HANOI: A doctor in Vietnam 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 hard-line 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, according to Human Rights Watch, making 2017 one of the worst years for activists in the country.
The latest to be jailed is Hồ Văn Hải, 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 Hải’s computer, the authorities identified 36 articles that violated the regulation on management, provision and use of Internet services and information on the Internet,” according to the VnExpress report.
Hải is also accused of calling for public protests against Taiwanese steel giant Formosa, 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.
Hải is the fourth person jailed in Vietnam this week 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 South Vietnam.
The UN Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia called for Hải’s release after his arrest, criticizing Article 88, which runs “contrary to international human rights standards and should be repealed”, said the office’s acting representative Laurent Meillan in November 2016.