Vietnam police detain YouTube activist on anti-state charges

One of Nguyen Chi Tuyen’s channels attracted nearly 100,000 followers for commentary on political issues.
By RFA Vietnamese
2024.02.29
Vietnam police detain YouTube activist on anti-state charges Authorities in Vietnam have arrested activist Nguyen Chi Tuyen, the creator of two popular YouTube channels.
(Nguyễn Chí Tuyến via Facebook)

Hanoi authorities arrested the creator of two popular YouTube channels on Thursday on anti-state charges under Article 117, Vietnam’s vaguely written law that human rights organizations say is used to silence dissent.

Nguyen Chi Tuyen will be detained while an investigation is conducted into the charge of “disseminating information, materials, items and publications against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” Hanoi’s Security Investigation Agency said in a statement.

Tuyen is a founding member of the “No-U group,” which rejects a U-shaped line that China puts on maps of the South China Sea. He has also been a prominent member since 2011 of an anti-China group that has organized numerous demonstrations.

Tuyen’s latest YouTube channel is named “AC Media” and focuses on coverage and commentary on Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Tuyen’s live chat discussion about Sweden joining NATO and the downing in Ukraine of two Russian Su-34 fighters attracted nearly 60,000 followers.

His previous channel, “Anh Chí Râu Đen” (translated as “Mr. Chi with a black beard”), attracted nearly 100,000 followers for its commentary on hot-button social and political issues in Vietnam. 

Tuyen is also known as Anh Chi. For unknown reasons, he stopped maintaining the “Anh Chí Râu Đen” channel around two years ago.

Tuyen’s wife, Nguyen Thi Anh Tuyet, told Radio Free Asia that her husband hasn’t carried out any activities against the state.

“He has always been a person who expresses his opinions on wrongdoings in society,” she said. “He has only expressed his own viewpoints and has done nothing to oppose the Party or the state as accused.”

Summoned and searched

About a year ago, Hanoi security forces summoned him for several days of questioning about live streams that were broadcast several years ago on the “Anh Chí Râu Đen” channel, Tuyet said.

Authorities followed up by sending a notice banning him from leaving the country. Earlier this year, police sent another exit ban notice, she said.

In mid-January, Hanoi police sent a letter stating that they had received a crime report from Cyber Security and High-Tech Crime Prevention Division.

The letter states that Tuyen showed signs of committing the crimes of “anti-State propaganda” under Article 117 and “abusing the rights to democratic freedom” under Article 331 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. 

Tuyet told RFA that her husband received a summons to attend a meeting with Hanoi police on Thursday morning. However, he felt unwell and asked to postpone the meeting, she said.

Instead, police searched the family home on Thursday, read out a long arrest warrant and confiscated Tuyen’s mobile phone, laptop and some handwritten pages, Tuyet said.

“This morning, amid the chaos, I couldn’t hear all the details since it was very long,” she said. “I only remember some specific parts, such as the accusation that he was arrested for conducting propaganda and spreading anti-party materials.”

The warrant stated that he would be temporarily detained for four months at Hanoi’s Detention Facility No. 2, she said. 

RFA called Hanoi police to ask for a response to Tuyet’s remarks, but no one answered the phone.

Tuyen is the third person to be arrested on charges of “anti-state propaganda” since the beginning of this year. 

Translated by Anna Vu. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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