Police in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi arrested a dissident writer and blogger on Thursday on charges of producing and distributing information opposing the government amid a deepening crackdown on freedom of expression in the one-party communist state.
Pham Chi Thanh, also called Pham Thanh, was taken into custody at 8:00 a.m. by a large group of police who burst through the door of his home, his wife Nguyen Thi Nghiem told RFA’s Vietnamese Service by phone.
“While my son was opening the door, many police came into the house, and I heard the noise and came downstairs,” Nguyen said.
“They asked me where my husband was, and I said he was on the fifth floor watering [bonsai] trees. Then they brought my husband downstairs, and the police said they had warrants to arrest him and to search the house.”
After the police read out their warrants, they seized two computers, a printer, and some documents, arrested Pham, and left the house at 10:00 a.m., Nguyen said, adding that she was so weakened and overwhelmed by anxiety during the arrest that she couldn’t hear clearly what Pham had been charged with.
Writing later on his Facebook page, another dissident writer said however that Pham had been arrested under Article 117 of Vietnam’s penal code for “producing, storing, and disseminating information and documents against the Vietnamese state.”
RFA has not been able yet to independently confirm the charge.
Critical books, essays
Born in 1952, Pham Thanh has written a number of books and essays critical of Vietnam’s communist government and leaders, including a book self-published in 2019 harshly criticizing Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong.
Dissent is not tolerated in Vietnam, and authorities routinely use a set of vague provisions in the penal code to detain dozens of writers, bloggers, and activists calling for greater freedoms in the one-party communist state.
Estimates of the number of prisoners of conscience now held in Vietnam’s jails vary widely.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has said that authorities held 138 political prisoners as of October 2019, while Defend the Defenders has suggested that at least 240 are in detention, with 36 convicted last year alone.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.