Amnesty Urges U.S. to Press Vietnam on Rights as Arrests Rise

(Bloomberg) -- Vietnam is increasingly jailing “prisoners of conscience” for comments made on social media platforms such as Facebook Inc., Amnesty International said, urging the U.S. to challenge the government over the growing arrests during talks this week.

The number of imprisoned activists has increased to 128 from 97 last year as the government implements a new controversial cyber security law, the group said in a new report. U.S. officials will meet with Vietnamese counterparts this week in Vietnam to participate in a human rights dialog, it said.

A cyber law that went into effect Jan. 1 would require international Internet companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook to open local offices and store data on Vietnamese users in the country. The government has yet to issue a decree detailing how the law will be implemented.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A new penal code took effect in Vietnam in 2018 that includes “vague and overly broad provisions that are often used to prosecute activists and other perceived critics,” Amnesty said in a statement. At least 34 people on the group’s list of prisoners of conscience were prosecuted under the new penal code, it said.

The U.S. should reiterate to Vietnam that closer relations between the two countries will be dependent on progress on human rights, Amnesty said.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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