In a relentless crackdown on dissent, authorities in Vietnam arrested on Wednesday two bloggers, an activist and five others, according to one of the detainees.
Police and plainclothes officers detained blogger Nguyen Tuong Thuy, his wife and daughter, and another blogger Pham Ba Hai, as well as activist Nguyen Phuong Uyen, while they were having dinner in Thuy’s house in the country’s capital Hanoi.
Thuy’s other dinner guests who were taken away have been identified as Duong Thi Tan, the ex-wife of jailed blogger Nguyen Van Hai; Uyen’s mother Nguyen Thi Nhung; and Le Quoc Quyet—the brother of prominent rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan, who is set to stand trial next week on tax evasion charges.
“We went to have dinner at Thuy's house but they [the police] came and arrested all of us, including the host,” Tan told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
She said that both she and Thuy’s daughter were treated roughly and forced into a car which took all eight of them to the Lien Ninh village police station in Hanoi.
Tan said she and Thuy’s family members, as well as Uyen and her mother, were freed late Wednesday but the two bloggers and Quyet remained in custody.
Tan said that Uyen and her mother were escorted to the airport by police late Wednesday to return by flight to their home in southern Vietnam’s Long An province, but that Thuy, Hai and Quyet “haven’t been released yet.”
Thuy has been active in protests against China’s overlapping claims with Vietnam to islands in the South China Sea, and earlier this year was blocked from placing flowers on a memorial recognizing Vietnamese soldiers who died during China’s short-lived invasion of Vietnam in 1979.
He has been an active blogger in the online community that has called on Hanoi to fight back against what it sees as Beijing’s strong-arm foreign policy in Southeast Asia, provoking a series of anti-China rallies in the last two years.
Hai, a member of the Bloc 8406 coalition of political groups calling for democratic reform in Vietnam, was arrested in 2006 and sentenced to five years in prison in 2008 for “spreading propaganda against the state,” but was released in 2011.
Quyet has actively campaigned for the release of his brother Le Quoc Quan, who is an outspoken blogger and rights advocate. Quan has vowed to defend himself to the hilt against tax evasion charges that international rights groups contend are part of a government campaign against the critic.
Court authorities postponed the trial for Quan, who was also active in anti-China protests, in July after the presiding judge “fell sick suddenly and had to be hospitalized.” The hearing has been rescheduled for Oct. 2.
Tan, whose ex-husband Nguyen Van Hai, also known as Dieu Cay, is serving a 12-year sentence for “conducting propaganda against the state,” said she was released late at night when there was no public bus service available.
“I may just sit at the police station now because it is too late to go home,” she told RFA.
“They wrote up a document and asked me some questions, but I said I was under no obligation to answer them,” she said.
“They weren’t wearing uniforms and didn’t display their names, so I told them I didn’t know who they were. They can’t allow unidentified people to question me at the police station.”
Vietnam has jailed dozens of dissidents and bloggers for speaking out online since the one-party communist state stepped up a crackdown three years ago.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.