Target: Truong Tan Sang, President of Vietnam
Goal: Release dissident Le Quoc Quan convicted on the trumped-up charges of tax evasion
The Vietnamese government has recently convicted a blogger critical of the Communist party and its policies on the trumped-up charges of tax fraud. Le Quoc Quan was first arrested in December 2012 about a week after writing a blog post that challenged the party’s stranglehold on power and advocated for a more democratic political system that would allow for multiple parties. Not daring to publicly admit that it was punishing him for his provocative views, the government has instead tried him on charges of conspiring to avoid paying taxes earned by his private consulting company.
The truth is that the Vietnamese state had much to gain from silencing the voice of a blogger whose popularity allowed his criticisms of the Communist party to reach a broad audience. In a country where the state-owned media has had a total control of the news available to the population, the party’s grip on the minds of its captive population was almost secure. However, the recent widespread availability of the Internet has enabled bloggers to challenge the government’s news narrative. The state has responded to the emergence of a media that challenges the government message by muffling the voices behind it. In 2013 alone, over 40 bloggers have been arrested in retaliation for their Internet activism.
Le Quoc Quan is a perfect illustration of why the government perceives bloggers as a threat. By taking the Vietnamese ruling class to task for human rights abuses, corruption, and bureaucracy, Quan has addressed a plethora of thorny issues that the state would have preferred to keep out of the realm of public discussion. He has even dared to bring up the sensitive matter of freedom of speech by attempting to observe the trial of a fellow dissident in 2011, a brazen act that has led him to be ejected and banned from courtroom premises and shortly detained by the police. By putting him and others like him behind bars, the state hopes to nip criticism in the bud and restore its role as the sole news source within the country.
Sending people to jail for criticizing the government is both counterproductive and cruel. Not only does it hinder free speech and the exchange of ideas, but also subjects caring, compassionate people who care about their country to unneeded suffering by taking away their freedom and isolating them from their loved ones. Sign this petition to send Vietnam the message that Le Quoc Quan doesn’t deserve to suffer as a prisoner for expressing government-critical views and to demand his release.
Dear Truong Tan Sang, President of Vietnam
We ask you to drop the tax evasion charges against Le Quoc Quan because he has done nothing wrong other than exercise his right to free speech by criticizing the Communist Party on his blog. The state’s ambition to have a monopoly on the news goes against the principle of freedom of speech enshrined in its own constitution.
To treat those who find fault with the government and dare speak out for reform as enemies is not a recipe for creating a better society. Not only is it grossly unfair to deprive someone of their freedom simply on the account of their political views, but the tactic of repeatedly suppressing dissent creates a climate of fear where anyone could go to jail for saying the wrong thing.
It is imperative that Le Quoc Quan be released and given the freedom to share his views, much like others dissenters who have been arrested for their activism under concocted charges. This is the only way that the people of Vietnam can breathe a sigh of relief and stop dreading the possibility that each one of them will be persecuted if the government happens to find their words and actions threatening.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: buck82 via Flickr