Police complete investigation into prominent blogger in Vietnam

Authorities recommend Nguyen Lan Thang be charged with spreading anti-state information.


RFA | 2023.02.03

Hanoi police said that they completed an investigation into the case of prominent blogger Nguyen Lan Thang, who was arrested in July, and recommended he be charged with spreading anti-state information.

Le Van Luan, one of Thang’s two defense lawyers, told RFA on Friday that they received a notice saying that “the investigation was completed by Jan. 17.” The lawyer added that both defense counsels have registered to represent Thang. 

Born in 1975, Nguyen is a human rights activist who blogged for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. His wife, Le Bich Vuong, said that neither she nor his two lawyers have been able to speak with him or see him since his arrest on July 5.

“Our family hasn’t had any information about him and hasn’t been allowed to see him. Neither have his lawyers,” she said. 

Police announced that they recommended Thang be charged with “creating, storing, disseminating or propagandizing information, materials, items, and publications against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.

Vuong said her family was allowed each week to send him food and personal items purchased directly from the prison. She said she was very worried about his health as he has asthma. The detention center did not allow her to send him medicine. 

Investigators also told her family that Thang had complained of bone pain and blurred vision.

Academic family

Nguyen Lan Thang is from a well-known academic family in Vietnam, and his grandfather wrote a popular Vietnamese dictionary.

Thang is both a writer and an activist, beginning in 2011 with protests against China’s maritime incursions in the South China Sea. 

He was arrested in 2013, and in 2014 authorities forbade him from traveling to the United States to attend a World Press Freedom Day ceremony held by UNESCO. 

He has contributed articles as an independent commentator to RFA’s Vietnamese Service since 2013 on topics such as freedom, democracy and human rights. He also actively posted on his personal Facebook page.

Blocked from lawyers

His wife, Vuong, said she was told by police that Thang could only be allowed visitors, including his lawyers, once the police investigation was complete because he is accused of a national security violation.

“It’s extremely unreasonable,” Vuong told RFA. “Article 117 is very vague … I don’t think he has done any harm to the country’s interests.” 

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, said Thang faces a long prison term for simply expressing viewpoints on Facebook that the ruling Communist party doesn't like.

"Vietnam's campaign to censor critical views and put activists behind bars is not slowing down one iota despite the political unrest and official resignations at the top of the government,” Robertson said.

“Arresting people on ludicrous charges like ‘conducting anti-state propaganda’ is not a sign of strength but rather an indication of weakness,” he said, “and only goes to show just how politically paranoid Vietnam's ruling dictatorship really is about members of the public pointing out the regime's faults.”

Translated by Anna Vu. Edited by Nawar Nemeh and Malcolm Foster.



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