Police in Vietnam arrest anti-China protester for online comments

Authorities have also confirmed the arrest of a teacher for his online criticism of the government.
By RFA Vietnamese
2023.07.24
Police in Vietnam arrest anti-China protester for online comments Duong Tuan Ngoc, a teacher in Vietnam, did live streams on health, education, social issues on Facebook and YouTube.
Duong Tuan Ngoc Facebook

Police in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City have arrested activist Phan Tat Thanh, accusing him for criticizing the government’s response to “Chinese aggression” in the South China Sea, his father told Radio Free Asia.

Thanh, 37, also known as “Black Aaron,” often posted online about the contentious area in the sea where Hanoi, Beijing and others have competing territorial claims.

Netizens told Thanh’s father, who requested anonymity for security reasons, that Thanh had gone missing on July 5.

The police issued a prosecution document on July 13, and on July 15 they searched his home and copied data from his computer.

In 2010, Thanh staged a protest in front of China’s Embassy in Bangkok because anti-China demonstrations in Vietnam by that time were being suppressed. 

In addition to anti-China posts, Thanh had written posts and comments about human rights violations, environmental pollution, systematic corruption, and issues of major concern in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, police in nearby Lam Dong province confirmed that they have arrested macrobiotics teacher Duong Tuan Ngoc for posts he made on social media about education, health, and social issues that criticized the government.

RFA reported last week that police in Lam Dong province summoned Ngoc, 38, on July 10, together with his wife Bui Thanh Diem, and he was detained the next day on charges of violating Article 117 of Vietnam’s penal code, a vaguely written set of rules that rights groups say is Hanoi’s favorite tool to silence dissenting bloggers and journalists.

The police told state media Monday that they have decided to prosecute Ngoc.

On July 16, Ngoc’s wife, Bui Thanh Diem told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that although they were both summoned, she was let go.

Later she received a document saying Ngoc was being held for “posting, sharing posts and video clips on Facebook and YouTube personal accounts, lashing out at the process to build socialism, distorting history, and several other acts of disrespect to the Communist Party and the government.

But she said the notice was not specific and did not say which of Ngoc’s videos or social media posts were deemed to be problematic.

Ngoc’s most recent Facebook post, on July 10, praised a lifestyle close to nature in Vietnam’s countryside. His personal page has more than 45,000 followers and has an introductory description declaring, “I have rights as a citizen. You have rights as citizens. Citizens are the rightful owners of the country.”

His YouTube account “Freelance Education” was established in July 2019, and he has around 34,000 followers and hundreds of videos about health, medicine, and life in the countryside.

Translated by An Nguyen. Edited by Eugene Whong.

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