Vietnam jails journalist for spying for China

HANOI (AFP) - A Vietnamese court on Wednesday sentenced a journalist to six years in prison on charges of spying for China, his lawyer said.

Ha Huy Hoang, 55, who was arrested in October 2014, worked for a newspaper published by Vietnam's Foreign Ministry.

"Ha Huy Hoang was sentenced to six years in prison for spying for China," his lawyer Ha Huy Son told AFP after a trial lasting a few hours in the capital Hanoi.

Lawyer Son added that Hoang "has rejected all charges against him".

Hoang was accused of providing information to China about the internal situation in Vietnam and the state of the leadership since 2011, according to an online report by the state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper.

The report said Hoang had travelled to China at least six times to meet his handler in the city of Nanning in Guangxi province.

The Tuoi Tre report was swiftly removed from the paper's website - common practice for highly sensitive stories in authoritarian Vietnam.

A number of Vietnamese officials, including police officers, have been arrested in recent years on espionage charges relating to China.

But it is very unusual for the country to hold a public trial for anyone charged with violating Article 80 of the criminal code, which relates to spying and can carry the death penalty.

Vietnam is locked in a longstanding territorial dispute with neighbouring China over island chains and disputed waters in the South China Sea.