Quan, a lawyer and blogger, was arrested on tax evasion charges while taking his children to school in the capital, Hanoi. His arrest came days after he wrote an article published on the BBC’s Vietnamese-language website that criticized the Communist Party-dominated government’s constitutional reform drive. The opinion piece criticized the inclusion in the reform drive of Article 4, which states that the Communist Party has the leading role in Vietnam.
On October 2, 2013, the People’s Court in Hanoi ruled in a one-day trial that Quan had failed to pay income tax at a consulting company he ran and established with his family. He was given a 30-month prison sentence and fine of 1.2 billion dong ($60,000), and was ordered to pay 600 million dong ($30,000) in back taxes.
Quan denied the charges in court and said he was the victim of “political acts,” according to news reports. His lawyer, Ha Huy Son, said the presiding judge would not allow arguments from the defense and that there were “inaccuracies” in the prosecution’s evidence, according to news reports.
CPJ research shows that Vietnamese authorities have used trumped-up tax evasion charges to silence critical voices. Another journalist, Nguyen Van Hai, was sentenced to prison in 2008 on similar trumped-up tax evasion charges. He was released in October 2014, after serving six years.
Quan wrote a popular blog that reported and commented on issues of government corruption, religious freedom, political pluralism, and human rights abuses. In August 2012, Quan was beaten outside his home by two unidentified men wielding iron bars who he suspected were sent by police, he told local reporters.
On February 18, 2014, Quan’s conviction was upheld by the Hanoi Appeal Court. He had been on hunger strike two weeks before his appeal hearing to protest authorities’ denying him access to legal counsel, legal and religious books, and a priest for spiritual guidance, according to news reports.
In June, Quan was transferred from Hanoi’s Hoa Lo No. 1 prison to the remote An Diem prison camp in Quang Nam province. His brother, Le Quoc Quyet, told Vietnam Right Now that the 470-mile transfer was made at night and without notice, and was intentionally done to make it more difficult for family members to visit him.