Police in north-central Vietnam’s Nghe An province arrested the owner of a private clinic on Monday, accusing the physician of undermining people’s trust in the Communist Party in a series of articles posted on social media, state media sources said.
Nguyen Duy Huong, a 34-year-old medical doctor and owner of the Duy Nhi clinic in the Yen Thanh district’s Vienh Tanh commune, was charged under Article 117 of the Criminal Code with “creating, storing, or disseminating information and documents against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
Security services said that articles posted since 2018 on Huong’s Facebook page included a Feb. 20, 2021 story called “Why Should We Criticize Nguyen Phu Trong,” which criticized the ruling Communist Party general secretary, now serving his third term in office, for turning the party into “a swamp.”
Huong had written in the same article that he was willing to sacrifice even his family and job in order to change the Party and the country, according to a report in the Ministry of Public Security’s official newspaper.
“I have devoted my life to this [cause],” Huong wrote, quoted in the Ministry paper. “Reforms must be carried out so that our people can really be their own masters, the party can be cleaned up, and the country can move forward.”
Huong’s writings had undermined the Vietnamese people’s trust in their ruling party and the socialist regime and had harmed political and ideological unity in the country, and should therefore be “handled strictly,” the ministry paper said.
Appeals trial scheduled
Separately, the appeals trial for political dissident Tran Duc Thach, who was sentenced by a Nghe An court to 12 years in prison on charges of subversion on Dec. 12, 2020, will be held on Wednesday, his defense attorney said.
Thach had heard only the day before that the trial would be held, attorney Ha Huy Son told RFA on Tuesday.
“I met with Thach this afternoon. His health is worse now than it was at the first trial, but he’s in good spirits and will present his points of view at tomorrow’s trial,” Son said, adding, “Although he only learned about the trial today, he’s ready for it.”
“We have some hope, but not much, because not many changes are made at appeals trials in cases related to national security except when there are new developments,” he said.
Thach, a co-founder of Vietnam’s online Brotherhood for Democracy, was arrested on April 23, 2020 and charged with “activities aimed at overthrowing the People’s Government” under Article 109 of Vietnam’s Criminal Code for Facebook postings exposing government corruption and human rights abuses.
The Brotherhood for Democracy is not recognized by the Vietnamese government, and many of its members have been imprisoned since its founding in 2013.
Activist for human rights
Born in 1952 in Nghe An, Thach served with North Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam War and was afterward an activist for human rights and democracy in Vietnam for many years.
In his book A Haunting Collective Grave, he tells the story of how North Vietnamese soldiers killed hundreds of innocents at Tan Lap commune in Dong Nai province’s Xuan Loc district during the final campaign of the war that ended with communist forces’ victory on April 30, 1975.
Thach was earlier sentenced to three years in jail in October 2009 for “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” along with fellow dissidents Vu Van Hung and Pham Van Troi.
Vietnam, with a population of 92 million people, has been consistently rated “not free” in the areas of internet and press freedom by Freedom House, a U.S.-based watchdog group.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Vietnam 175 out of 180 in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index. About 25 journalists and bloggers are being held in Vietnam’s jails, “where mistreatment is common,” the Paris-based watchdog group said.
Vietnam’s already low tolerance of dissent deteriorated sharply last year with a spate of arrests of independent journalists, publishers, and Facebook personalities as authorities continued to stifle critics in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party congress in January.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Chau Vu. Written in English by Richard Finney.