Vietnam: Civil society members of the EU-VN Free Trade Agreement Advisory Group charged and imprisoned
On July 2, 2021, the police arrested journalist Mai Phan Lợi, founder and director of the non-profit Center for Media in Educating Community (MEC), and lawyer Đặng Đình Bách, director of the non-profit Law & Policy of Sustainable Development (LPSD), which is a member of the Vietnam Environmental Network (VEN), Vietnam Sustainable Energy Alliance (VSEA), and the Vietnam Non-Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Alliance (NCDs-VN).
Mai Phan Lợi and Đặng Đình Bách are both executive board members of VNGO-EVFTA Network, a group of seven community service organizations (CSOs) established last November 2020 to satisfy the formation of the Domestic Advisory Group (DAG), a civil society component of the EU-VN Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). DAGs allow independent observers such as CSOs to monitor the implementation of the EVFTA, especially in areas such as workers’ rights, land rights, and the environment.
The human rights defenders were charged with tax evasion, but rights groups allege that the imprisonment is due to their activism. On January 11, 2022, the Hanoi People's Court in Viet Nam sentenced Mai Phan Lợi to four years of imprisonment.
In 2019, human rights defender and journalist Phan Chí Dũng was also arrested in connection to his opposition to the EU-Vietnam free trade agreement and his exposure of corruption.