Amnesty Urges Vietnam to Investigate Beatings of Singer, Activists After Concert Raid

Singer Nguyen Tin and activists injured after police raid his performance in a small Ho Chi Minh City coffee shop.

Scene at the cafe in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City where singer Nguyen Tin’s “Memory of Saigon” concert was raided and broken up by police, Aug. 15, 2018.

The human rights watchdog Amnesty International on Friday called on Vietnam to investigate the beating this week of singer Nguyen Tin and activists who attended his concert, which was broken up by police in Ho Chi Minh City.

On August 15, dozens of uniform and plain clothes policemen stormed into a cafe and broke up Nguyen Tin’s “Memory of Saigon” show, at which he was singing apolitical love songs from before the 1975 communist revolution, witnesses told RFA’s Vietnam service.

The witnesses told RFA that at least four activists who were among about 50 people at the cafe were attacked by the plain clothes policemen.

“About one hour into the show, police came and told the cafe’s owner to stop the program. Nguyen Tin had to apologize to concert goers. When people were leaving, fighting broke out outside,” the singer’s girlfriend, Phan Tieu May, told RFA.

“I got out of the café with some other activists that the policemen did not know. When I turned around I saw policemen beating Pham Doan Trang. They hit her face and her belly and she had to go to the hospital,” she added.

According to Amnesty, rights activist Pham Doan Trang was then taken by police to an unknown road outside the city and “beaten further to the point of disfiguring her face.” And was being treated in hospital.

The rights group quoted Nguyen Tin and activist Nguyen Dai as saying they were blindfolded and hooded before they were taken to separate police stations, where they were severely beaten before being released.

“When the crackdown on Vietnam’s civil society reaches the point of beating and torturing people for listening to love songs, it is clear the situation is deteriorating to a disturbing level. It is not a crime to attend a concert, and people should not live in fear that they are putting their safety at risk if they do,” Clare Algar, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Operations, said in a statement.

Vietnam’s authorities must immediately investigate allegations that a group of activists were attacked and severely beaten by police officers while attending a private performance of pre-Communist era songs in Ho Chi Minh City yesterday, said Amnesty.

Nguyen Tin had spent three days in police custody, and suffered beatings by authorities, in June, after he joined a protest in Ho Chi Minh City challenging government plans to grant long-term leases for foreign companies operating in special economic zones (SEZs).

On July 30, twenty protesters were tried and quickly sentenced for their roles in June 10 protests in Bien Hoa city, with prison terms handed out of from eight months up to one and a half years in prison, sources in the country said.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Paul Eckert.