Vietnamese Dissidents Summoned by Police Two Days Before Trump Visit

Brotherhood for Democracy members Le Anh Hung Truong Van Dung decline to turn up, saying they have done nothing wrong.

Democracy activist Le Anh Hung (blue shirt) joins in a protest against the Taiwan-owned Formosa company, May 2015.

Police in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi called two members of the online Brotherhood for Democracy advocacy group to their offices this week to answer questions concerning their activities, but the two men refused to go, saying they had done nothing to break the law.

The summons came amid a months-long crackdown by authorities on dissident writers and bloggers, and just two days before U.S. President Trump and other world leaders arrive in Vietnam for top-level regional meetings.

Writing on Facebook, Brotherhood member Le Anh Hung said that he had never worked to “overthrow the People’s government,” a charge often brought under Article 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code to silence political dissent.

“Therefore, I am not responsible for meeting with the police,” Hung said.

Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Thursday, Brotherhood for Democracy member Truong Van Dung said he would also refuse to honor the Nov. 8 summons from police.

“Yesterday, when they gave me the summons, I told them clearly that I refused to work with them. And I did not go to see them today,” Dung said. “It’s our right to have an association with [Brotherhood founder] Nguyen Van Dai or anyone else we choose.”

“We told them we have done nothing to break the law.”

“We will never cooperate with them, even if summoned, because they’re an evil government, while we’re fighting for our country,” he said.

Many arrested

At least six members of the Brother for Democracy, which was founded in 2013 by now-jailed lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, have been arrested in recent months, with former political prisoner Nguyen Van Tuc taken into custody on Sept. 1.

On Aug. 4, police in central Vietnam’s Quang Binh province took into custody another former political prisoner, Nguyen Trung Truc, on charges of working to topple the country’s one-party communist state. Four other members of the group had been arrested just the week before.

Communist Vietnam, where all media are state-controlled, does not tolerate dissent, and rights groups have identified Article 79 as among a set of vague provisions that authorities have used to detain dozens of writers and bloggers.

On Oct. 7, a group of 17 nongovernmental organizations wrote a joint letter urging world leaders attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit later this week to press host Vietnam to free bloggers and rights defenders.

The letter mentioned bloggers and activists Tran Thi Nga, Nguyen Van Oai, and Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, a blogger also known as Mother Mushroom. Quynh, arrested in October 2016, and Nga, arrested in January of this year, have been sentenced to prison terms of 10 and 9 years respectively.

Vietnam is currently holding at least 84 prisoners of conscience, the highest number in any country in Southeast Asia, according to rights group Amnesty International.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Richard Finney.