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Viêt-nam 21 May 2004

Cyber-dissident Nguyen Vu Binh enters third week of hunger strike

Reporters Without Borders today voiced deep concern about the health of cyber-dissident Nguyen Vu Binh, who has been on hunger strike since 5 May when an appeal court upheld his seven-year prison sentence and he responded by announcing that "freedom or death" were now the only options left to him.

The organisation called on the Vietnamese authorities to provide him with all the medical attention necessary to ensure his survival. It also urged them to let his wife visit him in Ba Sao prison.

He was transferred to Ba Sao (in Nam Ha province, 100 km from Hanoi) some time between 15 and 18 May, when his state of health was already deteriorating alarmingly. His wife has not been allowed to visit him and is not even sure if he is still alive.

Binh is staging the hunger strike to protest against the iniquity of his sentence of seven years in prison followed by three years under house arrest.

The sentence has been upheld amid a growing crackdown on online free expression. Three decrees were recently adopted creating a legal framework for control of the Internet. One of them forces cybercafé owners to ask customers to show ID before they can go online, thereby making it easier for the authorities to identify those who post or send "subversive" messages.

Background :

A former journalist with the Communist Party newspaper Tap Chi Cong San (Communist Reviews), Binh is a pro-democracy activist and the founder of Democracy and Freedom (an independent group). Since 2001, he has written and posted many messages online calling for political and economic reforms in Vietnam.

He was accused of links with "subversive dissidents" such as Le Chi Quang and Pham Hong Son, who are also in prison, and he was alleged to have received 4.5 million Vietnamese dong (about 230 euros) from "a reactionary organisation based abroad."

The authorities objected to his participation in an anti-corruption group and his request in 2000 for permission to create a liberal democratic party. He was also accused of posting "reactionary" articles on the Internet, including an essay entitled "Reflection on the Sino-Vietnamese border accords" in which he criticised the 1999 treaty between China and Vietnam.

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