Four labour activists jailed for anti-state activities
On 11 December 2007 four labour activists were sentenced to jail terms ranging from one and a half to four and a half years, for ‘abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state, the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and citizens’, a crime defined in Article 258 of Vietnam’s legal code. All four belong to the United Workers-Famers Organization (UWFO), which is a member of the broader ‘Bloc 8406’ coalition, campaigning for democratic reforms and a multi-party political system in Vietnam.
They were arrested in November 2006, shortly before the start of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Hanoi, during a broad crackdown on opposition political activity. According to the media, the four were accused of slandering the Vietnamese state by collecting complaints about government land-rights violations and sharing them with ‘reactionary’ foreign media, such as Radio Free Asia. One of the accused, UWFO founder Doan Van Dien, also prepared and distributed pamphlets before the APEC summit.
Bloc 8406 has been described by Asia Times as ‘the most potent political challenge ever to Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party.’ Since Bloc 8406 released its manifesto on ‘Freedom and Democracy for Vietnam’ on 8 April 2006, these four UWFO activists are not the only ones to come under government repression. Other Bloc 8406 activists, including priests, journalists, farmer and worker organizations have reported raids, confiscation of property, interrogations, arrests and even one case of alleged torture.
Sources: Asia Times Online, 14 September 2006; Human Rights Watch; Dow Jones Newswires, 11 December 2007