Vietnam arrests another self-nominated candidate for electionsMar 31, 2021
This is the second documented arrest that targets self-nominated candidates for Vietnam’s 2021 national elections. The self-nominated candidate, Le Trong Hung, is charged with anti-state propaganda.
Le Trong Hung is one of over 70 self-nominated candidates for Vietnam’s national elections which will be held on May 23, 2021. Aware of the security risks involved in the self-nomination process, he lodged an application seeking protection from the authorities. He was arrested on the morning of March 27, 2021, a few days after submitting the application, near his residence in Hanoi.
Hung (42), a former high school teacher, recently joined CHTV, a Facebook-based broadcasting channel that features news and commentaries about social and political issues in Vietnam. Prior to his arrest, he was a critical voice of many current members of the Vietnamese parliament and senior communist leaders. On March 18, 2021, Hung posted photos and other materials on Facebook announcing his self-nominated candidacy for the national elections scheduled in late May. His political agenda includes mass distribution and awareness of the Vietnamese Constitution and of laws concerning demonstrations and parliamentary monitoring.
Hung was the second individual arrested after announcing their plan to run for the country’s national elections in 2021 as an independent candidate.
On March 10, 2021, the authorities of Ninh Binh province arrested Tran Quoc Khanh (61), another self-nominated candidate. Before his arrest, Khanh posted numerous statuses, shared articles and carried out live broadcasting on his Facebook account that discussed human rights violations, systemic corruption, environmental degradation, and Vietnam’s weak response to China in their dispute over the South China Sea. Both Hung and Khanh are charged with conducting anti-state propaganda under Article 117 of the Penal Code. If convicted, they will face imprisonment of up to 20 years.
Although in theory self-nominated candidates are allowed to apply and run for the elections at the national and provincial levels, in reality most of them do not make it through the application phase, or the “negotiation phase” (“Hiệp thương”) in their constituency. According to Freedom House, national elections have been tightly controlled by the Communist Party of Vietnam. In the 2016 elections, the Party took 473 seats in parliament, with the remaining 21 seats going to so-called independent candidates who were actually vetted by the Party. In contrast, more than 100 self-nominated candidates, including many civil society actors, were barred from their candidacy.