October 1, 2015 / 10:00 AM / 2 years ago

Vietnam jails journalist for spying for China

HANOI (Reuters) - A Vietnamese journalist has been found guilty of spying for China and sentenced to a six-year jail term by a Hanoi court after a three-hour trial, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Ha Huy Hoang, who had worked for a Foreign Ministry-run magazine, was jailed on Wednesday for colluding with a Chinese spy and would appeal, lawyer Ha Huy Son told Reuters.

"He was found guilty of supplying information and material about Vietnam's economy and its leaders to the Chinese government," he said.

Issues related to China are highly sensitive in Vietnam, where the ruling Communist Party shares close but rocky ties with Beijing, despite deep-rooted resentment among its people and territorial squabbling over the South China Sea.

Thursday's Vietnamese newspapers did not report the case. Prominent news outlets Tuoi Tre and VNExpress had posted online reports at the start of the trial, but soon removed them without any explanation.

Prior to its removal, Tuoi Tre's story said Hoang had visited China six times and was providing information to a spy whom he had met in 2009, according to the indictment.

Hoang had denied espionage and said he believed the spy had been a fellow journalist, and the information he had shared had been in the public domain.

Reuters received no response for requests for comment from Vietnam's Foreign Ministry, which canceled its regular news briefing on Thursday without explanation.

Mistrust of China runs deep in Vietnam and experts say it is a divisive issue within the ruling Communist Party. Vietnam has vastly improved ties with the United States, and some party members have publicly backed a shift away from Beijing's sphere of influence.

Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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