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 Russia's Expat Community Shrinking

    Russia's troubled economy, tensions with West have led hundreds of thousands of foreigners to leave for better opportunities

    Accelerating the Push Against Islamic State: What Will Work?

    Experts stress need to step up military action, address root causes of Muslims' disaffection, counter IS social media messages in a massive way

    Experts: N. Korean Abductions Sought to Halt Brain Drain

    Pyongyang abducted about 3,800 South Koreans and more than a dozen Japanese nationals in late 1970s

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.