On January 24, Hanoi’s People’s Court held a trial for Dang Dinh Bach, director of the nonprofit organization Law and Policy of Sustainable Development (LPSD), for an alleged “tax evasion” under Article 200 of Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code. The court announced its verdict on the same day, sentencing Bach to five years in prison, state media reported.
Bach, 44, was reportedly arrested on July 2, 2021, the same day the government also arrested Mai Phan Loi - a former journalist and founder of another nonprofit organization. According to The 88 Project, Bach is well known for his leadership in engaging with and mobilizing young people to participate in charitable projects, such as helping victims of environmental catastrophes and people impacted by climate change.
Furthermore, Bach has created competitions and awards to encourage sustainable living lifestyles, which have drawn the participation of many young Vietnamese. As the head of LPSD, he has actively led campaigns to support the Vietnamese government’s fight against the spread of COVID-19. LPSD is also 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), writes The 88 Project.
The indictment stated that Bach “had contacted foreign-based organizations and received their funding” to implement projects at LPSD without obtaining approval from “authorities in charge.” He was also accused of evading more than 1.3 billion dong in taxes ($57,300) from the period between 2016 and 2020.
The convictions of Dang Dinh Bach and Mai Phan Loi, who received four years in jail on January 11, 2022, are widely seen as Hanoi’s effort to prevent the establishment of a network of NGOs to monitor the implementation of the European Union - Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). These NGOs could play an essential role in advocating for workers’ rights, land rights, and the environment in Vietnam.
According to Bach’s family, they have not been allowed to see him and did not receive permission to attend his trial. And because Bach is a vegan, he has been eating very little while in detention, the family said. Meanwhile, he began a hunger strike on January 10 to protest his prolonged detention and the denial of family visitations, Bach’s lawyer said. He has also demanded to be released on bail, according to The 88 Project.