A group of plainclothes police officers beat an outspoken anti-China activist in Vietnam’s economic capital Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday, sending him to the hospital with a broken nose, he said, in the latest attack on a public campaigner in weeks.
Dinh Quang Tuyen, who has participated in several anti-China rallies expressing anger over Beijing’s claims to the disputed Paracel islands, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that he was targeted in an alleyway around 100 meters (330 feet) from his home when he left for his morning bicycle exercise.
“I saw Lt. Col. Huy sitting in the corner of a small makeshift shop when I left the house today, so instead of riding my bike, I walked toward a nearby school out of caution,” Tuyen said, noting that his home had been under police surveillance for the past four months.
“I then got on my bike and rode away then turned left, but there was hardly anybody around, so I stopped. I felt that something was wrong, so I turned around,” he said.
“Just then, two young men wearing surgical masks came up to me and asked where I was going, and suddenly punched me in the face [breaking my nose]. Blood ran all over my shirt. Bystanders looked terrified.”
Tuyen said he was later admitted to a nearby hospital where doctors told him they would perform surgery on his nose when the swelling had subsided.
An outspoken campaigner, Tuyen initiated the “Nuoc Nha Khong Ban,” or “Don’t Sell Our Country,” movement to protest what he and other activists call China’s aggression in the disputed South China Sea and Hanoi’s reluctance to take a stronger stand against its northern neighbor.
Tuyen told RFA that in addition to monitoring him, police have broken into his home several times over the last four months when he was away.
Tuesday’s attack was the latest of several in recent weeks against public campaigners in the one-party communist nation, where dissent is not tolerated.
Last week, anti-China activist Nguyen Chi Tuyen told RFA he was attacked by thugs in the capital Hanoi after driving his son to elementary school, requiring doctors to give him six stitches on his head and a CT scan to determine whether he had suffered a brain injury.
In addition to his activism over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Nguyen Chi Tuyen had also campaigned to commemorate Vietnamese soldiers who died during Vietnam’s brief border war with China in 1979 and to promote environmental causes such as recycling.
At the end of April, prominent blogger Trinh Anh Tuan was savagely attacked with bricks by a trio of plainclothes policemen he said were among a group of men who have been observing his home for the past month.
Tuan, who operates a website calling for transparency from local officials with regards to a controversial tree removal plan in the city, said he had been harassed by plainclothes authorities before in March 2014, though “the injuries were not as severe as this time.”
He was also among 50 people detained and beaten by police on May 15 last year after taking part in an anti-China protest sparked by territorial tensions in the South China Sea.