HANOI: A Vietnamese court on Friday sentenced an activist to five years in prison for social media posts criticizing the government.
Former college professor Le Trong Hung is the fifth activist to be jailed in the past two weeks by the Communist state, which tolerates virtually no opposition to his regime. The 41-year-old campaigned as an independent for the country’s National Assembly elections in May, but was rejected as a candidate by the authorities.
He was arrested in March and tried on Friday for “making, storing, disseminating or propagating information and documents aimed at opposing the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”. According to attorney Ha Huy Son, Hung was sentenced to five years in prison and a five-year probation order during a trial in Hanoi that lasted only half a day.
Earlier state media reports said Hung had used social media to “post writings or live broadcast government distortion and vilification.” Hung is known to have participated in anti-China protests and expressed critical views on social and environmental issues, as well as supporting other activists.
Human Rights Watch called on Vietnam to release Hung “immediately and unconditionally.” “Imprisoning activists like Le Trong Hung who dare to run as independent candidates for parliament shows how much of a comedy the elections in Vietnam are,” the organization’s deputy director for Asia, Phil Robertson, said in a statement. .
Vietnam’s radical administration often acts quickly to quell dissent, jailing activists, journalists, and any critic with large Facebook audiences. Earlier this month, state-controlled courts jailed four other activists on similar charges.