Vietnamese media, including the state-owned Tuoitre newspaper, reported that the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City sentenced political activist Tran Van Bang on Friday to eight years in prison and three years of probation for “spreading anti-government propaganda.” The sentence came just hours after Human Rights Watch (HRW) called upon Vietnamese authorities to drop all charges against Tran Van Bang.
The court convicted Tran Van Bang of “making, storing, distributing or propagating information, documents and materials […] aimed at opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” Tran Van Bang allegedly used three Facebook accounts to publish 39 articles opposing the Vietnamese Government, including calling for a boycott of the election of Vietnamese National Assembly deputies. Ho Chi Minh City police arrested Tran Van Bang on March 1, 2022, and charged him under article 117 of the Criminal Code for criticizing the government.
Hours before the court sentenced Tran Van Bang, HRW called on Vietnamese authorities to immediately drop all charges and release him. HRW Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson disparaged Vietnamese authorities’ actions, stating, “Vietnam’s leaders show their weakness, not their strength, by arresting, detaining, and prosecuting anyone who expresses critical views about the government on the internet. Tran Van Bang should not face punishment simply for exercising the basic right to freedom of expression.”
Tran Van Bang’s sentence follows the similarly lengthy sentence of 6 years imprisonment that Vietnamese journalist and activist Nguyen Lan Thang received for his work reporting on human rights violations in the region. Like Tran Van Bang, human rights groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists called on Vietnamese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Nguyen and to drop all pending charges against him.