By the Associated Press
November 11, 2011
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — An international rights group condemned Vietnam on Friday for jailing two Falun Gong practitioners who broadcast programs about the spiritual group into China.
New York-based Human Rights Watch called the sentencing of Le Van Thanh, 36, and Vu Duc Trung, 31, “a violation of freedom of expression.”
A Hanoi court officer, who declined to give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said Thanh and Trung were sentenced Thursday to two and three years in prison, respectively. They were charged with illegally transmitting information through telecommunication networks, the officer said.
China has banned the Falun Gong, calling it a cult or terrorist group. However, the spiritual practice is not outlawed in Vietnam.
“Vietnam should not violate human rights and punish its own citizens merely because their activism displeased China,” Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director said in a statement.
Trung and brother-in-law Thanh were arrested in June 2010 for broadcasting information through radio transmitters from a farm outside Hanoi, the court officer said. State media have reported the two broadcast 18 hours a day for more than a year.
Earlier this week, Amnesty International accused Vietnamese police of roughing up and least 30 Falun Gong practitioners meditating on the sidewalk outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi to protest the pending trial.
No one was immediately available at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to respond to the allegation Friday.