On March 29, Hanoi police officially announced on their electronic portal about the arrest of Mr. Le Trong Hung on March 27, with the alleged ” Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” defined in Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code.
Mr. Le Trong Hung was arrested right after he submitted a petition to the authorities to request to protect him during his campaign to run for National Assembly. Mr. Hung is one of more than 70 self-nominated candidates for the National Assembly for the 2021-2026 term.
Earlier on March 10, Facebooker Tran Quoc Khanh, 61 years old, was also arrested and detained by the police of Ninh Binh province on the same charge. Mr. Khanh was arrested after he declared himself his plan to run for the country’s highest legislative body.
Dr. Nguyen Quang A, former director of the self-dissolved IDS Institute for Development Studies, who once self-nominated for National Assembly in 2016, when responding to RFA on March 29, said:
“I think that is a very worrying sign. All the self-nominated people who are not introduced by the local authorities just dismissed it anyway. But arresting self-nominated people is a very blatant violation of their Constitution itself.”
Before his arrest, on March 18, on his personal Facebook, Mr. Le Trong Hung posted photos and documents showing that he had submitted a self-nomination for the 15th National Assembly member at the Election Committee of Hanoi city. He also announced his action plan as a project to build a Citizen Avenue for the Vietnamese people by donating copies of the Vietnamese Constitution, campaigning for the establishment of a constitutional court, and advocating for the National Assembly to issue the Law on Demonstration.
Responding to RFA on March 27, Ms. Do Le Na, Mr. Hung’s wife, said she was very upset when her husband was arrested:
“I feel very surprised and very dissatisfied because being a good person for the State, for society … even his work, dissident activists do not like it, they think he is benefiting the State. There are many people who do not like my husband’s work and the state authorities also do not like his work. I do not understand what it means when it is completely right.”
Ninh Binh Provincial police said that from the end of 2018 to 2020, while living in hamlet 5B, Luu Phuong commune, Kim Son district, Ninh Binh province, self-nominated Tran Quoc Khanh regularly used Facebook to personally post and broadcast live streams and videos with content distorting the regime’s policies, defaming state officials, denying the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam, and opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Regarding other self-nominated cases, Dr. Nguyen Quang A said:
“I think they will definitely leave it out, but depending on each person, as in the case of Professor Cong, they probably would not arrest them. This is really a fear of them. The regime is very afraid that people will wake up and begin to know their rights, to stand for themselves like that. If that turns out to be a very broad movement … they will be very awkward, so they have to find a way to stop it like that.”
Mr. Tran Quoc Khanh while conducting live streams on the rule of law on Facebook on March 6, 2021.
To find out more, Radio Free Asia on March 29 contacted Professor Nguyen Dinh Cong, who had abandoned his party membership. He has applied for self-nomination for the 15th National Assembly. He talked about his self-nominated case as well as comments on the arrest of National Assembly candidates:
“I am also worried… waiting for them to conduct the 3rd arrest. I’m not scared but feel too ridiculous. They used unreasonable motives to arrest people who are running for the National Assembly. I found it too strange … too strange … I didn’t expect people could do things that were so lousy.”
According to Professor Nguyen Dinh Cong, these arrests are too stupid. He continued:
“I think this is a job that ordinary people cannot imagine… yet they still do. They do it to intimidate the people? To threaten? I also can’t understand. I am not afraid myself, I am also ready for being arrested. They have the power to do it. However, they should not try to convince me for anything.”
According to the Chief of Office of the National Election Council – Nguyen Hanh Phuc, by the end of March 14, the office has received 1,136 candidates for the 15th National Assembly, including 1,060 candidates introduced by the regime and 76 self-nominated ones.
Speaking to RFA from Saigon on March 29, activist Tran Bang commented:
“I think that by arresting Mr. Le Trong Hung with a doctor who is seeking to run for the National Assembly, I see them trampling on the law that they set out to. Carrying out arrest at another time can also justify the persecution and suppression of free speech. Immediately when people are free to stand for election, they clearly want to say that the candidacy is not the job of the people, but the work of the Party, whoever going against their rules will be punished … I think they indirectly say that. There are also people who freely run for election but belong to the associations led by the Party, for example, the business association, but there is no independent association. The two newly arrested are not part of a party-led association.”
According to activist Tran Bang, this arrest is too blatant and excessive … It can be said that the government squatted on the law set by itself, to say that people should not dream of freedom but without the Party’s permission. The arrests were a threat for others, he said.
Anh Thu, a Saigon resident, when answering RFA on March 29, said:
“There is also no evidence that they were arrested by running for National Assembly, but the timing of their arrest coincided with the time they self-nominated for the parliament. However, in my opinion, if they do so, they are not very smart. What they do only brings their fame.”
Also on March 29, the Vietnamese state-controlled media also reported that NHH, 38 years old, in Yen Nghia ward, Ha Dong district, Hanoi, was fined VND7.5 million for assuming the election “waste of time” and “nonsense.” The Hanoi Department of Information and Communications believes that this is untrue information about the election.