Man gets eight years in prison for SEZ protest violations

By Hai Duyen   June 28, 2019 | 01:59 am PT
Man gets eight years in prison for SEZ protest violations
Truong Huu Loc, 56, stands trial in HCMC, June 28, 2019, for disrupting security during SEZ law protests last year. Photo by Vietnam News Agency.
A Vietnamese man was sentenced to eight years in jail Friday for "disrupting security" during last year's anti-SEZ law protest in HCMC.

Truong Huu Loc, 56, who was arrested in June last year, was found guilty of instigating others to join the protest and charged with "disrupting security."

His action was "serious," threatened national security and disturbed public order, calling for severe punishment, the court in HCMC ruled.

According to the indictment, Loc took advantage of controversies surrounding Vietnam’s proposed draft law on special economic zones (SEZs) as well as the cybersecurity bill, posting livestream videos and distorting guidelines and policies of the Communist Party and the government. 

Loc’s nine livestream videos attracted tens of thousands of viewers and negative comments, and were aimed at reducing people’s trust in the government, the indictment said.

During trips to the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho and to the Central Highlands, he called for many people to go to HCMC and join the protest on June 10.

He bought bread, square rice cakes and bottles of water and hired a taxi to the city to deliver them to protesters, but was stopped by police officers. He later came to the Notre Dame Cathedral in the city center and joined the crowds, shouting anti-government slogans.

The protest in HCMC was among several that erupted in Vietnam on June 10 and 11. Thousands of people had taken to the streets, also in Hanoi, Da Nang, and several other provinces, with banners and signs calling for the SEZ draft law to be scrapped.

They particularly objected a provision that would allow foreign investors to lease land for 99 years, saying that such a law would allow foreign countries to undermine Vietnam’s sovereignty.

The controversial bill, originally scheduled to be passed the same month, was postponed to give the government more time to consult with the public, organizations, experts and scientists.

Following the demonstrations, police detained hundreds of protesters and said they uncovered evidence that the protests were anti-state actions incited by organizations based in other countries using false, distorted information about the draft law.

Trials have been held in the south central provinces of Khanh Hoa, Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan, as well as Ho Chi Minh City and its neighbor Dong Nai. More than 100 people have been convicted for "disrupting public order."

The Cybersecurity Law, on the other hand, was passed and took effect early 2019. It bans internet users from organizing, encouraging or training other people for anti-state purposes. They are not allowed to distort history, negate the nation’s revolutionary achievements, undermine national solidarity, offend religions and discriminate on the basis of gender and race.

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