Vietnam arrests man linked to Formosa protest for inciting social unrest

By Hung Le   April 6, 2017 | 07:31 am PT
Vietnam arrests man linked to Formosa protest for inciting social unrest
Formosa steel factory is seen in Vietnam's central Ha Tinh province March 31, 2017. Photo taken on March 31, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Stringer
The man has allegedly spread 'false messages' and incited violence.

Police in the central province of Ha Tinh have arrested a young man who allegedly worked with unidentified foreign organizations to produce social media content on what they call "sensitive" events in central Vietnam to incite social unrest.

Nguyen Van Hoa, 22, will be detained for three months pending further criminal investigation into charges of "abusing democratic freedom to infringe upon the interests of the State and the legitimate interests of organizations and citizens," Vietnam's government portal said Thursday.

According to the local police, Hoa signed a $1,500 contract with foreign radios and websites to produce 16 videos per month. The police did not identify those radios and websites.

Of those "sensitive" events, last October, Hoa allegedly participated in a protest outside the premises of Taiwanese Formosa Steel Plant in Ha Tinh, which is responsible for a massive fish die-off in April 2016, Vietnam's worst environmental disaster to date. He then shared a video of the incident on social media, "complicating security and order in the area," the police said.

"Hoa is a high-tech criminal who used many tricks to hinder the investigation," Ha Tinh police said in a statement.

Vietnam's government portal said Hoa had already admitted to inciting protests, causing unrest as well as distorting facts and smearing the Communist Party and the Vietnamese government. 

Under Vietnam's Penal Code, Hoa is facing charges of anti-state propaganda, which is punishable by three to 12 years in prison.

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