Vietnamese authorities must immediately drop ‘propaganda against the state’ charges against activist Bui Tuan Lam, who faces up to 12 years in prison for a number of critical, satirical and other social media posts on human rights issues in Viet Nam, Amnesty International Interim Deputy Regional Director for Research Montse Ferrer said ahead of Lam’s expected trial on 25 May.
“Vietnamese authorities must drop these trumped-up charges and immediately and unconditionally release Bui Tuan Lam. The authorities have hounded him for his posts and videos, showing the length that Vietnamese authorities can go to deny people the enjoyment of their right to freedom of expression, no matter how benign, satirical or light-hearted. Satire is not a crime. This travesty of justice must end.
“The charges call into serious question Vietnamese authorities’ commitment to upholding international human rights standards. The authorities must end the widespread use of Article 117 against human rights defenders, activists and others peacefully expressing their opinions and views if they want to avoid making a mockery out of their position on the UN Human Rights Council.
“His case also lacks anything resembling international standards of fairness, as Bui Tuan Lam has now been in pre-trial detention for almost a year and only recently was able to contact his lawyer.
“This case is emblematic of the beleaguered state of human rights in Viet Nam, where even the mildest satirical jab can potentially result in blowback from authorities. The international community should demand that Vietnamese authorities end their relentless assault on people’s basic human rights.”
In November 2021, activist Bui Tuan Lam was summoned by the Da Nang city police after a video of his went viral on Facebook. In the video, Lam served streetside noodles using the same gestures as famed Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe, known as Salt Bae, after a video of Viet Nam’s Minister of Public Security To Lam eating at Salt Bae’s expensive London restaurant sparked outrage back home.
The satirical video led many to refer to Bui Tuan Lam as ‘Green Onion Bae.’ Bui Tuan Lam’s Facebook and YouTube channel has more than 12,000 followers, where he shares his opinions on human rights and social issues, often in a humorous vein.
On 7 September 2022, he was arrested under Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code, which punishes the dissemination of ‘propaganda against the state’ and is routinely used against human rights defenders. It carries a prison term of up to 12 years.
On 6 April 2023, his wife, Le Thanh Lam, received a notice from authorities that their investigation of Bui Tuan Lam had concluded. According to the family, the charges are based on dozens of Facebook and YouTube videos by Bui Tuan Lam.