Protest Singers Sentenced to Harsh Prison Sentences in Vietnam

Supporters of the 17 social activists clash with police in Hanoi, August 27th 2012. RFA photo.

The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights strongly condemns the harsh sentences imposed on two Vietnamese singers and songwriters at an unfair trial at the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court today. Vo Minh Tri, known as Viet Khang and Tran Vu Anh Binh (Hoang Nhat Thong) were sentenced respectively to four and six years in prison followed by two years probationary detention. They were charged of “circulating propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code.

“Once again, Hanoi has displayed its utter contempt for its citizens’ rights and its international obligations”, said Vo Van Ai, President of the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights. “Just last week, Vietnam held its annual human rights dialogue with the European Union. Its dialogue with the United States is in November. Between these two rounds of dialogues, Hanoi sentences two young people who have done nothing but to sing of freedom and the love of their country. This hypocrisy should cease and these two people should be immediately set free,” he added.

Viet Khang, born in 1978, and Tran Vu Anh Binh, 37, were arrested in September 2011. Viet Khang was briefly released, then re-arrested on 23 December 2011. They were detained at the Security Investigation Office in Ho Chi Minh City. The two were arrested after songs written and sung by Viet Khang were posted on YouTube and became wildly popular among young Vietnamese. The songs protested human rights violations, social injustice and the China-Vietnam relationship. One song, “Who are you” asked the Vietnam’s leaders:

“Where is your nationalism?
Why consciously take orders from China? …
I cannot sit still
While Vietnam collapses
And my people sink
Into a thousand years of eternal darkness
I cannot sit still
My children and the next generation deserve a future
Where will our roots be
When Vietnam is no longer in this world?

In February 2012, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights submitted the case of Viet Khang and Tran Vu Anh Binh to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression.

“Vietnam is seeking a seat on the UN Human Rights Council for 2014-2016. UN member states who truly care about human rights and the credibility of the UN should not let this happen” said Vo Van Ai.

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