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

Call for release of Vietnamese prisoners of conscience before Olympic torch relay in Ho Chi Minh City

Reporters Without Borders called today for the release of all journalists and cyber-dissidents in Vietnam after a leading Vietnamese blogger was arrested on 19 April for taking part in protests against China. The Olympic torch is due to arrive on 29 April in Ho Chi Minh City, in southern Vietnam, after being borne through the streets of the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.

“When the Olympic torch relay takes place in Ho Chi Minh City, the Vietnamese government should release all prisoners of conscience and implement the Olympic Charter, which defends human dignity,” Reporters Without Borders said.

Many pro-freedom initiatives and independent media have emerged since the launch of the Bloc 8406 pro-democracy movement in April 2006. It was declared illegal by the government in October 2006 and since then the security services have constantly hounded its leading members. Several dozen have been arrested, including nine journalists and cyber-dissidents.

Opposition party members Huynh Nguyen Dao, Le Nguyen Sang and Nguyen Bac Truyen have been sentenced to jail terms of three, four and two years respectively on charges of “propaganda hostile to the government” in what they posted online. Lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan have been sentenced to four and three years in prison respectively.

Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly, one of the chief editors of the Hue-based underground magazine Tu do Ngôn luan (Free Expression), was arrested in February 2007 and, after a summary trial, was given a long jail sentence for “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

Less than a month ago, a court in Vinh Thuan (in the southern province of Kien Giang) sentenced independent journalist Truong Minh Duc to five years in prison under article 258 of the Vietnamese criminal code.

Biggest crackdown since 2002

Several Vietnamese have been arrested in the run-up to the torch relay for demonstrating against human rights violations in China and Chinese policy towards the South China sea, where China and Vietnam dispute the sovereignty of the Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands.

Overseas Vietnamese websites have reported that the official Chinese torch relay website shows these two archipelagos as being part of the People’s Republic of China.


Blogger Dieu Cay

The blogger arrested on 19 April in the southern city of Dalat was independent journalist Nguyen Hoang Hai, who is better known by his blogging pseudonym of Dieu Cay. He had participated in protests against Chinese policy in Ho Chi Minh City earlier this year and was being closely watched by police, who had threatened to let Chinese agents kill him.

According to a Vietnamese government website, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called on 20 April for “absolute security” during the Olympic torch relay in Ho Chi Minh City and warned against “hostile forces” that were always ready to disturb the peace.