On Friday, two Vietnamese Falun Gong practitioners will go on trial in Hanoi because the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) objected to short wave radio broadcasts they were beaming into China. Vietnamese practitioners see these arrests as the most dramatic instance of a campaign inspired by the CCP to suppress Falun Gong in Vietnam.
The indictment against them makes clear that the Vietnamese government arrested the men in response to pressure from Beijing, applied through a March 5th, 2010, diplomatic memo sent by the Chinese Embassy to the Vietnam Ministry of Investigation and Security.
“The memo stated that the Police Department in China discovered radio signals coming from the Vietnamese territory containing the same content about Falun Gong as heard on the ‘Sound of Hope’ radio station,” the indictment read. “It was recommended that all illegal activities of Falun Gong individuals in the Vietnam territory must be charged and stopped.”
Vu Duc Trung is the CEO of a high-tech company headquartered in Hanoi and a Falun Gong practitioner. According to the indictment, in April 2009 Trung installed short wave radios in the home of his brother-in-law, Le Van Thanh, and his father-in-law, Le Van Manh. The short-wave radios were then used to broadcast into China.
Below is a chronology of events leading up to and succeeding the arrest.
On June 10th, 2010, Trung’s broadcasting equipment was confiscated.
Also on June 10th officers from the Bureau of Radio Frequency Management recorded a memo of “administrative offense” against Mr Thanh for using broadcasting devices without a permit.
On June 11th, Trung, his brother-in-law, who is also a Falun Gong practitioner, and his father-in-law were arrested.
On June 19th, criminal charges were filed under Vietnam’s Article 226, which prohibits “transmitting information illegally onto the telecommunications network.”
The three men were detained without bail. Their families were told they could not visit, because the charges were said to be political in nature.
On Sept. 1st the father-in-law, Mr. Manh, was released from custody. Mr. Trung and Mr. Thanh remain in prison.
In early 2011, the People’s Police magazine published an article claiming that Trung’s short wave broadcasts had interfered with air traffic control and damaged Vietnam’s diplomatic relations.
The police who raided the homes of Trung and Thanh not only took away broadcasting equipment and computers, they also confiscated books and other materials related to Falun Gong.
Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Applies Pressure Through Diplomatic Channels
In its foreign relations, the CCP’s diplomats make clear that criticism of its policy toward Falun Gong is unacceptable. Where the regime has influence, it attempts to suppress the practice.
Vietnam has bowed to the CCP’s influence. While Falun Gong is officially legal in Vietnam, the state has put systematic pressure on Falun Gong practitioners.
A three-page, 2009 memo devoted to stopping the activities of Falun Gong was distributed to local police departments by a provincial division of the Investigation and Public Security Ministry.
The memo says in part, “Spreading Falun Gong in Vietnam and spreading the information about China’s persecution of practitioners in China directly affects the diplomatic relations between Vietnam and China…
“The government and the ministry of investigation and security gives direct orders to stop the practice of Falun Gong in the country to avoid problems with China. It orders officials they must deal with the situation when they detect it.”
A memo from Provincial Department of Education and Training in Bến Tre to its Offices of Education and Training issued on March 30th, 2011 corroborates the 2009 memo’s picture of systematic state suppression. The 2011 memo states that it was issued in compliance with an official order dated March 29th, 2011 from the Official People's Committee in Bến Tre to halt all dispersal of Falun Gong materials.
Vietnamese practitioners date the attempt to suppress Falun Gong to 2006. In Hanoi police came to a park where practitioners were doing the Falun Gong exercises and arrested the practitioners. Later the police went to their homes, confiscated materials relating to Falun Gong and pressured families into trying to get practitioners to give up Falun Gong.
Since then, the harassment has gradually intensified, with incidents reported throughout Vietnam. In some cases, practitioners have been roughed up by police.
Two weeks ago, 15 police detained 11 Falun Gong practitioners in Bien Hoa. The police confiscated all their Falun Gong materials and required practitioners to sign documents promising not to practise Falun Gong and not to distribute fliers about the persecution.
Details about the Upcoming Trial
Mr. Trung and Mr. Thanh are represented by lawyer Tran Dinh Trien. Mr. Trien believes the real reason for his clients’ arrest involves Vietnam’s attempts to appease the CCP.
In a Radio Free Asia broadcast, Mr. Trien points to a document issued by the Ministry of Public Security around the same time as the decision by the state to prosecute his clients. The document emphasized that propagating Falun Gong affected diplomatic relations between Vietnam and China.
Trien believes the criminal case against his clients is without merit.
In a letter to the Ministry of Investigation and Security and the People’s Supreme Procurator, Mr. Trien explained how the criminal charge brought against his clients does not actually apply to them: Article 226 originally did not apply to radio broadcasts. It was revised to include radio broadcasts, with the revised law effective January 1st, 2010. But, Trien argues, since his clients had begun radio broadcasts in 2009, the revised law is not binding in their case.
At most, he says, his clients should be charged with an administrative offense of broadcasting without a license, the punishment for which would be the confiscation of their equipment and a fine.
As for the claim that the broadcasts interfered with air traffic control, the broadcasts were made on international short wave frequencies, and such interference is not possible.
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