Vietnamese authorities have arrested a blogger critical of the government and thrown him into a mental institution in the latest move to curtail dissent in the one-party Communist state, a rights group said Saturday.
Le Anh Hung was taken away from his workplace on Thursday morning by security officials and his friends later discovered that he was interned in a mental institution in the capital Hanoi, according to the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights.
The 40-year-old blogger had in the past been subjected to repeated interrogations, threats, and harassment by the police over his writings denouncing instances of corruption and power abuse among top-level ruling Communist Party and government officials.
"Six secret security agents held Le Anh Hung at his workplace in [northern] Hung Yen [city] on Thursday morning and told his boss they needed to see him about 'matters concerning temporary residence papers,'” a statement by the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights said.
"They then forced him into their car and took him away without any explanation. He was later found to be interned in the 'Social Support Center No. 2' in Ung Hoa, Hanoi, a center for mentally ill."
When his friends tried to visit him on Friday, the head of the center confirmed that he was there, but refused to let them meet him, the statement said.
The center's head also claimed that Hung’s mother had demanded his internment, and that she specifically told them that no one should be allowed to see him other than herself.
But Hung’s mother denied making such a demand, the statement said.
“Detaining critics and dissidents in mental hospitals is a despicable tactic reminiscent of the Soviet Union era,” said Vo Van Ai, president of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, the international arm of Action for Democracy in Vietnam which is campaigning for human rights and democracy in Vietnam.
“Vietnam will clearly stop at nothing to stifle the voices of this young generation. The international community should condemn his kidnapping and detention and call on Vietnam to immediately set him free," he said.