Vietnamese authorities have detained a university student who took part in protests against Chinese actions in disputed waters of the South China Sea amid concerns over her whereabouts, her father said Wednesday.
Nguyen Phuong Uyen, a student of the Food Industry College in Ho Chi Minh City, was told by local police on Saturday that she would be released after questioning, her father Nguyen Duy Linh told RFA’s Vietnamese service.
But Uyen never returned home and authorities never informed her family in central Vietnam’s Binh Thuan province of an arrest, Linh said in an interview from the southern city, where he had just arrived on Wednesday to search for his daughter.
“I don’t know whether my daughter is being detained in a jail at the precinct, district, or municipal level,” he said.
Uyen’s grandmother had traveled to the police station in Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Thanh precinct and to the station which oversees the precinct in Tan Phu district, “but the police only said that they hadn’t arrested or jailed anyone,” Linh said.
He said he was also unclear about the charges filed against his daughter.
“The ‘official’ reason is unknown, but her fellow students said that it might relate to some news [she posted] online about some wrongdoings [by the authorities or party officials] … Something related to politics,” Linh said.
When asked if the charges might be related to the handing out of leaflets in protest over Chinese claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea during a recent demonstration, Linh said it was “something like that, though it’s not the official reason.”
“I’ve been unable to confirm the real reason so far.”
Vietnam and China have competing territorial claims in the South China Sea. China has in the past detained Vietnamese fishermen in disputed waters.
Linh said that Uyen’s friends on Facebook had been posting messages about how much they miss her and want her to come home soon.
“Little Phuong Uyen is still very young. She’s just a student,” Linh said.
“They arrested and detained her without any reason, and that is making us so stressed, so worried,” he said.
“I hope they release her—the sooner the better. Please return her to freedom so that she can go back to school and continue her education.”
Anti-China demonstrations are frequently staged by Vietnam’s nationalist and vocal dissident community under the watchful eyes of the police.
In August, Vietnamese police detained up to 50 people as they broke up a protest in Hanoi held in response to news of the establishment of a Chinese city and garrison in the disputed Paracel island chain, which Vietnam also claims.
At least four prominent bloggers and one elderly activist were held for participating in the rally, according to the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, which said Vietnam is "trampling on its commitments to respect civil and political rights guaranteed by international human rights treaties ratified by the government."
Reported by Thanh Quang for RFA’s Vietnamese service. Translated by Viet Long. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.