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Vietnam 27 September 2006

Plea to Canada’s PM to raise cases of cyber-dissidents at Francophone Summit

Reporters Without Borders has written to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking him to use the Francophone Summit being held in Bucharest on 28-29 September 2006 to raise the cases of four jailed Vietnamese cyber-dissidents with Vietnamese officials attending the summit. Nguyen Vu Binh, Truong Quoc Huy, Le Nguyen Sang and Huynh Nguyen Dao are all in prison for having expressed their views on the Internet.

“Dear Prime Minister,

During your meetings with Vietnamese officials at the next summit of the Francophone countries on 28-29 September in Bucharest, Reporters Without Borders asks you to intercede on behalf of Nguyen Vu Binh, Truong Quoc Huy, Le Nguyen Sang and Huynh Nguyen Dao, four cyber-dissidents who are currently in prison in Vietnam just for expressing their views online.

A former journalist with an official publication of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Nguyen Vu Binh is a pro-democracy activist and founder of Democracy and Freedom, an independent organisation. He was arrested in 2002 after writing many articles calling for political and economic reform that were posted on the Internet. He was sentenced on 31 December 2003 to seven years in prison and three years of house arrest. The severity of his sentence was motivated in part by his testimony to the US congress in 2002 about human rights violation in Vietnam, and by one if his articles, condemned as reactionary, criticising a 1999 treaty between Vietnam and China.

Truong Quoc Huy, 25, was arrested on 18 August 2006 by plain-clothes police who followed him into an Internet café in Ho Chi Minh City and caught him as he was connecting to a democracy chat room. He had just been held for nine months without trial because of his online activities prior to his arrest with his brother and a friend in October 2005. He is accused of wanting to “overthrow the government” and of giving interviews to foreign radio stations after getting out of prison in which he expressed support for the 8406 Group, a pro-democracy movement formed in April.

Le Nguyen Sang (the pseudonym used by Nguyen Hoang Long) and Huynh Nguyen Dao (the pseudonym of Huynh Viet Lang) were reportedly arrested in Ho Chi Minh City on or around 14 August. The authorities have not said anything about their arrest but it is believed they are being held because of what they wrote on the Internet and because of their suspected membership of the People’s Democratic Party of Vietnam, an organisation formed by exiles that is illegal inside Vietnam. These two cyber-dissidents were arrested at the same time, and for the same reasons, as Cong Thanh Do, a US citizen who was released on 21 September after foreign diplomats intervened.

These four citizens are imprisoned in Vietnam for expressing their democratic views online. Contrary to what the Vietnamese authorities say, none of them is a terrorist, a criminal or a spy. They are being punished for using the Internet to publicly voice their disagreement with the one-party state’s official line.

Vietnam will soon join the World Trade Organisation. It has also been chosen to host the summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. We believe that the normalisation of diplomatic relations with this country and its integration into the world economy should be accompanied by concrete advances in respect for human rights.

We welcomed the release of Pham Hong Son on 30 August as an encouraging gesture by Vietnam’s new leaders. We have nonetheless seen that they continue to suppress free expression and to imprison dissident Internet users.

As the International Organisation of Francophone Countries (OIF) carries out political initiatives on behalf of peace, democracy and human rights, we ask you to take advantage of this coming summit to affirm your commitment to online free expression and your support for Vietnamese cyber-dissidents.

We thank you in advance for the interest you take in this letter.


Robert Ménard

Le Nguyen Sang and Huynh Nguyen Dao

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