On the heels of a report that the Vietnamese government arrested and charged 39 prisoners of conscience in 2019 on charges of violating national security, the country’s prime minister urged the police to step up its efforts against “hostile forces and reactionaries.”
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc made his plea to the police, emphasizing the seriousness of national security crime at an annual police ministry conference Sunday.
The report, a weekly update published Jan. 5 on the Defend the Defenders website, says that Vietnam is holding 239 prisoners of conscience on charges ranging from subversion and conducting anti-state propaganda, to abusing democratic freedom and disrupting public orders, among other charges.
The 39 arrested and charged last year using the National Security clauses in Vietnam’s penal code include several journalists, among them “Pham Chi Dung, president of the unregistered Independent Journalist Association of Vietnam for his writing for the organization as well as the Voice of America (VOA) …and other foreign outlets,” the report said.
In September, 2019, the Supreme People’s Procuracy of Vietnam reported at a Justice Committee meeting saying that crimes related to national security were on the rise, increasing 58.8%.
Deputy Minister of police Le Quy Vuong at that time also stated that hostile forces and reactionaries were increasing their action to fight against Vietnamese government, and getting g more numerous and stronger than in their activities. Trans-national crimes were also on the rise.
New Year Arrest
Meanwhile, Vietnamese Authorities arrested a reader of materials produced by the Freedom Publishing House (FPH), an independent publisher formed in February 2018.
Without a warrant, police entered and searched the Hanoi home of Quyet Sy Ho, then brought him to the police station for interrogation, according to RFA sources.
Trang Doan Pham, a blogger, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that the incident was not the first time that readers of FPH books have had their houses unduly searched and were taken in by authorities.
An FPH member in charge of the northern parts of the country who requested anonymity for security reasons told RFA that he has been on the run from the government for the past two months.
“I joined the FPH with a desire to help Vietnamese readers have access to information from many different angles than just the censored news,” the source said.
The source said he wanted to provide access to “more applicable knowledge” and fair coverage of political issues.
“Security agents came to my workplace to investigate and I felt unsafe, so I went into hiding,” the source said.
“They searched my house, confiscating all my documents and my computer and many other things,” he added.
“They also took documents pertaining to my relatives, such as education degrees, a personal computer, and asked my younger brother to go to the station for interrogation,” said the source.
An FPH reader identified as Mr. H told RFA that there is great difficulty in distributing books published by the organization.
“The shipper can be arrested at any time. If the government finds a list of people who order these books, they can be found and arrested,” said H, adding that he only buys FPH books from his friends.
H also said that the government wants to put a stop to FPH activities that impact the common people of Vietnam.
“The government sees that the FPH as a resistance force that is dangerous to them,” said H, adding that FPH materials are popular with Vietnamese activist groups.
Reported and Translated by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Eugene Whong.