Authorities in Vietnam’s Lam Dong province have arrested businessman Nguyen Duc Quoc Vuong for posting information about political and social issues on Facebook, his brother told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Momday.
Vuong, who posted on Facebook as Vuong Nguyen, was arrested on Sept. 23 on charges of “making, storing, distributing or disseminating information, documents and items against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code of 2015 and 2017.
Information about his arrest spread on Facebook on Sept. 23, but on September 27, the arrest was official announced on the police website.
“His arrest was a surprise to us all. They came in and quickly arrested him, and didn’t leave any message why or how my brother was being detained,” said Vuong’s older brother, Nguyen Quoc Doan, who witnessed the arrest.
“My brother told me not to visit him and keep calm, after that he kept silent. Even the police that arrested my brother confirmed that he won’t be allowed to have family visits,” added Doan.
“Two or three days later, we got a phone call from a lawyer but because we are still in shock on the arrest, we turned the lawyer down. We didn’t know what to do,” he added.
Doan said his family owns a small business, and Vuong helped the family distribute goods around the city.
His family knew Vuong had Facebook account, but they do not care about politics and did not know what Vuong was doing on Facebook.
“The family just wants Vuong to be safe. At present, the family does not know how to hire a lawyer, nor do they believe that a lawyer can help. No lawyer dares to stand up and defend Vuong, because the police have already convicted my brother,” said Doan
Vuong often posted livestreamed comments about the situation and social issues in Vietnam and had shared many posts about land enforcement, environmental protests, and Chinese crimes in Vietnam with his 10, 752 Facebook followers.
“Along with the decision to prosecute the case, prosecute the suspect and detention order, the Security Investigation Agency of Lam Dong Province Police Department has executed a search warrant on the site, capturing many related documents in Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong’s home,” said Cong An Nhan Dan (People's Police) newspaper.
“The initial investigation results determined that over the past two years, Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong has used social networks to make, distribute documents and propagate misrepresentation to defame the government,” it said.
The report said that since discovering his critical Facebook posts in 2017, police and Communist Party personnel had repeatedly visited his home to encourage him to stop.
“But this subject still refused to listen, continue to violate with the level of opposition more and more drastic and more extreme,” said the newspaper.
Meanwhile, in Thanh Hoa province, the wife of Nguyen Trung Ton, a pastor serving a 12-year prison sentence for his involvement with the Brotherhood for Democracy, said security officials threatened to punish her if she talks to foreign media about her husband's condition.
“On September 26, I was summoned by the police in Thanh Hoa about my answering foreign press queries and visiting Ton,” said Nguyen Thi Lanh.
“I want to inform the media that the police are trying to prevent me from answering questions and speaking to foreign newspapers and radio because they said it will affect the nation,” Lanh told RFA.
“I'm so annoyed, I think I have to confront them. I will continue to do what I’ve been done before with the media,” she said.
On August 29, Lanh told RFA that her husband's health condition had deteriorated because he had been beaten before he got arrested and the detention center did not allow him to seek a medical examination and treatment.
He was arrested in July 2017 on charges of "attempting to overthrow the people's government" and was sentenced to 12 years in prison and 3 years probation in April 2018.
Vietnam holds an estimated 128 prisoners of conscience, according to a May report by rights group Amnesty International.
Nguyen Kim Binh of Vietnam Human Rights Network said in December 2018 that the one-party communist state is currently detaining more than 200 political prisoners.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Channhu Hoang. Written in English by Paul Eckert.