Vietnamese police surrounded the homes of two high-profile dissident bloggers this week in a move to isolate them just days ahead of a human rights dialogue scheduled with U.S. diplomats, family members and other sources said.
One whose home was put under guard, jailed blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, was honored this year with the U.S. State Department’s International Woman of Courage Award for her work highlighting rights abuses and promoting peaceful dissent in the one-party communist state.
Quynh, who blogged under the pen name Mother Mushroom, has been held incommunicado since her arrest by Vietnamese authorities last October.
Speaking in an interview with RFA’s Vietnamese Service, Quynh’s mother, Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan, said that police descended on the family home on May 19, blocking access to the house with barriers “and following me everywhere I went.”
“The Nha Trang city police told me that if [U.S.] consul general Mary Tarnowka comes to give me her award, I am not allowed to receive it. They even checked every car driving near my house to see if it was Ms. Tarnowka or not,” Lan said.
On Sunday morning, the police heard that Tarnowka was leaving Nha Trang, so they withdrew the officers guarding her home, she said.
“But then somebody told them she was on her way back, so they immediately returned.”
As recently as 7:00 p.m. local time on May 22, five officers were still stationed outside, Lan told RFA.
“I have chosen to keep silent [about politics] so that I can raise my grandchildren, but what the authorities are doing is psychological terror, and they are repressing our family so much,” Lan said.
“I hope that I can be protected by human rights organizations because I am over 60, and I have to support my mother, my daughter in prison, and her own children,” Lan said, adding, “There is no freedom for people like us.”
Guards work in shifts
Also speaking to RFA, dissident blogger Doan Trang said on Tuesday that police had begun watching her home in Hanoi on May 19.
“There are at least three people in front of my house right now, and they take turns guarding in shifts. Some are in front of my house, some are behind the gate, and some are on the first floor,” Trang said. “There must be more than a dozen of them.”
“They are scared I might run away at night.”
“On Sunday, May 21, I wanted to take my grandmother to a funeral, but they did not let us go,” she said.
When young people from the neighborhood came to check on Trang and see what the police were doing, “they argued with them for a while, and then a police officer slapped one of them in the face,” Trang said.
“After that, dozens of people along with some thugs arrived to force the young people to leave,” she said.
'Violations in every area'
In a May 21 statement released in advance of the 2017 U.S.-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue scheduled for May 23, a group of Vietnamese civil society organizations said that Vietnam continues to impose strict restrictions on its citizens’ freedoms.
“Violations of human rights are reported in every area, especially freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association, and freedom of religion,” the statement, sent to Virginia Bennett—Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the U.S. State Department—said.
“In addition, state-sponsored violence targeting peaceful activists has been on the increase since early May, and none of the attacks has been duly investigated,” the statement said.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Richard Finney.