Nguyen Phuong Hang
Current Status: Pre-trial detention
Other Names: Nguyễn Phương Hằng
Date of Birth: January 26, 1971
Occupation: Business professional
Areas of Activism:
- Freedom of expression
Highlighted Human Rights Concerns:
- Online commentator
Popular social media influencer Nguyen Phuong Hang, arrested in March for “abusing democratic freedoms,” has been recommended to be tried under Article 331 of the 2015 Criminal Code. She is accused of using a dozen social media accounts to reveal personal secrets of comedian Hoai Linh, singer Vy Oanh, and journalist Han Ni, allegedly violating their rights and interests. Hang’s family applied to have her freed on bail, citing her charity work and her health.
The request to be released on 10 billion dong bail ($400K) was rejected. However, according to Vietnamese law she can be detained only 30 days more since her arrest in March, because by then investigators will have exhausted their legal time limits and must either produce an indictment or release her.
If indicted and convicted, she could face up to seven years in prison. A trial date has not yet been set.
Details - Background, History of Activism, Family Situation.
Nguyen Phuong Hang is a well-known businessperson to the Vietnamese public. She has been famous for her philanthropy initiatives and activities, such as her family’s charity, Hằng Hữu, in many healthcare institutions in Vietnam. Hang is also active in supporting communities in need, especially serious droughts or floods. However, she was not known for any civil rights activism until 2021.
We included Hang in our database because, while her online activities may be controversial, she should not be criminally prosecuted for her commentary. Moreso, the use of Article 331-- a charge often used to silence critics of the government-- in this case is notable.
CEO Nguyễn Phương Hằng là ai? The Thao va Van Hoa, March 24, 2022
Vietnam arrests businesswoman turned YouTube sensation for smearing celebrities, RFA, March 25, 2022
Arrested March 24, 2022. Charged under Art. 331 (2015 Code).
- Art. 331 (2015 Code)
- freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
- liberty and security of the person
- freedom of expression
In Vietnam, with the government's control over civil space, the legal framework for independent organisations is thin. Therefore, not many NGOs can call for contributions and donations for disaster relief. On the other hand, people do not have much trust in the state’s apparatus - such as the Fatherland Front. As a result, celebrities leveraging their personal reputations have been the most effective way to raise funds and call for donations. However, this then comes with the risk of corruption.
Nguyen Phuong Hang gained public attention after a series of her livestreams (on multiple platforms including Facebook and Youtube) disclosed that many A-level celebrities were trying to appropriate people’s donations for disaster relief efforts during 2020. These included the most famous comedian in the country- “Hoai Linh” (Vo Nguyen Hoai Linh), a prominent emcee and actor, “Tran Thanh,” (Huynh Tran Thanh), and many others.
After successfully turning the story into a national sensation (and also coming out as the victor in the story), Hang started to discuss news, politics, and corruption online. Her outspoken and straight-speaking nature has found her many “enemies,” from state journalists to local Party cadres, singers, and others.
However, Hang has enjoyed her privilege of speaking freely on the Internet for quite some time (from the beginning of 2021), probably due to her economic status, until March 2022, however, when, Hang started to criticise the Vice Chairman of the People's Council of Ho Chi Minh City, Phan Van Mai. One week later, she was arrested.
Only after this arrest, many lawsuits previously brought against her were reconsidered by the public security. In these lawsuits, Hang was accused of slander and defamation.
The development suggests that her arrest is arguably politically-motivated.
The Binh Duong Province public security also announced that they were investigating Hang on the same grounds as the HCMC public security. However, there was no further information on how they would carry out the investigation.
On May 6 2022, Binh Duong Public Security informed the public that they transferred Hang’s case to HCMC Public Security entirely.
The controversial online provocateur Nguyen Phuong Hang, arrested in March and charged with “abusing democratic freedoms,” had her pre-trial detention extended for two months. Investigators said extra time was needed due to the complexities of the case.
On September 11, Nguyen Phuong Hang, ex-CEO of Dai Nam Joint-Stock Company (Cong Ty Co Phan Dai Nam), was charged by a court in Binh Duong Province for “abusing democratic freedoms.” She is accused of using her influential online platforms to spread misinformation about six entertainers, accusing them of scamming people who donated to help victims of natural disasters. The police say Phuong Hang has two Facebook accounts and five YouTube channels, one of which has over 900,000 subscribers. Her livestreams sometimes attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers.
In a related event, a hacker named Nham Hoang Khang was tried for cyber theft on September 14. Khang once supplied the indicted Hang with information about people whose reputation she wanted to attack or destroy. Little else is currently known about him.
Nguyen Phuong Hang's family on October 14 requested that she be given bail to treat unspecified “health issues.” Vietnamese law does not provide for bail for detainees except under extraordinary circumstances, such as for severe health problems. It is not known whether Phuong Hang’s request has been granted.
Toàn cảnh lùm xùm giữa bà Nguyễn Phương Hằng và các nghệ sĩ, Báo Lao Động, January 26, 2022
Bà Nguyễn Phương Hằng bị điều tra thêm tội vu khống, đe doạ giết người, RFA Vietnamese, April 29, 2022
Vietnamese tycoon and internet celebrity arrested for 'abusing democratic freedoms', VN Express, March 24, 2022
Vietnamese businesswoman, live-streaming sensation arrested for abusing democratic freedoms, Toui Tre News, March 25, 2022
Bà Phương Hằng sắp hết thời hạn gia hạn tạm giam, liệu có được trả tự do?, Tin Moi, August 16, 2022
VN: Bị khởi tố vì Điều 331, bà Nguyễn Phương Hằng khai nhận những gì?, BBC News Vietnamese, September 11, 2022
Profile last updated: 2022-11-16 16:02:52