News / Asia

Vietnam's Sentencing of Activists Sparks Criticism

Daniel Schearf
A court in Vietnam sentenced 14 activists to harsh prison terms of up to 13 years for attempting to overthrow the Communist party-led government.  The trial was one of the largest for alleged subversion and a U.S.-based legal authority helping the accused tells says it was grossly unfair

In a trial lasting only two days, the court in central Vietnam Wednesday found the 14 activists guilty of subversion and sentenced them to between three and 13 years in prison. One activist received probation.

They were arrested in 2011 and charged with spreading anti-government propaganda and attempting to overthrow the government.

The group of bloggers and students were accused of being members of Viet Tan, a U.S.-based pro-democracy group that Hanoi labels a terrorist organization.

The defendants are mainly Catholics, an often-persecuted group under the ruling atheist Communist party and some were involved in anti-China demonstrations about disputed territory in the South China Sea.

Some also were among a group of 17 detained activists who in July appealed to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Allen Weiner is director of Stanford Law School's Program in International and Comparative Law.  He helped file the petition to the United Nations and says Vietnam's legal procedures failed to give due process or anything close to a fair trial.

"These individuals were in prison for about a year before they were even notified of the charges against them, in clear violation of international standards and also in violation of Vietnam's own law," he says.

The trial opened Tuesday in northern Vietnam, but received little attention by the government-controlled media.

Authorities have allowed several rare public protests against China for recent aggressive moves on South China Sea territories that Vietnam disputes.

But rights groups say Hanoi fears the demonstrations, amid economic troubles and high-profile cases of official corruption, could turn against the state.  

Weiner says Vietnam's rapid development has created demand for more democratic representation that the Communist party sees as a threat.

"I would have to say, if there was any single precipitating cause it has to be the kind of events that have happened in the Middle East or the protests that have happened in Russia," Weiner says. "We've seen similar kinds of redoubling of controls on social and political activity in China.  I think we've seeing the same thing here in Vietnam."

Rights groups say Vietnam's crackdown on dissent is accelerating and starting to affect relations with Western nations.  The United States cancelled an annual human rights dialogue with Vietnam last year for the apparent reversal of progress.

Weiner says although he hopes Vietnam will make a political calculation to end the crackdown, its behavior is demonstrating otherwise.

"I think it's very very important for countries in the region to make sure that Vietnam does not get the benefit of full engagement with the Western trading system, if it continues to behave in a manner that violates the international legal norms that Vietnam, itself, has accepted and that are so widely embraced around the world," he says.

Vietnam in September sentenced three bloggers to between four and 12 years in prison for spreading propaganda against the state.  Their trial lasted just a few hours and was criticized by the United Nations human rights chief.  

The U.S. State Department called those sentences deeply troubling.

Wednesday, he U.S. Embassy in Hanoi called for Vietnam to immediately release the activists and all prisoners of conscience.  

In a statement, the embassy says treatment for the convicted was inconsistent with Vietnam’s obligations under international and human rights laws.

You May Like

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
January 09, 2013 11:03 PM
LOL. poor Vietnam, it doesnt has any real allies. Why dont just keep the mouth shut. If China beats Vietnam up, no other country really want to help it.
In Response

by: remie from: canada
January 11, 2013 7:07 AM
@jonathan huang
I dont know why you talk like China is so tough, your population is 1.4 billion to 100 million but still china doesnt own Vietnam. Vietnam has defend its country from greedy China for centuries. Chinese are such good warriors but yet I see none in any combat sport,WHY? HAHAHA Also why does your"ancient " time history fabricate that Vietnam is party of China? And your brainwash population believes it.
HAHAHA





In Response

by: Hoang from: Canada
January 10, 2013 6:54 AM
To Jonathan Huang,
You must be talking about China.
Go back to China and prepare to fight for your motherland against the world who hates China. Even North Korea hates Chinamen.
Down with China! down, down, down.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs