Journalist jailed on China espionage charge

Hoang said he had no idea his contacts were Chinese agents

Hoang said he had no idea his contacts were Chinese agents. Photo courtesy Tuoi Tre

A former employee of the Vietnamese foreign ministry has been sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted of providing information to Chinese intelligence.

Ha Huy Hoang worked as a journalist for a newspaper published by the foreign ministry.

He was sentenced after a brief hearing at the People’s Court of Hanoi under Article 80 of the penal code, which carries a potential death penalty for espionage.

Mr Hoang was arrested last October and accused of providing intelligence to Chinese agents who were posing as journalists.

He was said to have exchanged information with the supposed journalists after meeting them in 2009 and to have visited China on a number of occasions.

He was accused of supplying information on a range of social, economic and political issues in Vietnam.

Amongst the examples cited were information on public opinion ahead of President Xi Jinping’s visit to Vietnam; information about Vietnamese leaders; and details about the organisation of the foreign affairs ministry.

In his defence, Mr Hoang said he had had no idea his contacts were working for Chinese intelligence.

He maintained that all the information that he supplied was in the public domain and freely available in mainstream media.

He said the gifts that he received had no material value and were merely symbolic gifts of friendship.

He said the court had not proved that he had any intention to act against the interests of the Vietnamese state.

The arguments are thought to have led to a much lighter sentence than could normally be expected in espionage cases.

The defendant’s relatives were quoted as saying that he was likely to appeal against his conviction.