AMBER VERNETTI WRITES – Vietnamese journalist Ha Huy Hoang was arrested and convicted on the grounds of being an alleged spy for China earlier this month. Hoang, who worked for a Foreign Ministry-affiliated publication, will serve a six-year jail term.  Hoang’s lawyer, Ha Huy Son, revealed that “[Hoang] was found guilty of supplying information and material about Vietnam’s economy.”

Relations between Vietnam and China have been rocky due to arguments over ownership of the Paracel and Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese Communist Party has political dominance, and maintains a sort of love-hate relationship with Bejing, adding to the strained Vietnam-China relationship.

Prior to Hoang’s conviction, he claimed that he did not commit espionage, and that the alleged spy to whom he gave information- which was “in the public domain”- was a journalist as well.

None of Vietnam’s publications reported the news regarding Hoang’s trial and conviction. However, two of Vietnam’s leading news organizations, Tuoi Tre and VNExpress, posted online blurbs about Hoang and his situation, but were promptly removed without giving a reason. According to the indictment, Tuoi Tre’s article revealed that Hoang had been to China six times and had given confidential information to a Chinese spy – supposedly a journalist – he met back in 2009.

The Foreign Ministry also canceled its usual evening news program the day Hoang was sentenced to his six-year jail term.

Regardless of whether Hoang is truly innocent and falsely accused of espionage, Vietnam still has it out for journalists and continues to keep information from the public who has the right to know what’s really going.