (Viet Tan) as “one of Vietnam’s foremost advocates for farmers victimized by government land grabs.” Khuong won a Human Rights Watch Hellman/Hammett Award in 2011—the prize named after writers Lillian Hellman and Dashiel Hammett.

She’s been arrested numerous times, facing charges like “disrupting public order” and “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state” and similar accusations. The other activist is Nguyen Trung Ton. They face five and two year prison sentences, respectively.

In November of 2010, Khuong was incarcerated when she raised questions about deaths caused by police during a demonstration over land rights at a petrochemical refinery in Thanh Hoa province. She also spoke out for religious minorities, most notably Mennonites in the area trying to celebrate Christmas.

Prior to this latest decision by the Vietnamese courts, Human Rights Watch in Asia issued a statement about her case: “Vietnam should be grateful that people like Ho Thi Bich Khuong call attention to local abuses. They give the government an opportunity to investigate and show commitment to the rule of law. When the government instead clamps down on the media and locks up independent bloggers, it simply encourages further corruption and abuse of power.”

Last year Vietnam’s government arrested two unlicensed radio operators who appear to be linked to the Falun Gong Buddhist group. The crackdown came in response to pressure from China. The government charged Vu Duc Trung and Le Van Thanh with unlicensed broadcasting and streaming their program, The Sound of Hope Radio Network, to Chinese listeners. They operated on a farm about 800 km from China.

According to IEWY News , in November Trung received a prison sentence of three years for his activities, and Thanh a sentence of two.





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