Vietnamese Government Continues Crackdown on Vocal Bloggers
On Monday, a twenty-two year old blogger Nguyễn Văn Hoá was sentenced to seven years in prison by the People’s Court of Ha Tinh in Vietnam. Nguyễn Văn Hoá was the first person to broadcast the footage of protests outside Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation, who allegedly contaminated one hundred and twenty miles of coastline in central Vietnam.
The court convicted him of spreading anti-state propaganda and accused him for inciting protests. The state media of Vietnam reported that he received money from extremists and hostile forces. Without an attorney, Nguyễn Văn Hoá was given the sentence after a two hours and a half long trial.
Under Decree 174, the Vietnamese government can censor and shut down unlicensed websites. It also allows punishment of individuals for social media posts that are not in accordance with the government.
In July, another prominent blogger known as Mother Mushroom, was sentenced to ten years in prison. A single mother of two, Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh is a human rights activist who criticized the government on Facebook and during interviews with news outlets, such as Voice of America and Radio Free Asia. In March, she received the Women of Courage Award from the United States First Lady Melania Trump at the US State Department. The US State Department has condemned her sentencing.
According to Amnesty International, Vietnam is holding the largest number of prisoners of conscience in South East Asia. However, the government denies persecuting any political prisoners.
NGOs and media outlets have called out against the internet crackdown. Daniel Bastards for Reporters Without Borders, a non-profit organization, has criticized the sentencing of Nguyen Van Hoa, stating “such drastic action confirms the intransigence of Vietnam’s refusal to tolerate any reporting freedom,” and called “Vietnam’s commercial partners” to “draw the appropriate conclusions.
Nguyễn Văn Hoá has also contributed videos and written articles on the toxic spill by the Taiwanese steel company. An estimation of 115 tons of fish were washed up on the coastal beaches.
Initially, the government did not acknowledge the contamination and residents ate the fish. Symptoms, such as vomitting and diarrhea were reported. Although the company promised five hundred million US dollars to compensate, each fisherman only received two dollars and twenty cents from officials.
According to BBC News, Vietnam is one of the fastest economically developing countries in Southeast Asia. The Vietnamese government has reportedly favored the Formosa Ha Tinh with tax incentives and low-cost property.
As criticism mounts for the government and the company, critics have argued that it is a test on the one party rule. As of this summer, more than 500 people have been arrested in the protests.