Defend the Defenders, March 1, 2022
Vietnam’s security forces continue political suppression, which started in late 2015, arresting Ho Chi Minh City-based human rights activist and civil society campaigner Tran Van Bang (aka Tran Bang) on March 1 and charged him with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 with potential imprisonment of between seven and 12 years, even 20 years in prison.
According to local activists, the HCM City police broke into his private residence on Tuesday morning when he was alone at home. The state-controlled media reported that police also conducted a house search and confiscated several documents with “anti-state” content.
Citing information from the city’s Police Department, the state-controlled newspapers reported that the local police probed the case on November 24 last year.
Like other political cases, Mr. Bang, 61, likely will be held incommunicado for at least four months during the investigation period.
Before being arrested, Mr. Bang was summoned by the local police twice, and he told his friends that he would be arrested soon.
In late 2021, he announced to close his Facebook page Tran Bang to focus on his health. He reportedly has a number of health issues in recent years, including eye vision but has not been appropriately treated due to the Covid-19 pandemic and social isolation due to the deadly outbreak.
Mr. Bang, an engineer in construction, was involved in social affairs more than a decade ago. He is among well-known government critics and often gives interviews to foreign media such as Radio Free Asia, Voice of America, and BBC.
He has actively participated in peaceful demonstrations in HCM City and Hanoi since 2011 to protest China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea). He was detained many times by security forces, and in a protest in 2015, he was brutally beaten by security forces.
Bang has been the second activist being detained and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” since the beginning of 2022. On January 10, blogger Le Manh Ha got arrested for his posts on Facebook on a number of issues, including systemic corruption and land grabbing across the country.
According to Defend the Defenders’ latest statistics, Vietnam holds at least 254 prisoners of conscience, including 37 in pre-trial detention. Hanoi always denies holding prisoners of conscience but only law violators. Among them are 12 activists in pre-trial detention and 50 convicted activists alleged of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code (1999) or Article 117 of the Criminal Code (2015), the controversial accusation the international community has urged Vietnam’s authoritarian regime to remove from the country’s law because it has been used for decades to silence peaceful government critics.
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