Vietnam convicts, deports US man who joined rare protest

HANOI, Vietnam — A Vietnamese court on Friday convicted an American man of disturbing public order after he took part in a rare protest and ordered him deported.

William Nguyen, from Houston, was arrested June 10 during protests in the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City against a proposed law on special economic zones that many say would benefit Chinese investors.

A court official said that Nguyen, who is of Vietnamese descent, admitted to the violation and showed remorse, which resulted in a lenient sentence. He had faced up to seven years in prison.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted later Friday that he was "tremendously pleased" Nguyen would be returning home to his family.

The State Department had previously said Pompeo had raised Nguyen's case while meeting with Vietnamese officials during his visit to Hanoi earlier this month.

Demonstrations in communist Vietnam are uncommon and often broken up by plainclothes police.

Six Vietnamese have been sentenced to up to 2 ½-years in prison for the protest and more are awaiting trial.

The protest was one of several in the country. It concerned three special economic zones, where according to proposed legislation, land could be rented for up to 99 years. The passage of the law was postponed to allow more research.

Mistrust of China runs deep in Vietnam, one of the most outspoken critics of Chinese construction and militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea's disputed waters. Anti-Chinese riots in 2014 left four people dead and more than 100 injured.

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