Authorities in Vietnam brutally beat several dissident bloggers on Human Rights Day after they publicly distributed documents promoting rights and explaining the country’s obligations as a signatory to an international convention on torture, according to sources Wednesday.
Members of the VN Blogger Network were beaten by plainclothes police and unknown assailants in Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang in separate incidents on Tuesday, the sources said, while many rights campaigners were commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In the first incident, blogger Me Nam said she, her young son and An Do Nguyen—known by her online pseudonym as Hoang Vi—were walking near Nguyen’s home in Ho Chi Minh City when plainclothes police approached them and took away a teddy bear they were holding.
“I shouted ‘robbers, robbers!’ at which point they cornered us and seriously beat us, forcing us back inside the house and locking the door,” Nam told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
“They even took my son out of my arms,” she said. “When our friends came to rescue us, [the police] attacked them and blogger Hoang Van Dung was injured in the eye.”
Another blogger, Tran Hoang Han, was reportedly beaten on the same day in Ho Ch Minh City while a meeting of a women’s human rights group in the city’s Gia Hoa pagoda was also disrupted by police, Nam said. She did not provide details of the two incidents.
Nguyen said the bloggers would not be intimidated into silence.
“Crackdowns and suppression only increase the strength and maturity of Vietnam’s bloggers,” she said on Facebook on Tuesday.
Also on Tuesday, VN Blogger member Nguyen Van Thanh told RFA that he and another blogger named Thanh Hoang were beaten by unknown assailants outside the Hoa Minh commune police station in Da Nang when they arrived to assist fellow online dissidents Le Anh Hung and Thi Phuong Anh, who were demanding that authorities return confiscated belongings.
Thanh said that Hoang had been “seriously injured” in the attack.
“They hit me really badly and I now have to take painkillers and other medication because I have hemophilia,” he said.
“I think the police and thugs are cooperating to attack people. It happened in the past in Hanoi to [bloggers] Nguyen Chi Duc and Binh Nhi in Ho Chi Minh City and now in Da Nang. It’s horrible.”
Members of the VN Blogger Network told RFA that they believed the attacks were a form of retribution by authorities against their group for handing out leaflets and other documents about human rights to the public ahead of the United Nations-backed Human Rights Day.
According to blogger Pham Van Hai, on Saturday in Nha Trang city, members of the VN Blogger Network had distributed leaflets and documents about human rights and the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which Vietnam had recently signed ahead of taking its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council.
“We began at 8:00 a.m. with two groups going two different directions. One group walked on Tran Phu Street along the beach, while the other boarded buses to the Hon Ro area and back to distribute documents to people on the vehicles or at bus stops,” he said.
“Most of people were very interested because it is related to their own rights and benefits. Most of them welcomed the documents, though some were reserved because they don’t like commercial advertising.”
Saturday’s action was followed a day later with members of the blogger network distributing balloons and documents promoting human rights in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Hai said.
“The bloggers were met with a crackdown from the government. Some people asked for balloons and then popped them when they were given out,” he said.
“In Hanoi, police and security vans were mobilized to contain the balloons, which then were taken away from Thong Nhat park, where the activities took place. Some bloggers were harassed or robbed of their bags, which contained human rights documents and leaflets.”
Ho Chi Minh City-based blogger Paulo Thanh Nguyen said authorities on Sunday also harassed members of the network who tried to inform the public of their rights at a park in the city.
“We gathered at Sept. 23 Park to talk about human rights and about the international declaration on human rights on Dec. 10, 1948,” he said, adding that the group also discussed the situation of human rights in Vietnam compared to countries around the world.
But he said that during the event police beat blogger Chau Van Thi while other network members were targeted with a foul-smelling liquid.
Ahead of Human Rights Day, Vietnamese state media ran an article about the one-party communist government’s policy on human rights penned by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.
In the article, Minh said that Vietnam had been elected to serve on the U.N. Human Rights Council from 2014 to 2016 as a result of “the party’s comprehensive policy, which aims to protect and advocate for human rights and positively contribute to international cooperation on human rights.”
Minh reminded readers that Vietnam is a signatory to various international conventions, including the Convention on Political and Civil Rights and the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and said that the country will ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Disabled next year.
According to the article, all basic rights of the Vietnamese people are guaranteed by law in the constitution and implemented through government’s policies.
Reported by An Nguyen for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.