Steak in Gold at a Celebrity Chef, Hit the Internet and Sentenced for ‘Anti-State Propaganda’

Vietnamese noodle seller and activist Bui Tuan Lam has been sentenced to five and a half years in prison for “anti-state propaganda”. Although he does not appear in the indictment, it is widely believed that it is because his video mocks celebrity chef Salt P. He posted it a few days after a video emerged of a senior Vietnamese minister eating a gold-plated steak at Salt Bae. “The Public Security Department is seeking retaliation,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch.

In 2021, General Tu Lam, Minister of Homeland Security VietnamHe was recorded eating a $2,000 gold plated steak. The Vietnamese minister was eating meat from a famous Turkish chef, a restaurateur known by the nickname Salt Bae, in his London restaurant. Salt Bae, whose real name is Nusret Gökce, is known, among other things, for its distinctive way of slicing meat and sprinkling salt on it – first sprinkling it on the forearm.

A video of the minister sparked outrage in Vietnam over the extravagance of a government official in a country where citizens suffer from poverty. It is noteworthy that the cost of the dish exceeds the monthly salary of a member of the government. A few days after posting the footage with the general, 39-year-old noodle vendor Bui Tuan Lam recorded a video in which he theatrically prepared noodles with beef. He does it in a playful way, imitating Salt Bae. The parody became an internet hit in Vietnam, but was not equally well received by the country’s communist authorities.

Trial and judgment in one day

Bui Tuan Lam was arrested in September 2022 and his noodle stand closed. He has been in custody since his sentencing on Thursday. Police in the central Vietnamese city of Da Nang said he was convicted of “creating, storing, distributing and disseminating information, documents and materials against (the interests of) the state”. The indictment said Lam posted 19 videos on Facebook and 25 on YouTube “to defame the state”, which affected “people’s trust in the authorities”.

Lam denied the allegations and said he “expressed his personal point of view and exercised his right to freedom of expression”.

The trial of the 39-year-old man lasted only one day in court. He was sentenced to five and a half years in prison and four years’ probation.

“Although the allegations relate to previous jobs, no one should be deceived.”

Although his famous parody is not mentioned in the file, it is widely believed that the reason for his arrest was precisely this recording and the unrest it caused in the Vietnamese government.

“While the allegations relate to previous Facebook posts, no one should be fooled,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch.

The Ministry of Public Security seeks revenge against Bui Tuan Lam for daring to mock the steak-eating minister Tu Lam. He added that the “green onion” video, which went viral and delighted people in Vietnam, once again demonstrated the creativity of the democracy movement that the authorities are trying to suppress using brute force and false judgments.

Contact with the family was difficult

In prison, the Vietnamese was denied access to a lawyer until two weeks before his trial. His wife, Le Thi Than Lam, was not allowed to attend the trial. The woman told the BBC’s Vietnamese service that she and their three daughters had been able to see him twice since their arrest, once for just 10 minutes.

“We couldn’t say much, but my husband sang a song with our daughters before saying goodbye,” she added.

A few days ago, Le Thi Thanh Lam was approached by a stranger who wanted to deliver a letter from her husband. He would write letters to her on slips of paper and drop them on the floor, hoping someone would pick them up and hand them to her. “In a letter my husband wrote in January he said he would plead not guilty because he believed in what he was fighting for. He encouraged us to be brave and said it would be a miracle if I received these pieces of paper.

My husband is innocent. She added that imprisoning him for a day, a year, or 10 years is considered a crime.

The minister’s original video and Bui Tuan Lam’s video can be seen in a comparison compiled by Radio Free Asia.

He was a pro-democracy activist for years

Bui Tuan Lam has also been an activist for a decade. It cost him his job. He has not been able to leave the country since his passport was confiscated in 2014. In the past, he has publicly called for democracy in the country and participated in several anti-China and pro-environmental protests.

Phil Robertson called on the Vietnamese government to stop cracking down on Pui Tuan Lam and others critical of the Communist Party of Vietnam. “The list of posts and recordings deemed ‘evidence’ of ‘crimes’ committed by Bui Tuan Lam shows how far the Vietnamese go to prevent any criticism of the government online,” Robertson was quoted by Reuters as saying.

There are currently at least 170 people in Vietnamese prisons. They were there to express opinions that were not accepted by the authorities or did something that was seen as a threat to the party’s monopoly on power.

In recent months, climate activists Ngwi Thi Khanh, Dang Dinh Bach, Mai Van Loy and Bach Hung Duong, who campaigned against coal power in Vietnam, have been found guilty of tax evasion and jailed. The BBC notes that this is a punishment rarely imposed on alleged tax evaders.

Last month, the dissident blogger Duong Van Thai, who has been identified before United nations As a refugee, he was abducted into Thailand. It is believed that Vietnamese state agents were behind similar kidnappings in other countries.

Main image source: Clash

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