Vietnamese authorities have arrested two blogger activists, charging them with propaganda against the state under a controversial article of the country’s penal code used to target dissidents, state media said Wednesday.
Police arrested Phan Kim Khanh, 24 from Phu Thọ province on March 21 and Bui Hieu Vo, 55, of Go Vap district in Ho Chi Minh City on March 17 for posting online content that authorities described as fabricated and malicious and aimed at to spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, said Vietnamese state media. They have been charged accordingly under Article 88.
Democracy advocate Khanh has administered two blogs called Bao Tham Nhung (Corruption Newspaper) and Tuan Viet Nam (Vietnam Week) since 2015.
He also maintains three Facebook accounts—one for Báo Tham Nhũng and two others called Tuan Bao Viet Nam (Vietnam Weekly) and Dan Chu TV (Democracy TV), as well as two YouTube channels for Viet Bao TV and Vietnam Online.
Vo is the owner of a Facebook account called Hieu Bui on which, authorities claim, he called for the use of incendiary bombs and acid to attack police and government officials.
Vietnamese authorities frequently use Article 88 along with Articles 79 and 258 of the criminal code to arrest and imprison those who support democracy and human rights and denounce abuses.
Article 79 pertains to “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration,” while Article 258 refers to “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens.”
The articles are among the broadly-worded national security section of the 1999 Penal Code that rights groups and Western governments say Vietnam uses to persecute dissidents. They carry lengthy jail sentences or even life imprisonment in some cases.
Authorities have recently detained other prominent Vietnamese activists under Article 88, including Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, a 37-year-old blogger and human rights defender better known as Mother Mushroom (Me Nam).
Me Nam was arrested on Oct. 10, 2016 for openly voicing her opinions on the deaths of people in police custody, Vietnam’s sovereignty over the disputed Paracel and Spratly islands in the South China Sea, and the government’s handling of a toxic waste spill off the country’s central coast last year.
Likewise, Tran Thi Nga, a 40-year-old human rights defender and labor and land rights activist, who was arrested on Jan. 21 in Phu Ly, capital city of northern Vietnam’s Ha Nam province, has been charged under Article 88 for “using the internet to spread propaganda videos and writings” against the state. She faces up to 20 years in prison.
There are at least 84 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam, including bloggers, labor and land rights activists, political activists, ethnic and religious minorities, and advocates for human rights and social justice who have been convicted after unfair trials or are held in pretrial detention, according to a July 2016 report on Vietnamese political prisoners issued by London-based Amnesty International.
Reported and translated by Gia Minh for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.