Authorities in Vietnam have released musician Hoang Nhat Thong (real name: Tran Vu Anh Binh) from prison on 21 May 2017, four months before serving out his full six-year prison sentence, reported Radio Free Asia on 22 May 2017.
“I feel elated, but now I am like a fish that has been on the shore for a long time,” he told Radio Free Asia. “It’s back in the water now, but it certainly can’t swim as fast as it would like.”
Binh was sentenced on charges of “anti-state propaganda” related to his production of songs by Viet Khang (real name: Vo Minh Tri) that criticized Vietnam’s violent response to anti-China peaceful protests, as well as his own songs expressing concerns over a lack of social justice in the country and the dictatorship of the country.
Freemuse has campaigned for the release of both musicians since their initial arrest and detention in late 2011, including raising their cases at various United Nations meetings. Upon their sentencing in late 2012, Freemuse sent a letter to President Truong Tan Sang calling for their immediate release.
Most recently, in May 2017, Freemuse co-founder Ole Reitov raised Binh’s imprisonment directly to Ms. Phương Hoà, Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture Deputy Director in the international development department, at UNESCO’s World Press Freedom three-day event in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Charges of propaganda against the state
Both musicians were arrested in September 2011 and held in pre-trial detention for 13 months before their sentencing. Binh was sentenced to six years in prison and two years house arrest, while Tri was sentenced to four years in prison and two years house arrest.
After serving out his full four-year sentence, Tri was released in December 2015 and is serving out his house arrest.
In April 2011, Binh co-founded the Patriotic Youth movement to advocate for democracy and religious freedom, as well as Vietnamese sovereignty over China’s influence. He also ran a blog called Love Mother Vietnam where he posted songs and articles advocating peaceful protest.
Binh, who is a choir member with the Catholic Redemptorist Order, told Radio Free Asia that he was eager to get back into music and singing again in his church’s choir.
» Radio Free Asia – 22 May 2017
Vietnamese singer released from prison four months early
» BBC – 20 May 2017
Composer Tran Vu Anh Binh ‘on the verge of six years in prison’
» 14 October 2016: Vietnam: Popular music and censorship
» 15 December 2015: Vietnam: Release of musician after four years in prison
» 5 November 2012: Vietnam: Two musicians sentenced to four and six years in prison