Freedom House calls for the immediate release of Vu Duc Trung and Le Van Thanh, sentenced to 2-3 years in prison for broadcasting a radio program publicizing human rights abuses in China, including the persecution of Falun Gong, across the China-Vietnam border. The sentences come as a Vietnamese delegation is in Washington, DC for the U.S.-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue, during which issues of deteriorating religious freedom, press freedom, and other human rights issues in Vietnam are to be discussed. Trung and Thanh were arrested by Vietnamese authorities in June 2010 and had their equipment confiscated after they broadcast news from the Chinese-language “Sound of Hope” (SOH), a global radio station founded by Falun Gong practitioners.
The sentencing comes amidst a longer trend of increased repression of bloggers, reporters, activists, and other religious minorities in Vietnam since 2006. Recently, two dissidents and activists were forced to flee Vietnam afterspeaking with the foreign press, while Amnesty International reports that the prominent blogger known as Dieu Cay languishes in prison, even after completing his sentence. Since late July, Human Rights Watch has reported the arrest of at least 15 religious activists, many of whom are affiliated with the Catholic Redemptorist Order. On Wednesday, a group of around 30 Falun Gong practitioners protesting the trial of Trung and Thanh were beaten and detained by police.
The June 2010 indictment of Trung and Thang stated that the basis for their arrest was a memo received by the Vietnamese government from Chinese officials requesting that Falun Gong activities in Vietnam be “attacked and stopped.” While Falun Gong is freely practiced in Vietnam, it has been forbidden and persecuted in China since 1999. Trung and Thanh’s arrest is one more example of China pressuring its neighbors to crack down on religious groups whose presence and activism is perceived to be a threat to the Chinese Communist Party. On September 8, Gatot Machali, the manager of Indonesian station Radio Era Baru, which also broadcasts SOH programming, was sentenced to six months in prison under similar circumstances.
According to the Falun Dafa Information Center a few days earlier approximately 50 Falun Gong practitioners were beaten and taken into custody as they sat in peaceful demonstration outside the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam protesting the scheduled trial. Justice for the World questions both the objectivity and legitimacy of this trial and strongly condemns the disturbing of this peaceful protest outside the Chinese Embassy and for the authorities in Vietnam to be losing all perspective in this manner under pressure of the Chinese Communist Party.