Beijing’s reach does not stop at China’s borders. Reporters Without Borders has learned that the Chinese government successfully pressured the Vietnamese authorities to arrest two people, Vu Duc Trung and Le Van Thanh, for operating an unauthorized short-wave radio station that was broadcasting in Chinese from a farm outside Hanoi.
The organization is worried by this latest evidence of Chinese influence over its Asian neighbours in matters concerning media freedom, and urges the Vietnamese government to give Trung and Thanh a fair trial regardless of China’s pressure.
They were initially accused of operating broadcasting devices without a permit, an administrative charge. This was later upgraded to a criminal charge, suggesting they will be prosecuted in connection with the content of their broadcasts when their case comes to trial on 8 April. A report issued by the Ministry of Public Security tends to confirm this.
Trung and Thanh, who have been held for several months, are members of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement banned in China. It is alleged that they began on 26 April 2009 to broadcast on the short-wave to China, 800 km away, from a farm in the town of Thach Loi, east of Hanoi. The programmes they broadcast were those of the Sound of Hope Radio Network, an overseas Chinese radio station linked to the Falun Gong.
On 23 March, Reporters Without Borders condemned the arrest of the manager of Radio Era Baru, a Falun Gong-linked radio station in Indonesia, as a result of Chinese pressure. He is facing a possible six-year jail sentence under Indonesia’s Telecommunications Law.
To appeal on behalf of these citizen journalists, call the Deputy Minister of Investigation and Security, Huong Van Nguyen, at +84-4-38226602 or fax at +84-4-39420223 to request the release of Vu Duc Trung and Le Van Thanh