A court in Vietnam has sentenced four people on charges of “activities to overthrow the people’s government” for their involvement in an anti-communist Vietnamese government in exile, state media reported.
Vu Thi Kim Phuong, 51, Le Van Lac, 55, Nguyen Thi Kim Duyen, 43, and Le Van Sang, 49, received sentences on Thursday ranging from five to 13 years for participating in research for the Provisional National Government of Vietnam, the indictment said.
The provisional government was founded in 1991 by soldiers and refugees that had been loyal to the South Vietnamese government prior to the country’s unification under communist rule in 1975. It is headquartered in Orange County, California. In 2018, Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security classified the provisional government as a terrorist organization.
According to the indictment, Phoung had from 2015 to 2019 conducted research for the provisional government. She and the other three registered people to participate in a poll that would establish the provisional government’s president Dao Minh Quan as leader of a new non-communist government in Vietnam.
In Feb. 2020, they were arrested after having registered 1,595 people for their poll, well short of their goal of five million.
Phuong was sentenced to 13 years in prison, while Lac, Duyen and Sang received seven, six and five years respectively.
Vietnam has arrested two others for their involvement with the government in exile this year.
RFA attempted to contact the provisional government for comment but received no response.
Freedom score decreases
Vietnam’s foreign ministry on Thursday said it was a protector and advocate of human rights, rejecting a report by a Washington-based watchdog group which classified it among countries that were “not free”
In Freedom in the World 2021 report, Freedom House gave Vietnam an overall score of 19 out of a possible 100, a one-point decrease from last year’s rating. Vietnam scored three out of 40 in political rights, and 16 out of 60 in civil liberties.
When asked about the report at a news conference, Le Thi Thu Hang, spokesperson for Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Vietnam has always made an effort to refine its laws and policy to better ensure human rights, the rights of citizens, and it has actively taken part in international cooperation for human rights.
She said that Vietnam has a consistent policy that promotes human rights including those stipulated in the country’s 2013 constitution and other related documents.
The Freedom House report said that in 2020 the balance of the world trended toward tyranny.
“As a lethal pandemic, economic and physical insecurity, and violent conflict ravaged the world, democracy’s defenders sustained heavy new losses in their struggle against authoritarian foes,” the report said.
The Freedom House has described Vietnam as “a one-party state, dominated for decades by the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV).”
“Freedom of expression, religious freedom, and civil society activism are tightly restricted. The authorities have increasingly cracked down on citizens’ use of social media and the internet,” it said.
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