Sat, Feb 03, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Vietnamese doctor locked up for ‘anti-state propaganda’

ONLINE CRITICISM:Ho Van Hai was accused of calling for public protests against Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp, which dumped toxic waste into the ocean

AFP, HANOI

A Vietnamese doctor has been sentenced to four years in jail for “anti-state propaganda,” state media reported, as part of a fresh wave of convictions in the one-party state accused of waging a crackdown on critics.

Bloggers, activists and lawyers are routinely jailed in communist Vietnam, where a hardline leadership in place since 2016 is accused of tightening its grip on dissidents.

At least 24 activists were convicted last year, with another 28 arrested, Human Rights Watch said, making last year one of the worst years for activists in the nation.

The latest to be jailed is Ho Van Hai, 54, a doctor who was arrested in November 2016 over a series of blog posts criticizing the government.

He was sentenced to four years in prison after a one-day trial in Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday, state-controlled VNExpress reported.

“Of the 75 articles posted online and stored in Hai’s computer, the authorities identified 36 articles that violated the regulation on management, provision and use of Internet services and information on the Internet,” the VnExpress report said.

Hai is also accused of calling for public protests against Taiwanese steel company Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp, which dumped toxic waste into the ocean killing tonnes of fish along Vietnam’s central coast in 2016.

The disaster hit livelihoods hard and sparked rare nationwide protests.

Hai is the fourth person jailed in Vietnam this week, after three men were convicted on Wednesday, also under Article 88 of the criminal code — anti-state propaganda, which rights groups say is vaguely worded and used to curb dissent.

Last month, four Buddhist activists were jailed on the same charge for flying the flag of the defeated southern regime loathed by the ruling communists.

The UN Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia called for Hai’s release after his arrest, criticizing Article 88, which runs “contrary to international human rights standards and should be repealed,” office acting representative Laurent Meillan said in November 2016.

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