Defend the Defenders | July 5, 2022
Vietnam’s state-controlled media reported that on the morning of July 5, authorities in the capital city of Hanoi had arrested local human rights defender and well-known blogger Nguyen Lan Thang and charged him with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code, which is used very often to silence political dissidents.
State-run newspapers reported that the city’s People’s Procuracy approved the arrest warrant and house search.
According to his relatives, he was detained at around 8 AM on Tuesday on his way to a local cafeteria in Thinh Quang Ward, Dong Da district. Security officers took him away and later went to his private residency to conduct a house search, confiscating his cell phones, a laptop, and books.
Mr. Thang, 47, is a construction engineer from a prestigious family with many relatives having professor and doctoral titles as well as holding senior positions in the regime. One of his uncles was a member of the country’s legislative body National Assembly for several terms.
Thang started his social activities in 2011, participating in many peaceful anti-China demonstrations in Hanoi to protest China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) in the past decade. As a photographer and an activist, he was involved in other peaceful movements, including the environmental campaign in 2015 to protest Hanoi’s plan to chop down thousands of century trees in the city center or the anti-Formosa campaign in 2016 after the Taiwanese steel plant caused catastrophic environmental disaster in the country’s central coast that year.
His Facebook page has more than 152,000 followers, covering many issues of the country, from corruption to injustice in the communist-ruled nation in Southeast Asia.
He has also been involved in charity programs to help children of ethnic minorities in the northern mountainous areas and flood-affected localities in the central region.
He has been under constant persecution by the communist regime in the last decade. In 2013, he was detained for one day when he returned from Thailand and the Philippines, where he took part in a civil society course and met with United Nations (UN)’s human rights officials to report human rights abuse in Vietnam.
One year later, he was blocked from going to the US, where he was invited to attend World Press Freedom Day, organized by the US government and the UN Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO).
His family has been attacked several times by pro-government moves.
According to Defend the Defenders’ statistics, Vietnam’s authoritarian regime has arrested at least 12 activists and bloggers so far this year; five of them were accused of “conducting anti-state propaganda” with potential imprisonment of between three and 12 years, even 20 years, if convicted.
In the first half of this year, the regime convicted five activists of the allegation, sentencing them to between five and eight years in prison for their peaceful activities.
Together with the “abusing democratic freedom” allegation under Article 331 of the Criminal Code, the charge of “conducting anti-state propaganda” is very often used by Vietnam’s authoritarian state to imprison political dissidents and Facebookers. The UN’s High Commissioner on Human Rights and many foreign governments and international rights groups have called on Hanoi to remove the two articles from the country’s Criminal Code and request the regime to respect fundamental human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and free press.
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