Vietnam jails political blogger for tax evasion

Hanoi – A political internet blogger who reported on protests during the Olympic torch relay through Vietnam in April was sentenced Wednesday to two and a half years in prison on charges of tax evasion. Nguyen Van Hai, 55, widely known by his pen name Dieu Cay, was convicted of having failed to pay 10 years’ worth of value-added tax on part of his house that he rented to an optical shop.

Hai belongs to a bloggers’ group called the League of Independent Journalists, who reported and participated in several small anti-Chinese protests during the torch relay through Ho Chi Minh City.

Hai’s colleagues denounced the sentence as punishment for his reporting on protests against Chinese claims to the Spratly and Paracel Islands, two chains of islets in the South China Sea disputed by both countries.

The government shut down the protests, which were organized by activist groups but reflect popular antipathy towards China.

“I don’t think the charges of tax fraud are real,” a 48-year-old blogger who goes by the pen name Uyen Vu told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. “He was arrested for expressing his opinions about China’s territorial land-grab policy in the Spratly and Paracel Islands.”

“Hai was arrested because he is advocating a free media,” said another blogger, 40, who calls herself Ta Van Than.

Le Cong Dinh, 40, one of four lawyers representing Hai, said the rental contract had stipulated that the tax should be paid by the tenant. But the court ruled that when the tenant failed to pay, the owner became responsible. Hai had thus evaded 450 million dong (27,000 dollars) in taxes over 10 years.

According to Vietnam’s penal code, evading taxes of between 1 and 500 million dong is subject to a fine of one to five times the amount evaded, or a prison term of six months to three years.

The press law in communist-ruled Vietna

Vietnam jails political blogger for tax evasion : Asia World

Blogger gets two and a half years in prison after “unfair and unfounded” conviction on tax fraud charge

Blogger Dieu Cay

Blogger Dieu Cay

Blogger Nguyen Hoang Hai, better known by the pseudonym of Dieu Cay, was sentenced today by a Ho Chi Minh City court to two and a half years in prison for “tax fraud.” Foreign journalists were not allowed into the courtroom during the trial.

“This sentence shows how dependent Vietnam’s judicial system is on the government,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The tax fraud charge was trumped up in order to silence Dieu Cay, who was regarded as overly critical of the government. We condemn this conviction as completely unfair and unfounded.”

One of the blogger’s lawyers told Reporters Without Borders he regarded the sentence as very severe, especially as he demonstrated during the trial that the police had failed to respect standard procedure.

“Dieu Cay was arrested before the authorities had even established the monetary value of the alleged fraud,” he said. “In this kind of case, the person accused of fraud is first asked to pay the fine. He is only arrested if he cannot produce the money. But Dieu Cay was never asked to pay. I questioned the role of the police in court. The judge reprimanded me for criticising the authorities. This conviction is disgrace.”

He added that the trial was a “grotesque performance” because the sentence was decided in advance and the court spectators consisted of “extras” who were installed there well before the start of the trial. He said he would appeal within 10 days.

No explanation was given when Dieu Cay was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City on 19 April. The tax fraud charge was brought five days later. According to his son, Dieu Cay had been under close police surveillance since taking part in demonstrations in Ho Chi Minh City at the start of this year in protest against China’s claim to sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel Islands.

The police are harassing his family and his property has been seized.

Reporters sans frontières – Vietnam

Judges asked to show clemency to detained cyber-dissident being tried on “tax fraud” charge

9 September 2008


“You know, there are four kinds of people in Vietnam, those who know nothing and say nothing, those who do know and yet say nothing, those who know too much and are afraid to talk, and those who know, who speak out, and who pay the price.” – Nguyen Tri Dung, the son detained blogger Dieu Cay, in an interview for a foreign journalist who does not want to be identified.

Reporters Without Borders urges the judicial authorities not to impose a jail sentence on Ngyuen Hoang Hai, better known by his blog name of Dieu Cay, when he is tried tomorrow before a Ho Chi Minh City court on a charge of tax fraud. His family is being harassed and his property had been seized.

“Dieu Cay’s trial is an important test for the credibility of Vietnam’s judicial system,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Will it recognise that the charge is baseless? The Vietnamese constitution protects free expression but the Communist Party tolerates no criticism. We call on the judges to side with the law and to acquit this cyber-dissident.”

No explanation was given when Dieu Cay was arrested on 19 April in the southern town of Dalat. He was charged with tax fraud two days later, and police searched his home on 24 April. He had been under close police surveillance since taking part in protests against China’s claim to sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel Islands that took place in Ho Chi Minh City at the start of this year.

The authorities claim that he has not paid any taxes for the past ten years on the place where he lives. In fact, he rented the premises from Hanoi Eyewear Co. under an arrangement allowed by the law in which the company assumes responsibility for paying the taxes.

He posted articles on his blog about the protests that had been staged during the Olympic torch relay in cities around the world including Ho Chi Minh City. The Vietnamese authorities had reacted by threatening to let Chinese agents kill him.

Last year, Dieu Cay founded a group of bloggers called the Free Vietnamese Journalists Club to focus mainly on two subjects – corruption and human rights. Some of its members have been threatened and arrested on several occasions. One, who does not want to be named, was fired from his job at the government’s request and fears he could be arrested on a charge of “divulging information abroad with the aim of overthrowing the government” for giving interviews to foreign news media.

In an interview for a foreign journalist, Dieu Cay’s son, Nguyen Tri Dung, said the police were constantly harassing the family. “The police summon us for questioning all the time,” he said. “People are always following us (…) I’ve seen them so often that I know that what’s going on is not normal. We have two houses which they have closed so we can no longer rent them, but they belong to us.”

The son added: “The police also went to see our neighbours and told them my father was working for bad people. My father criticised certain people who want to hold on power and who treat people badly. These people accused him of betraying the country.”

Nine cyber-dissidents are currently detained in Vietnam, which is on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Internet Enemies.” Its Internet management policies seem to be based on the Chinese model.

Reporters sans frontières – Vietnam

No news of Ho Chi Minh City blogger held for past four months on spurious tax charge

(RSF/IFEX) – Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for the release of Nguyen Hoang Hai, a Ho Chi Minh City blogger better known by the pseudonym of Dieu Cay, who has been held on a tax fraud charge since 19 April 2008 and who is about to begin his fifth month in detention.

“This is an utterly baseless charge that is just a pretext to prevent him from posting more articles critical of the government,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The authorities are copying their Chinese neighbours both as regards Internet filtering and harassment of Internet users. We call for Dieu Cay’s release.”

Dieu Cay posted articles criticising China’s policy in the South China Sea, where both the Chinese and Vietnamese governments claim sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel Islands. He had been under close police surveillance since taking part in protests against Chinese policy that took place in Ho Chi Minh City at the start of the year 2008. At one point, the police threatened to let Chinese agents kill him.

After not seeing him for more than a month, police went to his home in Dalat district 3 (on the northern outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City), searched his home, seized documents and charged him with tax fraud.

The authorities accuse him of not paying any taxes for the past ten years on the place where he lives. In fact, he rented the premises from Hanoi Eyewear Co. under an arrangement allowed by the law in which the company assumes responsibility for paying the taxes.

Dieu Cay is affiliated to a group of bloggers known as the Free Vietnamese Journalists Club, some of whose members have been threatened and arrested on several occasions. One, who does not want to be named, was fired from his job at the government’s request and fears he could be arrested on a charge of “divulging information abroad with the aim of overthrowing the government” for giving interviews to foreign news media.

Vietnam has the most repressive Internet policies in Asia after China. Nine cyber-dissidents are currently in prison because of what they posted online. In 2006, ISPs were told to install software that enables them to store their clients’ data for a year. The interior ministry is in charge of filtering political content.

MORE INFORMATION:


Updates the Dieu Cay (Nguyen Hoang Hai) case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/92918

No news of Ho Chi Minh City blogger held for past four months on spurious tax charge – IFEX

New call for release of blogger Dieu Cay after two months without news

Reporters Without Borders today called for the release and an end to harassment of the independent journalist Nguyen Hoang Hai, known under his blogging name Dieu Cay, who was arrested for “tax fraud” on 19 April.

Dieu Cay had posted articles on his blog about protests worldwide during the Olympic torch’s progress through various cities, along with articles critical of China’s policy in Tibet and the Parcel and Spratly archipelagos. He had called for demonstrations as the torch passed through Ho Chi Minh-City.

“Tax fraud was just a pretext to prevent Dieu Cay from demonstrating when the Olympic torch went through Ho Chi Minh-City and from criticising the communist party online,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

The authorities claim that he paid no tax for ten years on premises which he owns, but Dieu Cay rents out the premises to Hanoi Eyewear Co in an agreement authorised by Vietnamese law under which the company should pay the tax themselves. No date has been fixed for his trial.

The blogger, who took part in demonstrations in Ho Chi Minh-City at the start of the year in protest against the Chinese government, is regularly watched by the authorities and frequently summoned to the police station to explain his activities.

He has been particularly closely watched by the authorities since March. Local police in district 3 of Dalat, having not seen him for one month, on 24 April search his house and seized papers.

“Clearly, the authorities have no proof about this accusation of fraud,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They searched his house five days after his arrest. All his immediate associates have been questioned about his activities, particularly about the “Free journalists’ club” which he founded.”

http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=27532

Vietnam arrests blogger for reporting torch protests

Hanoi (dpa) – A prominent democracy activist whose blog featured reports on demonstrations against the relay of the Beijing Olympic torch has been arrested by Vietnamese police, local press reported Wednesday, a week ahead of the torch’s scheduled arrival in Ho Chi Minh City on April 29.

The newspaper Vietnam Law reported that Ho Chi Minh City police Tuesday arrested Nguyen Van Hai, who blogs under the name Dieu Cay, on charges of tax evasion. The paper said police had searched Hai’s house Monday and found evidence that he and his ex-wife had understated their monthly rent to avoid paying the full value-added tax.

Hai is a member of a group of bloggers known as the Union of Independent Journalists. Other members of the group have called for protests along the torch’s route when it is carried through Ho Chi Minh City.

Members of the group were also involved in organising demonstrations in December and January against Chinese moves to assert sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel Islands, which Vietnam also claims.

Vietnamese democracy activists, who requested anonymity, said that Hai had actually been detained on Monday in the resort town of Dalat, 300 kilometres north-west of Ho Chi Minh City, and escorted back to Ho Chi Minh City to facilitate the search of his house.

On his blog, Hai had featured articles on protests against the torch in other cities around the world, and others critical of China’s policies in Tibet and the Spratlys and opposing the torch’s relay through Vietnam.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung held a meeting with Ho Chi Minh City officials to review their plans for preventing demonstrations during the torch relay.

A detailed schedule for the relay in Ho Chi Minh City was published in Vietnamese press in March, but has apparently been rescinded since pro-Tibetan protests were staged against the torch’s progress through various European cities.

The protests at the torch relays came in the wake of violent clashes between Tibetans and Chinese police which began in early March.

http://www.bangkokpost.com/breaking_news/breakingnews.php?id=127269

Blogger “Điếu Cày” Nguyễn Hoàng Hải bị bắt | Pro-democracy blogger arrested before Olympic protests in Viet Nam

Blogger “Điếu Cày” Nguyễn Hoàng Hải bị bắt trước ngày rước đuốc Olympic
Sunday, April 20, 2008
medium_DieuCay.jpgBlogger “Điếu Cày” Nguyễn Hoàng Hải

ĐÀ LẠT- Trang mạng của Câu Lạc Bộ Nhà Báo Tự Do hôm 20 tháng Tư cho hay, nhà báo tự do Nguyễn Hoàng Hải, còn gọi là Điếu Cày, vốn nổi tiếng trong các cuộc biểu tình chống Trung Quốc đầu năm 2008 tại Sài Gòn, đã bị lực lượng an ninh bắt giữ vào trưa ngày 19 tháng Tư, 2008 tại Đà Lạt.

Blogger “Điếu Cày” bị bắt trước ngày ngọn đuốc Olympic Bắc Kinh sẽ được rước qua Sài Gòn vào 29 tháng Tư tới đây.

Theo “Câu Lạc Bộ Nhà Báo Tự Do”, sau nhiều lần bị công an địa phương thẩm vấn liên tục về vai trò tổ chức biểu tình chống Trung Quốc và vấn đề cho thuê nhà cá nhân bất chấp giờ giấc sinh hoạt và công việc hàng ngày của mình, anh Hoàng Hải đã phản đối cách điều tra thẩm vấn chà đạp nhân quyền đó bằng cách không tuân thủ lệnh triệu tập và rời nơi cư trú để đi du lịch.

Phía công an đã điên cuồng truy tìm anh và điều tra mọi người trong gia đình và người quen biết để buộc anh trở về. Họ hoang tưởng lo ngại vai trò của anh Hải trong cuộc biểu tình mà người dân có thể tổ chức để phản đối Trung Quốc tại buổi rước đuốc Olympic ở Sài Gòn vào ngày 29 tháng 4 năm 2008.

Vẫn theo “Câu Lạc Bộ Nhà Báo Tự Do”, công an Việt Nam thậm chí còn nhắn với gia đình và bạn bè anh rằng họ sẽ để yên cho nhân viên an ninh Trung Quốc tại Việt Nam thủ tiêu anh bằng tai nạn giao thông để bảo đảm an ninh cho ngày rước đuốc.

Cũng trong bản tin, “Câu Lạc Bộ Nhà Báo Tự Do” cảnh báo: “Chúng tôi thông báo tin này đến tất cả mọi người để ngăn chặn khả năng công an Việt Nam hợp tác với an ninh Trung Quốc thủ tiêu anh Nguyễn Hoàng Hải, còn gọi là Điếu Cày, rồi đổ cho tai nạn. Chính phủ Việt Nam và lực lượng công an Việt Nam phải chịu mọi trách nhiệm đối với sự an nguy của anh Hải. Hành động bắt giam anh Hải là vi phạm trắng trợn luật pháp Việt Nam hiện hành”.

Trong những ngày này, nhà cầm quyền Việt Nam đang gia tăng các biện pháp an ninh vì lo ngại sẽ có biểu tình chống ngọn đuốc Olympic Bắc Kinh khi nó được rước qua Sài Gòn vào ngày 29 tháng Tư. Cho tới nay, người dân thành phố chưa biết cụ thể lộ trình mà ngọn đuốc sẽ đi qua.

Hôm 20 tháng Tư, tại Hà Nội, đích thân thủ tướng Nguyễn Tấn Dũng đã chủ trì một cuộc họp với các cơ quan, bộ, ngành,… liên quan đến việc rước đuốc để chỉ đạo “phải đảm bảo an toàn” cho chặng rước đuốc tại Sài Gòn.

Vụ bắt giữ Blogger “Điếu Cày” cho thấy các động thái của nhà cầm quyền đã bắt đầu nhằm hạn chế các cuộc biểu tình phản đối ngọn đuốc mà nhiều người cho là biểu tượng của “bá quyền” khi nó đi qua Sài Gòn, Việt Nam.

http://www.nguoi-viet.com/absolutenm/anmviewer.asp?a=77277&z=2

Translated summary: Prominent Vietnamese blogger Dieu Cay was arrested on April 19 in Da Lat, Vietnam. Known for his blog – Club of Free Journalism – Dieu Cay is an outspoken critic of the Vietnamese Communist party and an influential citizen journalist advocacy for the pro-democracy movement. Recently, he’s been rallying support to protest the Olympic torch relay, due to make its appearance in Sai Gon (Ho Chi Minh City).

*Commentary: No doubt Dieu Cay will probably be charged with using propaganda against the state. This arrest is typical of the brutal crackdown on journalistic freedom in Vietnam; the Vietnamese Communist party does not tolerate any challenges to its grip on power. Even a blog with the hint of dissent against the state will be dealt with harshly. Many students and community groups, including prominent online dissidents, pro-democracy & human rights activists will use the April 29th torch relay to protest China’s land-grab policy of the Spratly and Parcel Islands.