(New York) – Vietnamese authorities should immediately drop all charges and release independent political candidate Le Trong Hung, Human Rights Watch said today. Le Trong Hung campaigned as an independent candidate for the 15th National Assembly elections in May 2021.
Police arrested Le Trong Hung on March 27, two months before the elections, and charged him with anti-state propaganda in violation of Article 117 (1) of the Vietnamese Criminal Code. A Hanoi court is due to hear his case on December 31. If found guilty, he faces up to 12 years in prison.
“Imprisoning activists like Le Trong Hung who dare to run as independent candidates for parliament shows how much the Vietnamese election is a comedy,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should release him immediately and unconditionally instead of prosecuting him for challenging the status quo. “
Le Trong Hung (also known as Hung Gan), 41, is a former government college professor. In 2015, after having unsuccessfully filed a petition calling for a reform for the benefit of the students of a school in Hanoi, he stopped teaching. In 2017, he began reporting as a citizen journalist on Facebook and YouTube, commenting on social issues, and advising people seeking government.
He participated in anti-China protests and protests for environmental conservation. He used social media to share information about protests in Myanmar and the struggles of Vietnamese activists such as Trinh Ba Phuong, Trinh Ba Tu and Pham Doan Trang. He also promoted education and knowledge of the Vietnamese constitution and offered people free copies of the constitution.
In February, Le Trong Hung announced his intention to run as an independent candidate in the National Assembly elections. He released his policy proposals, promising that, if elected, he would promote education on constitutional rights and campaign for laws that allow for peaceful protests, freedom of association and a watchdog role for citizens. citizens on government. His political platform also included a call to amend the constitution and repeal articles granting supremacy to the Communist Party of Vietnam (Article 4), allowing only one union (Article 10) and confirming state ownership over all land, water and natural resources. resources (Article 53), among others.
On February 23, Le Trong Hung challenged Communist Party Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong to a televised debate because Nguyen Phu Trong was running for parliamentary candidate in the residential area where Le Trong Hung lives. A week later, the police began repeatedly summoning him for questioning and placed him under intrusive surveillance.
Following his arrest on March 27, the Vietnamese Communist Party’s website published an article accusing Le Trong Hung of “using social media to publish writings or live broadcast government distortion and disparagement.” He reprimands him for “having commented in a distorted way on the orientations, the ways and the policies of the Party and of the State”. The party message claimed that Le Trong Hung “continually makes speeches that defame the government, oppose the state and reject the role of leader of the Party.” The article calls “reactionary” comments that Le Trong Hung was arrested for running as an independent candidate and said authorities arrested him for breaking the law for a long time .
The authorities also harassed Le Trong Hung’s family. They summoned to question his wife, Do Le Na, who is blind and cares for their two young children. Authorities also pressured her to vote in May in the parliamentary elections, but she refused. Unknowns in civilian clothes are said to have followed his 10-year-old son as he returned from school.
Police arrested two more people who were trying to run as independent candidates for parliament in 2021; The Van Dung (also known as Le Dung Vova) in Hanoi and Tran Quoc Khanh in Ninh Binh. Both were charged under article 117 of the Criminal Code. In October, a provincial court in Ninh Binh convicted and sentenced Tran Quoc Khanh to six and a half years in prison.
In April, police in Binh Thuan Province arrested a poet, Nguyen Quoc Huy (known as Dong Chuong Tu), a member of the Cham ethnic minority, and questioned him for three days about his self-nomination. for the election. They confiscated his passport before releasing him.
“The Vietnamese government brutally punishes anyone who dares to challenge it, and Le Trong Hung is another victim of this crackdown,” said Robertson. “Until the country’s leaders allow free and fair elections, the Vietnamese Communist Party will do whatever it wants at the expense of the people.”