A charge of “insulting the national flag” against prominent Vietnamese human rights activist Huynh Thuc Vy amounts to an attack on freedom of expression by the authorities and must be dropped, Amnesty International said ahead of her trial on Friday.
It is rare for the authorities to prosecute a human rights activist for this charge, which carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment, in a disturbing sign of the intensifying crackdown against peaceful dissent in the country.
“This ludicrous charge must be dropped as it is aimed solely at silencing a dedicated, peaceful human rights activist. This is a politically motivated prosecution, brought by the authorities in response to Huynh Thuc Vy’s tireless work to expose human rights violations in Viet Nam and hold the powerful to account,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
“For the authorities to use the charge of ‘insulting the national flag’ to curb peaceful criticism underlines the worsening crackdown on the right to freedom of expression in Viet Nam. The real insult here is the lack of respect the authorities are showing for human rights and international law and standards.”
Huynh Thuc Vy is the founder of the organization Vietnamese Women for Human Rights, whose work aims to support women human rights defenders in Viet Nam. She regularly blogs about human rights violations, including the persecution of ethnic minorities in the country.
Her trial is due to take place on Friday 30 November at the People’s Court of Buon Ho town, Dak Lak province. Huynh Thuc Vy was accused of “insulting the national flag” after a photo of her standing next to a Vietnamese flag with white paint splashed over it appeared on her Facebook page.
Over the past year, the crackdown on dissent in Viet Nam has escalated, with many peaceful activists arrested, tried unfairly and sentenced to years in prison, prompting scores of others to flee the country.