Posts Tagged ‘freedom of speech’

Malaysia: After Anti-Corruption Rally in Kuala Lumpur Demanding PM Najib’s Resignation, The Government Crackdown Makes Citizens Even More Angry

November 21, 2016


© AFP / by Dan Martin | A protester holds a poster depicting Najib Razak during a mass rally in Kuala Lumpur on November 19, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Rights groups condemned Malaysia’s government on Monday for a crackdown on organisers of a weekend anti-government rally, including the arrest of the protest leader under a tough law aimed at terrorism.

Tens of thousands of people flooded Kuala Lumpur with the yellow colours of the reformist movement Saturday to demand Prime Minister Najib Razak resign and face justice over a massive corruption scandal.

Authorities arrested more than a dozen people before, during and after the demonstration including Maria Chin Abdullah, the leader of the “Bersih” civil society alliance that staged the rally.

Most detainees have since been released but Chin remains in solitary confinement under a national security law that allows detention without charge for 28 days and can bring a lengthy prison sentence.

Six Asian human rights organisations in a joint statement called the crackdown a grave breach of basic rights.

“These arrests violate international human rights standards,” it said, calling for all those arrested to be freed and all charges dropped.

The statement was released by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, Fortify Rights, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance.

The groups said they were especially “alarmed” at Chin’s detention under a national security law introduced in 2012 by Najib’s government with a promise it would not be used against political opponents.

“However, the authorities are instead using it to prevent the exercise of fundamental human rights, constituting an abuse of law,” the statement said.

– ‘Horrific abuse of power’ –

The protest was the second in 15 months by Bersih to highlight allegations that billions of dollars were plundered from sovereign fund 1MDB, Najib’s pet investment project.

Najib, 63, and 1MDB deny wrongdoing. But the US Justice Department earlier this year detailed an audacious campaign of fraud and money-laundering by his family, associates and an unnamed “Malaysian Official 1” — an apparent thinly-veiled reference to Najib.

Najib last year abruptly fired the attorney general and shut down domestic investigations. His government has increasingly throttled the media and whistle-blowers to contain the scandal.

Bersih, in a statement Monday, said Chin was being held in a tiny windowless cell with no mattress.

Bersih is “shocked and outraged that the authorities have gone to such extreme lengths to silence their critics”, it said.

It called for international pressure on authorities and said nightly vigils would be held on her behalf at central Kuala Lumpur’s Independence Square.

Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi has threatened still more people could be detained.

Critics accuse Najib’s government of trampling rights following a 2013 election in which his ruling coalition lost the popular vote.

Since the 1MDB scandal exploded last year, opponents accuse him of an outright lurch toward autocracy to suppress it.

Last week a leading opposition politician was convicted of releasing confidential documents on the scandal, and the chief editor of the country’s leading independent news website was charged over a 1MDB-related news video.

by Dan Martin

Amnesty International: Facebook, Microsoft, LinkedIn and others must resist China’s Orwellian vision of the internet

November 18, 2016

By Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

Facebook, Microsoft, and LinkedIn are among the tech firms expected to be on a charm offensive with Chinese officials at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, which starts today.

China has made clear to Western companies what tune they must dance to if they want to gain or keep access to the riches of the Chinese market, currently dominated by national players like Tencent and Sina.

chinese china internet online

A new Cyber Security Law passed in China last week goes further than ever before in tightening the government’s already repressive grip on the internet, embodied by its “Great Firewall”. It is a vast human and technological system of Internet censorship without parallel in the world. The new law codifies existing abusive practices and seeks to turn tech companies operating in China into de-facto state surveillance agents.

The new law forces companies to pass on vast amounts of data, including personal information and to censor users’ posts with insufficient safeguards to protect freedom of expression and the right to privacy. Companies would be liable for substantial penalties if they fail to do so and there is no transparency about how the data will be used by the authorities.

President Xi Jinping has insisted that “no cyber security means no national security”, but companies do not have to look far to see the chilling reality of what “national security” can mean under China’s broad and vague legal provisions. Over the years the government has detained hundreds, if not thousands, of people on national security charges, often solely for expressing views online critical of the government.

In a case that demonstrates the government’s renewed intransigence, bloggers Lu Yuyu and Li Tingyu were criminally detained this year on the implausible charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” for compiling and posting publicly available data on social protests in China.

For the Tibetan blogger Drulko, a simple internet posting commenting on a picture showing a heavy presence of armed soldiers at an important Tibetan Buddhist site triggered his arrest. For this and reposting a news report about talks between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment under the pretext of having “incited separatism”.

The new law substantially expands the state’s internet policing power. Information internet companies are required to remove and report to authorities would include items such as the data about protests in the blogs of Lu Yuyu and Li Tingyu, and Druklo’s messages about religious freedom, together with personal information, even before the police request it. This practice is not limited to people like Lu Yuyu, Li Tingyu and Druklo, who were on the government’s radar but also includes those whose activities have not yet attracted the authorities’ attention.

li tingyu

Li Tingyu. Photo: China Change.

It is an Orwellian vision of the internet, a dragnet to trap those the government views as troublemakers, where the right to freedom of expression exists only at the discretion of the censors. Given the current political hardening under President Xi Jinping and the absence of an independent judiciary, there is no saying where the government will draw the line tomorrow.

Tech companies should use the opportunity of the gathering in Wuzhen to seriously question whether they are willing to do business on these terms. Are they prepared to be complicit in the abuse of individuals’ rights to freedom of expression and privacy online?

To avoid fines, suspension or termination of business or the shutting down of websites, the law will require internet companies to self-censor, or censor their own users, to an extent not previously seen, even in China.

If internet companies follow the letter of the new law, users who refuse to sign up to real name registration will have no access to phone networks, the internet, social media or instant messaging services. Censorship will not stop at social media posts but includes private messages as well.

xi jinping

The Chinese government has justified these draconian regulations by invoking the need to protect the country’s “internet sovereignty” and manage “threats from outside”. While governments must protect people from genuine security threats, “internet sovereignty” goes much further and threatens the very principles of a global and open internet.

Technology companies have a responsibility to respect the right to privacy and freedom of expression. They should challenge the new law and make known to the government the company’s principled opposition to implementing any requests or directives which violate fundamental human rights.

It is not easy for companies to navigate the often fraught and complex negotiations with the Chinese government, and many have been burnt before. But the message they must deliver to Chinese officials this week is that principles and people come first and the terms laid out in the Cyber Security Law are not ones they are prepared to sign up to.


North Korean officials ‘tell China to stop its people from body shaming their supreme leader’ — “Do Not Call Him ‘Kim Fatty III'”

November 15, 2016

North Korea officials have allegedly requested Chinese authority to stop its people from using a nickname of Kim Jong-un which indicates he is fat, according to Chinese media.

The supreme leader of North Korea has been known as ‘Kim Fatty III’ among Chinese web users.

However, the search term now brings up no results on Chinese social media and the main Chinese search engine, MailOnline can reveal.

North Korea officials have allegedly requested Chinese authority to stop its people from calling Kim Jong-un 'Kim Fatty III'. The North Korean leader was pictured inspecting the Pyongyang Children's Foodstuff Factory in 2015

North Korea officials have allegedly requested Chinese authority to stop its people from calling Kim Jong-un ‘Kim Fatty III’. The North Korean leader was pictured inspecting the Pyongyang Children’s Foodstuff Factory in 2015

The censorship was thought to be applied after a recent meeting between the Chinese and North Korean officials, reported Apple Daily, a newspaper based in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The nickname ‘Kim Fatty III’, which reads ‘jin san pang’ (金三胖) in Chinese, has been widely used among the country’s web users since Kim Jong-un became the ruler of North Korea in 2011.

MailOnline searched for ‘Kim Fatty III’ on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter, today.

The search result read: ‘According to relevant laws and policies, the search results of “jin san pang” have not be shown.’

An attempt on Baidu, the Chinese equivalent to Google, produced a similar outcome.

The search page on Baidu said: ‘Apologies, no web pages related to “jin san pang” were found.’

The screenshot on Baidu said: 'Apologies, no web pages related to "jin san pang" were found'

The screenshot on Baidu said: ‘Apologies, no web pages related to “jin san pang” were found’

The search result on Weibo read: 'According to relevant laws and policies, the search results of "jin san pang" have not be shown'

The search result on Weibo read: ‘According to relevant laws and policies, the search results of “jin san pang” have not be shown’

After the censorship was allegedly applied, Chinese internet users have found different ways to keep calling Kim Jong-un fat.

They cleverly changed the Chinese character for ‘fat’ (胖) into two characters: ‘moon’ (月) and ‘half’ (半). While being put next to each other, these two characters compose the character ‘fat’.

Some people simply dropped his surname Kim and started calling him ‘Fatty III’.

By using these methods, thousands of Chinese people have managed to poke fun of the North Korean ruler.

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Freedom House: Online Freedom Declines for Sixth Consecutive Year

November 14, 2016


© AFP/File | A recent report released by watchdog group Freedom House says 34 of the 65 countries assessed saw internet freedom deteriorate since June 2015

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Internet freedom declined for a sixth consecutive year in 2016 as governments around the world cracked down on social media and messaging applications used to express dissent, a watchdog group said Monday.

The Freedom on the Net report by the activist group Freedom House said a growing number of regimes are restricting or censoring messaging platforms such as WhatsApp in addition to popular social networks.

“Popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have been subject to growing censorship for several years, but governments are now increasingly going after messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram,” said Sanja Kelly, director of the study.

“Messaging apps are able to spread information quickly and securely — and some governments find this threatening.”

The report said 34 of the 65 countries assessed in the report saw internet freedom deteriorate since June 2015.

Some of the notable declines were in Uganda, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ecuador, and Libya, while online freedom improved in Sri Lanka and Zambia and in the United States, due to the passage of a law limiting collection of telecommunications metadata.

Freedom House said 67 percent of internet users live in countries where criticism of the government, military, or ruling family is subject to censorship.

Governments in 24 countries limited or blocked access to social media and communication tools, up from 15 in the previous year.

Even some democratic governments have been targeting applications that use encryption features seen as a threat to national security. WhatsApp faced restrictions in 12 of the 65 countries analyzed, more than any other app.

“Although the blocking of these tools affects everyone, it has an especially harmful impact on human rights defenders, journalists, and marginalized communities who often depend on these apps to bypass government surveillance,” said Kelly.

China was the world’s worst offender for a second year, according to the report, followed by Syria and Iran.

Freedom House criticized a new Chinese law that allows for seven-year prison terms for spreading rumors on social media, a charge often used to imprison political activists.

It said some users in China belonging to minority religious groups were imprisoned for watching religious videos on mobile phones.

The report said authorities in 38 countries made arrests based on social media posts over the past year, an increase of more than 50 percent since 2013. Prison sentences imposed in some countries exceeded ten years. Some have been jailed for merely sharing or “liking” content on Facebook.

“When authorities sentence users to long prison terms for simply criticizing government policies online, almost everyone becomes much more reluctant to post anything that could get them in similar trouble,” Kelly said.

Hong Kong: Pro-China, Anti-Independence Rally On Sunday

November 13, 2016

BBC News

Pro-China supporters show the thumbs down in front of Chinese national flags as they attend an anti-Hong Kong independence rally outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, China, November 13, 2016

Image captionProtesters signal their anger at two pro-independence legislators. Reuters

Tens of thousands of pro-China protesters have rallied in Hong Kong, expressing anger at calls for the territory’s independence.

Demonstrators waved Chinese flags, and chanted “oppose Hong Kong independence; support Beijing’s ruling”.

Last week, the Chinese government issued a rare ruling on Hong Kong’s law, effectively disqualifying two pro-independence lawmakers from parliament.

Critics say Beijing’s intervention has undermined Hong Kong’s rule of law.

The row over pro-independence legislators Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching has highlighted deep divisions in the territory, which was handed back to China from the British in 1997, under a promise that it would enjoy a high degree of autonomy.

China reminds Hong Kong who is in charge

A chaotic show that reveals deeper concerns

What is Hong Kong’s political controversy about?

Mr Leung and Ms Yau used a derogatory term to refer to China, and brought banners that read “Hong Kong is not China”, while they were being sworn into office last month.

Their oaths were invalidated, and a court case into whether they are still eligible to be legislators is currently under way at a Hong Kong court.

‘Destructive force’

Maggie Cheung

Maggie Cheung described pro-independence voices as a “destructive force”

Organisers of Sunday’s pro-China protest say 40,000 people attended the rally outside Hong Kong’s parliament, while police estimate 28,500 people were there at the peak of the demonstration.

Maggie Chan, a spokeswoman for an alliance who organised the protests, said she opposed attempts “to separate Hong Kong from our motherland”.

“So many people are very angry because the pro-independence force is a destructive force that is against the rule of law in Hong Kong,” Ms Chan told the BBC.

Pro-Beijing demonstrators gather outside the Hong Kong Legislative Council on November 13, 2016, during a rally in support of an interpretation of the city
The space outside Hong Kong’s parliament was packed with pro-China protesters. AFP

The pro-Beijing campaign is clearly well organised – and critics have alleged that some participants are paid to take part in pro-China protests.

Ms Chan said the allegations were “made with the intention to lower the alliance’s standing” and described them as “defamatory” claims.

Organisers told participants to be wary of groups attempting to frame them – and told protesters to take photographic evidence if they saw anyone handing out money.

‘Big Brother’

Last week, pro-democracy groups organised a march against Beijing’s ruling, accusing it of abusing its power to block two democratically elected legislators from taking their seats.

Protest organiser Au Ngok-hin told the BBC that Ms Yau and Mr Leung’s actions may be “inappropriate”, but that China’s ruling would “deteriorate Hong Kong’s rule of law”.

Organisers said about 13,000 people took part in that march, while police put the number at 8,000 at the protest’s peak.

Lawyers and law students take part in a silent march in protest at a ruling by China which effectively bars two pro-independence legislators from taking office in Hong Kong on November 8, 2016

Image captionOn Tuesday, more than a thousand lawyers took part in a silent march expressing opposition to Beijing’s ruling. AFP

Hong Kong faces new political turmoil — Silencing separatists is not the answer

November 13, 2016

The Economist
November 12, 2016

HONG KONG’S Legislative Council, or Legco, has descended into chaos over how members should take their oaths of office after elections in September. Pro-establishment lawmakers dominate the 70-member chamber, thanks to a voting system skewed towards those who support the government and the Communist Party in Beijing. Despite that, voters elected half a dozen candidates who want Hong Kong to be more independent—some even favour outright separation from China. At their oath-taking two members of a new party, Youngspiration, pledged allegiance to “the Hong Kong nation”, used the imperial Japanese pronunciation of “China”, and displayed a banner declaring that “Hong Kong is not China”.

The theatrics by Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching at times seemed puerile. On November 7th the central government made clear that it was in no mood for farce. Its rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), issued a ruling aimed at barring Mr Leung and Ms Yau from Legco (see article). Few doubt that the NPC will get its way. Other independence-leaning lawmakers may also be ejected.

The intervention has angered many in Hong Kong. Though the NPC oversees the territory’s constitution, its rulings were always intended as a last resort in a place that was promised “a high degree of autonomy” on its reversion from British rule to China in 1997. In this instance, Hong Kong’s own judiciary had just begun hearing a case brought by the territory’s government aimed at disqualifying the two members. Never before have Hong Kong’s courts been pre-empted like this. The ruling undermines the judicial independence that makes the territory so successful as a global financial hub.

Worse, it betrays the NPC’s refusal to acknowledge how the Communist Party’s own miscalculations have created today’s dissent. In 2014 the NPC declared that Hong Kong would not get the full democracy that many thought they had been promised: only candidates approved by the Communist Party’s backers in Hong Kong could become chief executive. Public anger erupted into weeks of protests that spawned a “localist” movement. Its members called for self-determination for Hong Kong.

The party’s hard line fuelled support for them, especially after a Hong Kong bookseller dealing in gossipy tales about China’s leaders appeared to have been kidnapped by the party’s goons and taken to the mainland. Four of his colleagues were also snatched away, either while visiting the mainland or, in one case, from Thailand.

Hong Kong is still far freer and more open than anywhere on the mainland—home to a lively press, a mostly clean and efficient civil service and a political culture still largely unrestrained by fear. But the Basic Law only promises that Hong Kong will keep its capitalist way of life until 2047. Many people worry that China will tighten its grip long before the reprieve runs out. Every sign that it is doing so plays into the localists’ hands. Hours before the NPC’s ruling, thousands took to the streets in anticipation of what it would say; some shouted “Hong Kong independence” and scuffled with riot police.

The best way to ease the desperation that feeds the separatists’ cause would be to give Hong Kong’s citizens what they want: full democracy. Alas, the Communist Party is as unlikely to agree to that in Hong Kong as it is in the rest of China (local elections under way on the mainland are of a kind that North Korea would admire—see article). The party is spooked by the thought of localists gaining power.

Once, Hong Kong was viewed by China’s rulers as their star exhibit for wooing Taiwan back into the fold. Now they are beginning to view the territory as yet another restive province with ungrateful subjects—a better-washed version of Tibet or Xinjiang. China does not appear to be mulling the use of its troops to crush unrest—that would be calamitous for business and the much-vaunted policy of “one country, two systems”. But it is baring its teeth. It is not only Hong Kongers who should be concerned. So should all those who look to Hong Kong’s freedom and prosperity as a future path for China itself.

This article appeared in the Print Edition with the headline: China’s new Tibet

Hong Kong duo heightened Beijing’s fears of separatist movement — Remember Wukan

November 9, 2016

The enemy for China is within — “The Chinese model is a bitter, long-standing civil war– very destructive, very divisive. This is the real black swan.”

November 9, 2016

For one of Hong Kong’s leading political commentators, with an insider’s perspective of China’s rich history, it’s not the currency, capital flight or a peasant uprising that’s keeping him awake at night.

The “real Black Swan” that China has to face up to is the enemy within — in the upper echelons of the military and government — as well as its inability to transfer power peacefully and the threat of a long and bitter civil war.

TL Tsim has studied the Chinese political scene since the 1980s, with a background in journalism, including the South China Morning Post and Hong Kong Economic Journal before starting his own consultancy. In an interview with Real Vision TV he said the greatest misconception among its people is that Chinese dynasties are super stable structures that last a long time.

Long civil wars follow Chinese dynasties

That’s not really the case, he argued, because none of them lasted longer than the Habsburgs in Austria, who ruled for over 800 years. The last one in China – the Qing dynasty – lasted 260 years, which is much shorter in comparison. People also underestimate the length of the civil wars between Chinese dynasties, which can last for 150 years, he adds.

“That is something most Chinese people do not understand. And it has a bearing on the way we go forward,” Tsim said. “In spite of all of the intelligence, the learning, and the experience of the Chinese people over 5,000 years, they have not come up with a system of government which can deal with the effective and peaceful transfer of power. In the West, you do it through the ballot box. So Brexit is Brexit. You accept it. But in China, the fight goes on.”

Considering the collapse of the Chinese communist party

The shortest dynasty of any size and power in Chinese history was the Yuan dynasty, which lasted just less than 100 years, Tsim said. “This government, this administration, the Chinese Communist Party, came to power in 1949. And so it’s been around for 67 years.”

“We don’t know when something like the Russian collapse, the implosion of the former Soviet Union might take place. We don’t know whether this is going to be the Yugoslavian model, when the country broke up into six or seven parts. So to speculate on the timing of it is something I do not do.

“But it is not idle to speculate on how this is going to happen. The most likely scenario is a power struggle over-spilling into a coup d’etat and then over-spilling into civil war. That would be the trajectory.”


Credit Almy

The real concern for Tsim – and he said for the Chinese leaders as well– is that if you look at the breakup of the former Soviet Union, the problem was internal, arising out of disagreements within the center of the party itself.

“And this is what they need to guard against,” Tsim said. “This is why you’ve seen the arrest of Bo Xilai, the arrest of Zhou Yongkang, who was the former security czar, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee. Then you have the arrests of the two generals, General Xu and General Guo. Those are the players that could have toppled a government because they are strong. They have the backing of armed forces behind them”

The Chinese model is bitter long standing civil war

What was ultimately a peaceful disintegration of the former USSR, is unlikely to happen in China because there will be a fight, Tsim said. “They would not have sat down and talked about it and then take the decision to simply allow this to happen. This is not the Chinese model.

“And sadly, I think we’re not going to see a Yugoslavian model either, because there they did have a civil war. But the civil war– the war was small, in terms of size and scale, and didn’t last very long. That is not the Chinese model either. The Chinese model is a bitter, long-standing civil war– very destructive, very divisive. This is the real black swan.”

To hear TL Tsim’s views on Hong Kong’s changing relationship with China, the wealth effect and  currency outlook, as well as capital flight and the growth outlook, take a free seven day trial of Real Vision TV  to see the full interview.

Vietnamese blogger arrested for criticizing government

November 3, 2016

Ho Van Hai second blogger arrested in past month

By Bennett Murray

blogger art, cyber

HANOI, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City police have arrested a blogger for spreading “anti-state propaganda”.

The VN Express news site reported police as saying Thursday that the blogger, a 52-year-old doctor named Ho Van Hai, was arrested Wednesday night over Facebook posts.

The content of the offending posts was not made public and the account has since been taken down.

However, police spokesman Col. Nguyen Sy Quang told VN Express that Hai had “distorted” information in a way that could erode trust in the government.

While charges haven’t been made public, Quang speculated that Hai had violated a controversial penal code provision that criminalizes “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”.

The law commands a prison term of up to 20 years for violators.

Vietnam, whose single party communist state takes a hard stance against dissent, frequently targets bloggers in crackdowns.

October saw the arrest of Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, better known by her pen name Mother Mushroom, under similar circumstances.

She had previously criticized the government’s handling of a catastrophic chemical spill at a Vietnamese steel plant owned by the Taiwanese firm Formosa Plastic Group.

In August 2016, netizens Nguyen Huu Thien An and Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy were sentenced to two and three years, respectively, in a Nha Trang courtroom on charges of “propagandizing against the State of Vietnam” by sharing anti-government material on social media.

In March, activist blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh and his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy were sentenced to five and three years, respectively, for running a popular website that frequently featured dissident writings.


Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form.



By Nhat Vy   November 3, 2016 | 10:20 am GMT+7

Police have accused him of spreading distorted information designed to damage public trust in the government.

Police in Ho Chi Minh City arrested a man for disseminating information designed to undermine the government on Wednesday.

Ho Van Hai who is known by his Facebook name “Ho Hai” was arrested Wednesday night for distributing documents and information designed to undermine the state from a house in Thu Duc District.

Colonel Nguyen Sy Quang, a spokesman of the HCMC police force, said Hai had used “distorted” information to cause the public to lose trust in the government.

The 52-year-old doctor shows signs of having violated a Penal Code provision prohibiting “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” Quang said, adding that police have been monitoring Hai’s online activities for some time and only arrested him after they caught him in the act.


Facebooker Ho Van Hai in a file photo.

The city police said they will investigate further to clarify his violations.

Hai is the second Facebook blogger Vietnam has arrested in a month.

On October 10, police in the central province of Khanh Hoa arrested Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, 37, after accusing her of publishing distorted posts and videos designed to denigrate the government and the Communist Party on a blog and Facebook page she has run since 2012.

In March, the People’s Court of Hanoi sentenced blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh and his assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy to five and three years in prison each for blogging against the state. An appeals court upheld the sentences in September.

Related news:

Vietnam arrests Facebooker accused of distorting facts, defaming police

Blogger sentenced to five years in prison for ‘smearing’ state


Vietnam Police Arrest Anti-Government Blogger

November 2, 2016

HANOI — Vietnamese police on Wednesday detained a prominent blogger for distributing anti-state information, the latest in a crackdown on critics of the country’s Communist rulers.

Ho Van Hai, 52, was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City and accused of “spreading information and documents on the internet that are against the government of the Social Republic of Vietnam”, according to a statement by Ho Chi Minh City police on their website.

Police will investigate and handle Hai’s violations in accordance with the law, the statement said. Hai’s Facebook page and blog were inaccessible as of Wednesday night.

Despite sweeping reforms to its economy and increasing openness toward social change, including gay, lesbian and transgender rights, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and zero tolerance for criticism.

Last month Vietnam police detained prominent blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, or “Me Nam” (Mother Mushroom), for running “propaganda” against the state. The United States, European Union and Britain called for her release.

Another well-known Vietnamese political blogger and his assistant lost their appeal in September when a higher court upheld their jail terms and reaffirmed they had abused their freedom and hurt the state’s interests.

(Editing by Alison Williams)