Le Anh Hung

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Vietnamese journalist Le Anh Hung, a frequent contributor to the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Voice of America (VOA), is serving a five-year sentence on an anti-state charge. Since his detention in 2018, he has been involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric hospital several times.

On August 30, 2022, the Hanoi People’s Court convicted and sentenced Hung to five years in prison under Article 331 of the penal code, an anti-state provision that outlaws the abuse of “democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State, lawful rights and interests of organizations and/or citizens,” according to news reports and VOA Vietnamese service’s Vu Pham, who is monitoring Hung’s case and communicated with CPJ via email. 

Hung’s trial was held without a defense lawyer and his family was not informed of the verdict for more than one week after it was handed down, according to Pham and a report by U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia (RFA). The RFA report quoted Hung’s mother, Tran Thi Niem, saying that a police investigator handling Hung’s case informed her of the ruling by telephone. 

Pham said Hung appealed his conviction on September 12, 2022.

Hung was held in a mental hospital and in a detention center for over four years before his conviction, according to reports.  The police investigator cited in the RFA report said that time would likely be counted toward his sentence and that he would “probably be released” in 2023.

Hung, a prominent independent blogger, was detained on July 5, 2018, news reports said. In VOA commentaries days before his arrest, Hung had criticized new special economic zone and cybersecurity legislation, the latter of which significantly expanded the state’s power to censor and control the internet.

Hung is also a member of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, a local group of journalists who work outside of the state-dominated mainstream media, the group’s president, Pham Chi Dung, told CPJ in an email.

Hung’s mother, Tran Thi Niem, told Radio Free Asia in June 2019 that the journalist was involuntarily admitted to Hanoi’s Central Psychiatric Hospital No. 1 multiple times from 2018 to 2022.

Hung went on a hunger strike during his first admission in 2018 and was force-fed by authorities through his mouth and nose, causing him to bleed, according to an RFA report that quoted his colleague and fellow blogger Nguyen Vu Binh.

After visiting Hung at the hospital in April 2019, Niem said that her son had been forced to take unidentified medicine and was suffering both “mentally and physically,” according to the RFA report. After a hospital visit in May 2019, Niem said Hung had lost considerable weight and suffered from depression, according to that report.

Hung’s mother told The 88 Project in a March 2020 interview that prison authorities forcibly had injected Hung with unspecified drugs that made him feel ill and caused him to hallucinate. She said his health, weight, and mental state had deteriorated as a result. 

In July 2020, RFA reported that Hung had been beaten with a metal chair, tied to a bed, and forcibly injected with unspecified drugs by a nurse at the Hanoi mental hospital. 

In March 2021, Niem said Hung told her by mobile phone call that the hospital had increased his daily dosage of psychiatric drugs to 12 pills per day and that if he refused to take them they threatened to inject him with the medication, according to The 88 Project

In May 2022, authorities returned Hung to prison so the criminal prosecution against him could resume, according to a Facebook post by his lawyer, Nguyen Van Mieng, and The 88 Project. As of late September 2022, he had not been allowed family visits for over three years, VOA’s Pham told CPJ. 

Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, which oversees the country’s prison system, did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on Hung’s conviction, legal status, health, and treatment in detention in late 2022.