US Lawmakers Call For Release of American Citizen Detained in Vietnam

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Protesters in Ho Chi Minh City demonstrate against the Vietnamese government's plans to grant long-term leases to foreign companies operating in special economic zones, June 9, 2018.
Protesters in Ho Chi Minh City demonstrate against the Vietnamese government's plans to grant long-term leases to foreign companies operating in special economic zones, June 9, 2018.
Photo courtesy of William Nguyen/Twitter

A group of U.S. congressmen called the ambassador to Vietnam on Friday to express serious concern over the arrest of an American citizen detained by Vietnamese authorities for attending a weekend protest in Ho Chi Minh City that turned violent.

Congressmen Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), and Lou Correa (D-Calif.) spoke with Ambassador Dan Kritenbrink and called on the Vietnamese government to immediately release William (Will) Ahn Nguyen.

The 32-year-old graduate student from Houston, Texas, was beaten and arrested for attending what started out as a peaceful demonstration on June 9. He is visiting Vietnam a month before he is scheduled to graduate from a master’s degree program at a university in Singapore.

Nguyen had tweeted about clashes between protesters and police over government plans to grant long-term leases to foreign companies operating in special economic zones (SEZs), stirring public fears that the leases would go to Chinese-owned firms.

The Vietnamese government said on Thursday that Nguyen was being detained on charges of “disturbing public order.”

“In speaking today with the ambassador, we expressed not only our own serious concerns about the arrest and imprisonment of William, but the concerns of a growing number of congressional members,” said a statement issued by the congressmen after the call.

“Our main message to the ambassador was that William must be released, and he must be released immediately,” the statement said. “Our expectation is that the U.S. embassy in Vietnam and the U.S. government do whatever [they] can — at the highest levels — to obtain this release.”

The congressmen also requested that the State Department notify the Vietnamese government that the U.S. expects it to treat Nguyen “well and fairly while in custody.”

Embassy officials met Nguyen on Thursday and found him to be “in good spirits and recovering well from the physical injuries he received during his arrest,” the statement said.

A video on social media showed Nguyen with a bloody head during the demonstration.

But Le Thi Thu Hang, a spokesperson from Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Thursday that authorities had not used force on Nguyen, Agence France-Presse reported.

The congressmen said they will contact President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as well as Pham Quang Vinh, Vietnam’s ambassador to the U.S. about getting Nguyen released and about his treatment while in custody.

‘We want him home’

Nguyen’s arrest came two days after the release of Nguyen Van Dai, a prominent Vietnamese rights lawyer and member of the Brotherhood for Democracy, a group he founded in 2013 to defend human rights and promote democratic ideals in Vietnam. Upon his release, Dai was put on a plane to Germany where he was granted asylum.

On April 5, Dai and five other activists were given lengthy jail sentences for conducting activities aimed at overthrowing the state under Article 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. Dai was sentenced to 15 years in prison and five years of house arrest.

Rights groups had called on the government to drop charges against Dai and the five others.

“It is in the best interest of the Vietnamese government, and their continuing relations with the U.S., to release William,” the congressmen’s statement said. “The recent praise Hanoi received following the release of activist Nguyen Van Dai should make clear that the international community is watching and will respond accordingly to acts of civility and justice.”

Nguyen’s family, who contacted the congressmen for help, also called for his immediate release in a statement.

“We want him home,” the statement said. “His friends want him home. We demand that he immediately be released. And simply just that. This has escalated out of control, and we demand justice.”

Nguyen’s sister, Victoria Nguyen, spoke with the three U.S lawmakers and others on Capitol Hill on Thursday and told RFA’s Vietnamese Service afterwards: “We just wanted to advocate for him [Nguyen] on his behalf and really just pushed Congress who pushed the Vietnamese government to release him.”

Of the Vietnamese authorities, she said, “It’s wrong that they instill fear in their citizens when they should be empowering them to make their own decisions in their own lives. That’s the right thing to do.”

“What I want to tell them to do is just release Will,” she said. “It was unnecessary. It was uncalled for, and they just need to do the right thing and let him go.”

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Ho Chi Minh City police issued a prosecution order for Nguyen on Friday.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Comments (2)

Anonymous Reader

There is no law in Vietnam yet to say that people can not protest to express their says! Well done Will Nguyen

Jun 17, 2018 02:21 AM

Anonymous Reader

from Houston

What part of stay away from protests doesn't he understand? Leave him in jail. I can not feel sorry for him.Read the warnings from the state department below..
The United States is calling on the Vietnamese authorities to release one of its citizens who was caught up in a violent police crackdown on protestors who took to the streets across Vietnam this week.

Will Nguyen, 32, an American from Houston, Texas, who is currently studying in Singapore, was among those taken into custody on Sunday after he participated in a rare protest in Ho Chi Minh city.
The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens overseas always maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness while traveling internationally.
Small-scale, peaceful protests occasionally occur in Vietnam’s major cities, but large-scale demonstrations are rare. You should avoid large gatherings, as they can become violent with little or no warning.
Criminal Penalties: Persons violating Vietnamese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. If you break local laws in Vietnam, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution.

Jun 16, 2018 10:14 AM

Hate Communist with a passion

from ghet bac Ho

Good gracious, I believe the person from Houston is another brainwashed pathetic communist infiltrator living amongst us!
Just as I told your comrade; Mary ‘Fangs’; get your head out of the cesspool and look at the ‘big picture’. The real issue isn’t about Will got arrested!
It’s the Chinese toxic ambitious to simulate VN into their folds ‘eventually’ and w/out having to fire a single shot! That’s the real issue.
For the life of me, I didn’t know Nail Shops are graduating ‘international lawyer’ as yourself.
Another thing, USA is a sovereign nation; thus; it has the rights to protect its citizens. Only VN and about a handful of 3rd world nations can’t protect its citizen. Don’t you find it sad that VN is in this group, ‘Mr. international lawyer’? Isn’t it also pathetic to be a VNmese communist infiltrator in the ‘land of milk and honey’?

Jun 20, 2018 10:23 AM

Not nosy

I agree with you

Jul 03, 2018 07:53 AM





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