Vietnam: Authorities crack down on Facebook users in bid to silence critics

The Vietnamese authorities are cracking down on social media users, Amnesty International warned, ahead of the controversial trial of government critic Nguyen Ngoc Anh tomorrow.

Nguyen Ngoc Anh is an aquatic engineer from Ben Tre province in southern Vietnam. He is active in political debates on social media, and used Facebook to express opinions and share content from other users.

In June last year, the Vietnamese National Assembly tabled a draft law to establish new special economic zones raising the prospect of significant amounts of land coming under foreign ownership for up to 99 years. The law sparked a nationwide outcry and led to mass demonstrations. The authorities responded by cracking down on peaceful protesters in Ho Chi Minh City and other provinces in southern Vietnam.

Anh was arrested last August last year on charges of “making, storing, disseminating or propagandising materials and products that aim to oppose the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Ahead of Anh’s court hearing tomorrow, Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southeast Asia, said:

“The sham charges levelled against Nguyen Ngoc Anh show that no-one is safe on Facebook in Vietnam anymore.

“Anh is only the last case in a growing list of netizens prosecuted, arrested or detained solely for peacefully discussing public affairs or criticising the government.

“The authorities in Hanoi are now extending, online, the chokehold they have put on civic and political rights in the country for decades, using Facebook as a tool to further their repression of dissenting voices.

“The court should drop these politically-motivated charges and release him immediately and unconditionally.”

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