A prominent Vietnamese dissident and his wife were dragged from a taxi and beaten by suspected police agents this week while traveling to meet with an Australian diplomat in Hanoi to press for the release of fellow activists detained after a police raid on his house.
Nguyen Bac Truyen, a rights lawyer and former political prisoner, had been followed by the attackers since his arrival at the airport of the Vietnamese capital on Sunday, he told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
He and his wife Bin Thi Kim Phuong had gone there to discuss the human rights situation in the one-party communist state with representatives from the U.S., EU, Canada, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany, he said.
In particular, they aimed to raise concerns about three activists—bloggers Bui Thi Minh Hang and Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh and follower of the Hoa Hao Buddhist tradition Nguyen Van Minh—who have been on a hunger strike for the last 15 days to protest their detention earlier this month, according to Truyen.
The three are among a group of 21 taken into custody on Feb. 11 on their way to visit his then-fiancee’s home in Dong Thap province, where Truyen had been taken into custody himself as hundreds of police stormed the house two days earlier. The others were released a day after their arrest.
As Truyen and Phuong were on their way to the Australian Embassy to discuss the case, they were pulled from a taxi and beaten by four men on motorbikes with no license plates, Truyen said.
“I was attacked in a taxi before I even got there,” he told RFA’s Vietnamese Service. “They took this opportunity to assault us.”
“I knew I would have difficulties during this trip and I had anticipated what would happen, but I was careless.”
Australian Embassy 'concerned'
The two still made it to their meeting with the Australian diplomat, and met the next day with representatives of the EU and the United States, he said.
The Australian Embassy issued a statement saying it was concerned about the incident and would speak to Vietnamese authorities about it, the Associated Press reported.
“They are very interested in this case and said they would immediately follow up with the government of Vietnam,” Truyen said.
International rights group Freedom House had warned that Truyen remained at risk of physical attack following his release after the Feb. 9 raid on his home, which came about a week before the couple’s wedding.
In the raid, which overseas rights groups condemned as violent, hundreds of armed Vietnamese police and government agents fired gunshots and stormed the residence, according to rights groups and Truyen’s wife.
Hang, Quynh, Minh and the other 18 supporters had been “ambushed” by Lap Vo district police when they came to investigate the raid, Truyen said.
He said the “main purpose” of his trip had been to raise awareness of the three in detention as he was worried about their health.
“At the moment, Bui Hang’s and Thuy Quynh’s health are of particular concern to us because they have been on hunger strike for 15 days to protest their arbitrary arrest.”
“These arbitrary arrests by the Lap Vo district police are against the law of Vietnam and international law.”
Many activists in Hanoi support Hang, who is a prominent dissident blogger, and the other two activists, and have promised to mount actions to defend them “in the time to come,” Truyen said.
“But we can’t use violence against violence,” he said.
“We can only use our words to show the world how human rights are abused in Vietnam.”