An outspoken and formerly imprisoned Vietnamese rights lawyer said Monday that he has been beaten by men he believes were plainclothes police.
Le Quoc Quan told RFA’s Vietnamese service that he was attacked by a group of men around 8:00 p.m. on Sunday in Hanoi while he was returning home from parking his car in a nearby lot.
Two of the attackers beat him with steel rods. He was injured on the head, the belly, and the knee before passers-by heard his calls for help and the attackers ran away, he said from his home.
He said he has been harassed by authorities before and believes the men, who were not in uniform, were connected to the police, adding that one of the attackers had a familiar face.
Quan, who has participated in anti-China demonstrations that authorities have watched closely since last year, said he did not know what prompted this attack against him, but that he believed it was to chastise him for his activism.
"I am considered a dissident by the Communist Party. I work to change this regime with nonviolent measures and I have suffered a lot of hardship [for this] in the past five years,” Quan said.
Other participants in the string of demonstrations held to oppose Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea have also reported being harassed by the authorities.
Quan was jailed for three months in 2007 after he returned from spending half a year in the U.S. under a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Democracy, a Washington-based nonprofit organization funded by the U.S. government that supports pro-democracy activities worldwide.
Though authorities initially announced no formal charges against him, he was later charged with taking part in "activities to overthrow the people's government” and was eventually released following protests from the United States.
Quan has written on topics including civil rights, political pluralism, and religious freedom and has attended activist demonstrations and trials of fellow dissidents.
Last year, he was detained while waiting outside the trial of legal activist Cu Huy Ha Vu and held for a week.
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch says he is one of a group of nearly a dozen lawyers and legal defenders who have been arbitrarily arrested, detained, disbarred, and pressured not to represent political or religious activists.
Reported by Gwen Ha for RFA’s Vietnamese service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.