Vietnam: Internet essayist to be tried on national security charges

August 14, 2002, New York—Authorities in Vietnam will soon bring Internet essayist Le Chi Quang, 32, to trial on national security charges, according to CPJ sources. Quang has been in prison since February 21, 2002, when he was arrested for writing articles that criticized Vietnam’s border agreements with China.

Officials from the Prosecutor’s Office informed Quang’s mother that her son would be tried soon under Article 88 of the Criminal Code, which bans the distribution of information that opposes the government. The exact date of the trial is unknown.

On February 21, Le Chi Quang was detained at an Internet café in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, after an essay he wrote, titled “Beware of Imperialist China,” had been widely distributed on the Internet. The essay criticized land and sea border agreements signed by China and Vietnam as part of a rapprochement following a 1979 war between the two countries. Quang’s arrest coincided with a visit to Vietnam by Chinese president Jiang Zemin.

Quang is currently being held in B14 prison in Thanh Tri District outside Hanoi. His family has not been allowed to visit him since May, although an official told his mother that she would be allowed to see him tomorrow.

“CPJ condemns Le Chi Quang’s imprisonment and demands that these unfounded charges against him be dropped,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “Using the Internet to express an independent viewpoint is not a crime.”

Writers and intellectuals in Vietnam increasingly use the Internet to circulate news and opinion that is banned from the tightly controlled domestic press. In response, the government has recently escalated efforts to maintain strict control over online information.

Another writer, Pham Hong Son, is also being held in B14 prison for distributing information online. Son was arrested on March 27 after translating into Vietnamese and posting online an article titled “What is Democracy?,” which had originally been posted on the U.S. State Department’s Web site.

Soon after Son’s arrest, officials notified his wife that he was accused of espionage, although no formal charges have been filed against him. His wife has not been allowed to visit him in prison.

In early August, the Directorate General of Post and Telecommunications and the Ministry of Culture and Information ordered local officials and Internet café owners to strengthen customer-activity monitoring to prevent access to “poisonous or harmful” information.

On August 7, authorities shut down a domestic Web site ( where viewers had posted articles on sensitive political topics, including the border agreements with China and official corruption, according to international news reports. The Web site, which was created in December 2000, received about 260,000 hits every day.