By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
HANOI, Vietnam – Two Vietnamese men have been imprisoned for “the illegal transmission of information on a telecommunications network” into China amidst suspicion that the prosecutions were an attempt by Vietnamese authorities to please the Chinese government.
Le Van Thanh and his brother-in-law Vu Duc Trung were sentenced to serve two and three years respectively following a half day long trial.
Both of the men arrested were followers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement which is inspired by Buddhism and focuses on meditation. The movement was banned in China in 1999 after the group organized a peaceful protest in Tiananmen Square causing the Chinese government to designate the group as a “threat to social and political stability.”
The two men were initially detained in June 2010 for broadcasting the Sound of Hope news program into China in which they discussed human rights abuses, corruption and the persecution of Falun Gong followers. The transmissions were made from a farm outside of Hanoi from April 2009 until their detention.
Although outlawed in China, the Falun Gong practice is not prohibited in Vietnam and, according to Epring Zhang of the Falun Dafa Information Center, “…the Vietnamese constitution should protect people’s freedom of speech and expression.”
In addition, the transmissions of uncensored news to China did “…absolutely nothing to harm Vietnamese society or break Vietnamese law” according to Falun Dafa and the court failed to produce a law banning broadcasting into China when pressed by Vu and Le’s attorney.
Furthermore, the Chinese government has allegedly sent correspondences to Vietnam requesting not only that the government prevent the transmission of radio content from Vietnam into China but also that they restrict and harass Falun Gong practitioners. Following the requests, China sent a letter praising Vietnam for their assistance in controlling Falun Gong.
The correspondences between the Chinese and Vietnamese government in conjunction with the legality of the activities of Vu and Le have led many to speculate that the conviction of the two broadcasters was an effort by the Vietnamese government to cater to China’s influence.
For example, Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch argued that “Vietnam should not violate human rights and punish its own citizens merely because their activism displeases China.”
In addition, Reporters Without Borders released a statement that the “…verdict shows the authorities were conveying the anger of their Chinese counterparts, who were the targets of criticism expressed in the radio programs.”
Since being outlawed, Falun Gong practitioners in China have been detained, held in psychiatric facilities and forced into re-education through labor programs.
Just days before the trial of Vu Duc Trung and Le Van Thanh thirty Falun Gong demonstrators were beaten and detained for protesting the trial of the two men outside of the Chinese embassy in Hanoi.
For more information, please see:
NTDTV – Vietnam Complicit With Chinese Regime’s Persecution of Falun Gong: Rights Groups – 15 November 2011
Amnesty International – China: Local Residents Petition for Falun Gong Releases – 14 November 2011
IEWY – Viet Nam: Falun Gong Practitioners Detained Over Meditation Protest – 14 November 2011
Radio Free Asia – Under Fire Over Falun Gong Jailing – 11 November 2011
AFP – Vietnam Falungong Jailed Over China Broadcasts – 10 November 2011