The United States is deeply troubled that a Vietnamese court has convicted and sentenced peaceful labor and environmental activist Hoang Duc Binh and Nguyen Nam Phong to fourteen years and two years in prison, respectively.Both men were charged under the criminal code for taking part in protests and advocacy in relation to the massive marine disaster caused by the Taiwanese steel company Formosa along the central coast of Vietnam in April 2016.
Hoang Duc Binh has repeatedly voiced support for Vietnamese political prisoners and detainees. He has also participated in several of the Formosa protests and helped organize groups advocating compensation for fishermen who lost their livelihoods due to the toxic spill.
Under article 258 of the penal code, Hoang Duc Binh was charged with “abusing freedom and democracy to infringe upon the interests of the State, the legitimate interest and rights of organization and citizen.”
Human Rights Watch Asia director Brad Adams said, “The sad irony here is that Vietnam is charging a human rights defender with abusing freedom, democracy, and rights, when the truth is that the people of Vietnam have no freedom, democracy, or rights."
Mr. Binh and Mr. Phong’s convictions are the sixth such verdicts in recent days of individuals peacefully expressing their views. They are among many individuals convicted this past year for exercising basic rights, including Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known as “Mother Mushroom," and Tran Thi Nga. "The trend of increased arrests, convictions, and harsh sentences of peaceful activists since early 2016 is very concerning," said State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert.
"All people," she stressed, "have the right to the fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly."
The United States calls on Vietnam to release all prisoners of conscience immediately, and to allow all individuals in Vietnam to express their views freely and assemble peacefully without fear of retribution.
Spokesperson Nauert also urged "the Vietnamese government to ensure its actions and laws, including the Penal Code, are consistent with the human rights provisions of Vietnam’s constitution and its international obligations and commitments."