A Vietnamese democracy advocate was taken into custody in Hanoi on Thursday by police who charged him with disorderly conduct after they broke up a lunch meeting held with friends at a local restaurant, sources said.
Vu Hung, a former political prisoner and school teacher, was taken first to a local police station and then transferred to a district station, and was beaten in detention, his wife Ly Thi Tuyet Mai told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Friday while waiting to visit her husband in jail.
“Hung was arrested by the police yesterday afternoon, and after that they took him to the Thanh Xuan Bac ward police station,” Mai said, adding, “Now he’s here at the Thanh Xuan district station.”
“I’m waiting for the investigator to send in some personal things that I brought, including clothing and food, but the investigator said that he’s busy right now and will let me in when he’s done.”
Hung was having lunch with friends at a local restaurant on Thursday while “a lot of policemen stood watch outside,” Mai said.
“While they were still eating, the restaurant owner suddenly told them to pay their bill and leave,” she said.
Police told Mai later that Hung had quarreled with two people after leaving the restaurant, leading to his arrest.
“But when I came to see him at around 10:00 p.m. he told me he is innocent, and that they had slandered him and had beaten him in custody,” she said.
Phone calls to the Thanh Xuan District police station and to police investigator Kim Minh Duc, the officer in charge of Hung’s case, rang unanswered on Friday.
Belonged to banned group
In a Jan. 5 statement, the rights group Defend the Defenders identified Hung as a member of the banned online advocacy group Brotherhood For Democracy.
The restaurant meeting of the Chu Van An Teachers Association he had attended on Thursday “was disrupted as the restaurant owner under district police pressure asked the participants [to leave in] the middle of the event,” the rights group said.
Arrested in 2008 for hanging banners calling for multiparty democracy in Vietnam, Hung was handed a three-year prison term for spreading “propaganda against the state” and later launched a month-long hunger strike to protest authorities’ treatment of the prisoners where he was held.
Hung’s current arrest comes amid an ongoing crackdown on political dissent in Vietnam, with at least 46 activists jailed in 2017 “for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly,” according to a Jan. 5 statement by the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR).
“The crackdown accelerated in late December 2017, when 15 activists were sentenced to prison terms,” VCHR said.
“At least 130 political prisoners remain behind bars in jails across the country,” the rights group said.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Richard Finney.