Vietnamese Blogger Interrogated, Books Confiscated

2013-06-25
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A man reads news on his laptop at a coffee shop in Hanoi, Jan. 15, 2013.
AFP

Authorities in northern Vietnam detained a young blogger for several hours on Tuesday, interrogating him about his activism and confiscating copies of a controversial book, amid a growing crackdown on online dissent that has seen three netizens arrested in recent weeks.

Twenty-seven-year-old former medical student Tu Anh Tu, who has blogged critically about Vietnam’s one-party communist government, said police questioned him about his involvement in pro-democracy and anti-China protests and his relationships with dissident bloggers before releasing him.

“They asked about my opinion about democracy and multiparty systems, whether I am for or against those, and about my relationships with some arrested bloggers,” Tu told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

He was taken into custody after some 15 police officers arrived at his office in Tan Quang, Hung Yen province around 9:30 a.m., searching the premises and seizing 20 copies of The Winning Side, a book by ex-journalist and fellow blogger Huy Duc. 

Quizzed on books

“They asked me where I got the books,” Tu said.  “I told them I found them on the street.”

The book, a revisionist history of postwar Vietnam, is not officially banned in the country, but state media have aired criticism of the volume since its publication in the U.S. last year.

Its author was dismissed from his post at a state-run newspaper in 2009 after posting criticism of the Cold War-era Soviet Union on his personal blog.

“They asked me about the contents of the book, and I said it is about a part of Vietnam’s history,” Tu said.

Tu’s sister Tu Minh Thu said high-ranking officers including colonels and a lieutenant colonel had been among the 15 who searched Tu’s office and took him into custody.  

Tu was a student in the medical college of Thai Nguyen University until he was kicked out over his participation in anti-China and pro-democracy protests, with police and the school requesting that local authorities monitor him after his return to his hometown.

Recent crackdown

His interrogation follows the arrest in recent weeks of three prominent dissidents accused of “anti-state” activity.

Last week, authorities in the southern province of Long An arrested blogger Dinh Nhat Uy, after Pham Viet Dao was held in Hanoi a week earlier and Truong Duy Nhat was detained in Danang in late May.

All three are being investigated for “abusing democratic freedoms to encroach upon the interests of the state” in their blogs.

Uy is the elder brother of Dinh Nguyen Kha, a blogger who has been held since last year and was jailed for eight years in May on charges of spreading anti-state propaganda.  

Police surveillance and harassment is a common experience for dissident bloggers in Vietnam, which is listed by press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders as an “Enemy of the Internet.”

Many have been jailed under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code for “conducting propaganda against the state,” and international rights groups and press freedom watchdogs have accused Hanoi of using the vaguely worded provision to silence dissent.

Reported by Mac Lam for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.