Viet Nam: Relentless crackdown on freedom of speech as five more jailed

Responding to the prison sentences of between eight and 15 years handed to five peaceful protestors by the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City today, Minar Pimple, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Global Operations, said:
“Luu Van Vinh is a construction worker and member of a small group interested in the environment, as well as democracy and human rights. Today, he and his co-defendants were found guilty of ‘activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration.’ They have already spent almost two years in prison awaiting trial. This cruel and senseless ruling is clearly aimed at stifling people’s right to speak their mind. They should immediately and unconditionally be released.
“Thirteen people have been placed behind bars in only the past five weeks for ‘crimes’ such as blogging, using Facebook and other peaceful pursuits. This is a deeply concerning escalation. These convictions and jail sentences should all be voided immediately, as should those of over one hundred other prisoners of conscience languishing in Viet Nam’s jails.
“With a new cybersecurity law taking effect in January, Viet Nam’s leaders are likely to step up their relentless crackdown against their people. As today’s ruling shows, they are feeling emboldened already, and muzzling peaceful dissent in any way they can. It’s time to reverse direction and let the people of Viet Nam be free to express themselves and enjoy their human rights.”
On 5 October 2018, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City handed prisons sentences to Luu Van Vinh (15 years), Nguyen Van Duc Do (11 years), Tu Cong Nghia (10 years), Nguyen Quoc Hoan (13 years) and Phan Trung (8 years), after convicting them of “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.
Luu Van Vinh had been active in peacefully protesting Chinese maritime activity in the disputed South China Sea and the government’s response to the Formosa environmental disaster, a massive toxic spill from a Taiwanese steel plant in Viet Nam’s central coast. His co-defendants are accused of belonging to a small local group Vinh founded to promote democracy and human rights called the “Coalition of Self-determined Vietnamese Peoples.”
In pre-trial detention since November 2016, their detention was denounced as unlawful and arbitrary by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in May 2018.
This verdict is the latest in a recent wave of repressive rulings. Amnesty is aware of another eight people jailed last month merely for exercising peacefully their right to freedom of expression.