A Vietnam court sentenced blogger and professor Pham Minh Hoang [blog, in Vietnamese], alias Phan Kien Quoc, to three years in prison Wednesday for anti-government articles, accusing him of "attempted subversion." Hoang reportedly joined the pro-democracy group Viet Tan [political website, in Vietnamese], which is banned in Vietnam as a terrorist organization, and began to write anti-communist articles [Vietnam.net report] on the Internet under his pen name. The government also accused him of teaching his students pro-democracy ideals. Some reports have suggested that Hoang was remorseful and confessed to all charges, but his wife insists he is innocent [BBC report] and was merely exercising his right to free speech when he criticized the government. Viet Tan released a statement [text, in Vietnamese] in support of Hoang later that day.
[The] activities of Pham Minh Hoang were entirely the right thing to do. From signing petitions against China's bauxite mining in the Highlands and participating in seminars on national sovereignty in the South China Sea, to voicing criticism of the regime's mistakes and fighting for democracy, Pham Minh Hoang has the right to the conscience and duty of the people of Vietnam for the country. Even participation in a political party such as the Vietnam Reform Party (Viet Tan), peaceful activities to fight for his views is normal in any society that is truly free and includes democratic and human rights. Only in Vietnam, that did not stop them from conviction. The Communist Party wants to maintain a one-party dictatorship, not democracy and accept any difference any ideas.Viet Tan is California-based and generally considered a peaceful organization by most of the world. Hoang is a Vietnamese-French citizen after being naturalized in France when he studied there. Some attribute the leniency of his sentence to this factor. European Union (EU) [official website] High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton commented [press release, PDF] on the sentence and called for Hoang's release. Reporters Without Borders [advocacy website] also criticized [press release] the sentence. Hoang will also be on probation for three years after his release. Hoang's family said he plans to appeal.
Vietnam has acquired a troubling record of jailing peaceful opposition forces. Earlier this month, a Vietnamese appeals court upheld the seven-year sentence of prominent rights lawyer and dissident Cu Huy Ha Vu, convicted in April [JURIST report] of carrying out anti-state propaganda. The court dismissed the appeal [AP report] despite Vu's arguments that his advocating for a multi-party system did not mean he was against the Communist party. In January 2010, a Vietnamese court sentenced [JURIST report] writer and democracy activist Pham Thanh Nghien to four years in prison on charges of spreading anti-state propaganda. That same month, a Vietnamese court convicted four democracy activists [JURIST report] of subversion. Following the one-day trial, human rights lawyer Le Cong Dinh [JURIST news archive] was sentenced to five years in prison. The four defendants were accused of activities aimed at ending communist rule in Vietnam. Dinh admitted to advocating multi-party democracy in Vietnam and joining the banned Democracy Party. Prior to Dinh's conviction, a Vietnamese court sentenced [JURIST report] pro-democracy dissident Tran Anh Kim in December 2009 to five-and-a-half years in prison for subversion.