A noodle seller in Vietnam who went viral for impersonating Salt Bae has been sentenced to five years in prison for “anti-state propaganda”.
39-year-old Bui Tuan Lam, who ran a beef noodle stall in the central city of Danang, shared a video in November 2021 showing him sprinkling green onions in the style of Nusret Gökçe, the Turkish celebrity chef known as Salt Bae.
Lam’s video came days after a video of Salt Bae hand-feeding a senior Vietnamese government minister gold-encrusted steak at his restaurant in London went viral, sparking outrage.
Steaks at the restaurant cost up to US$1,725, leading many Vietnamese people to question how the minister could afford the meal, which many said cost more than the minister’s monthly wage, according to the BBC.
Lam, who called himself “Green Onion Bae”, was then summoned by police.
“The video I made was for fun and for advertising my beef noodle shop. More customers have been coming since I posted it,” Lam said, adding it was not clear why police had summoned him, CNN reported.
Police arrested Lam in September 2022, accusing him of posting anti-state propaganda online that “had distorted guidelines and the policies of Vietnam’s ruling party,” according to Al Jazeera.
He was kept in detention until he was sentenced on Thursday May 25.
His wife told the BBC that he was denied a lawyer until two weeks before his trial, which she and their three daughters were not allowed to attend.
They also were only allowed to visit him once for 10 minutes while he was detained.
Lam’s lawyer told the BBC that Lam will also have to serve four years of probation after he is released.
“Vietnamese authorities regularly define any comment they don’t like as ‘propaganda against the state’, making Vietnam one of the most thin-skinned governments in the region when it comes to public criticism.” Human Rights Watch said after Lam’s arrest. “Mockery is a legitimate form of expression that should not be considered a crime.”