[Marxism] Vietnam Arrests Mother Mushroom, a Top Blogger, for Criticizing Government

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Oct 12 07:37:28 MDT 2016

NY Times, Oct. 12 2016
Vietnam Arrests Mother Mushroom, a Top Blogger, for Criticizing Government

HONG KONG — The authorities in Vietnam said on Tuesday that they had 
arrested a popular blogger who has criticized the country’s one-party 
government over politically delicate topics, including a dump of toxic 
chemicals that devastated fishing communities and set off protests.

The blogger, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, 37, was detained on Monday in Khanh 
Hoa, a south-central province. She was accused on Tuesday of distorting 
the truth and spreading propaganda against the state, according to the 
Vietnamese news media. The charges carry a maximum prison term of 12 
years. No trial date was given.

Ms. Quynh, who writes under the pen name Mother Mushroom, is a 
co-founder of the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers, one of the few 
independent writers’ associations in Vietnam. The country’s news media 
and publishing industry are heavily controlled by the governing 
Communist Party, and writers who stray outside the system and challenge 
the party are frequently imprisoned under vague national security laws.

Pham Doan Trang, a dissident writer in Hanoi and a member of the Network 
of Vietnamese Bloggers, said that the authorities might have arrested 
Ms. Quynh to intimidate younger bloggers who have been inspired by her 
online crusades — via Facebook and independent blogs — against 
corruption, social injustice and police brutality. But Ms. Trang 
predicted that the tactic would fail.

“She has a lot of supporters,” Ms. Trang said of Ms. Quynh in an 
interview via Facebook Messenger on Tuesday. “Many of them will replace 
her or follow in her path.”

Citing a news broadcast, Ms. Trang added that investigators had found 
materials in Ms. Quynh’s home that criticized the government’s handling 
of a chemical dump in April at a Taiwanese-owned steel plant in central 
Vietnam that caused mass fish deaths. It is believed to be among the 
worst environmental disasters in Vietnam’s modern history.

Although the company, Formosa Steel, has agreed to pay $500 million in 
damages, many Vietnamese have criticized the government for initially 
remaining silent about the cause of the spill and then refusing to 
release full details on the likely health or environmental impacts. 
Outrage over the scandal has festered for months and continues to set 
off protests in central Vietnam.

In 2009, Ms. Quynh was detained for more than a week after writing about 
a bauxite mining project in Vietnam’s restive Central Highlands, in 
which investors included a state-owned Chinese company. Chinese economic 
influence is a politically delicate topic that the government has tried 
to play down. She was not charged with a crime at that time.

“It was ugly what was happening in our society,” Ms. Quynh said in a 
2014 interview with the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New 
York-based advocacy group. “My blog asked: Why must we agree with the 
government on everything? Why can’t we have different opinions?”

In 2015, Ms. Quynh was named civil rights defender of the year by Civil 
Rights Defenders, an advocacy group based in Stockholm. The group’s 
executive director, Robert Hardh, said on Tuesday that he was saddened 
by her arrest.

“People very often have a picture of Vietnam as one of the ‘tiger 
economies’ and a tourist country,” Mr. Hardh said in a telephone 
interview. “But in reality, the situation is really dire for human 
rights defenders.”

Follow Mike Ives on Twitter @mikeives.

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