Pham Chi Dung, Former Party Security Officer, Chairman of the Independent Journalist Association, Arrested Under Article 117

Mr. Pham Chi Dung, a prominent dissident journalist and writer, was arrested on November 21, 2019 by the public security forces of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). He is charged under Article 117 of Vietnam 2015 Criminal Code for “producing, storing, and disseminating” documents opposing the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. While state media asserts that he has participated in “very dangerous and serious conduct that negatively affects national social stability, public order of Ho Chi Minh City,” they can only point out one fact to support that accusation: that he established and organized a “civil society organization.” 

Mr. Dung is a high-profiled figure among both HCMC Communist Party and pro-democracy activists. Born in 1966 in Dong Thap, he was a former member of the Vietnamese Communist Party and had worked in the Department of Interior Security of the Communist Party in HCMC for a long period of time. He also has a Ph.D. degree in Economics. Dung has written extensively in literature and journalism with several pen names including Việt Thắng, Viết Lê Quân, and Thường Sơn since 1986 and was an active member of Writer Association of Ho Chi Minh City. 

While serving as a military officer in the Internal Security Commission of Ho Chi Minh City, Dung was arrested and prosecuted for “conspiring to overthrow the government” and “anti-government propaganda” in July 2012, probably due to his sensitive articles on corruption and government mismanagement. However, public security dropped the charges and released him after six months of detention. 

In December 2013, Dung resigned from the Communist Party after being a member for 20 years. In 2014, he established and became the chairman of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, an organization of independent reporters who advocate for freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and democracy. The website of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, which is also a news website called the Vietnam Times (Viet Nam Thoi Bao), has become inaccessible after Dung’s arrest. 

Pham Chi Dung himself has been a frequent commentator on Vietnamese politics in Vietnamese-language independent media such as VOA Vietnamese, as well as major international news outlets, such as Foreign Policy, NBC News, and Nikkei Asian Review. Reporters Without Borders profiles him as an “information hero.” For his outspoken commentaries on and critics of the regime, he has been subject to arbitrary detention and a travel ban in recent years. 

The arrest of Pham Chi dung, a prominent journalist and pro-democracy activist, is the continuation of an intensified crackdown against political activists in 2018 and 2019. With the current purge against activists and pro-democratic forces initiated by General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, it is less likely that the charges against Pham Chi Dung will be dropped this time. 

© 2019 The 88 Project