Political Dissident Pham Doan Trang Freed after 10 Hours of Arbitrary Detention, Still Faces Arrest

Blogger political activist Pham Doan Trang

Defend the Defenders, February 25, 2017

Vietnam’s security forces released political dissident and blogger Pham Doan Trang at mid night of February 24 after keeping her ten hours in custody, according to her close friend Trinh Kim Tien, who is also an activist living in Ho Chi Minh City.

Freed but still under heavy surveillance in her mother’s private residence in the capital city of Hanoi, Ms. Trang informed Mrs. Tien by telephone that police cut off electrity and Internet of the house.

Trang said she was temporarily released and has to “work” with police in coming days. Security officers who detained her and brought her back to her mother’s house warned that she should not try to escape because the area is heavily watched.

Trang told Tien that police are likely willing to arrest her.

Defend the Defenders couldn’t  contact Trang.

Trang told Tien that at around 2 PM of February 24, two officers from the Ministry of Public Security under plainclothes came to her mother house in the Le Duc Tho residental area. They introduced themselves as officers from the EU Delegation in Hanoi so her mother opened the house door. Trang recognized them as security officers who interrogated her in many houses on November 17 last year when security forces detained her after a meeting between local activists and diplomats from the 28-nation bloc.

Entering the house, they forced Trang to go with them to “work” about her new book titled “Chính trị bình dân” (Politics for All). They said if her mother had not opened the door, they would break it.

Security officers took her to a car waiting for them in the residental area and headed to a police station at Nguyen Gia Thieu street, the facility under management of the Ministry of Public Security.

During interrogation, security officers asked her to admit her interviews by foreign outlets in 2015. They also asked her information about her recently publicized book Chinh trị binh dan such as where the book is being printed and who did the job.

However, Trang kept silent, saying she has nothing to tell them.

Trang said she felt great pain in her leg during interrogation. In 2015, she was brutally beaten by security forces while participating in a peaceful demonstration to protest the city’s plan to chop down thousands of aged trees in the city’s center. Due to the assault, one of her legs is still injured after a series of surgeries.

This is the second time Vietnam’s security forces detained Ms. Trang within four months. On November 17, she was detained and interrogated for hours after participating in a meeting with the Political Counselors of the EU Member States at the Office of the EU Delegation to Vietnam.

Trang is among leading political dissidents in Vietnam. After resigning as a journalist of state-run media, she has blogged politically and involved in a number of political activities, including the work as a writer and editor of Vietnam Rights Now and Luat Khoa Tap chi, a independent legal website.

She has produced a number of books and Chính trị bình dân is the latest one, in which she encourages all people to engage in politics to settle the country’s issues instead of leaving the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam to decide on the behalf of the 94-million nation.

The 500-page book is sold online in Amazone but not allowed to be circulated in Vietnam and local authorities have confiscated its coppies sent from foreign countries.

Due to her political activities, she has been under close surveillance of security forces. She was forced to hide most of time in recent months.

In May 2016, she was kidnapped by security forces when she was on her way to a meeting between then US President Barack Obama and civil societies in Hanoi when he visited the communist nation.

In mid February this year, People In Need, a Prague-based non-governmental, non-profit organization founded on the ideals of humanism, freedom, equality and solidarity, awarded her with its Homo Homini Prize for 2017 for her contribution to human rights and democracy.

Along with purging political opponents within the ruling communist party to solidify his power, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and his fraction in the country’s leadership has intensified crackdown on local dissent and independent civil societies. Since the beginning of 2017, the communist government has arrested at least 47 activists and convicted 30 of them, mostly with allegations of national security provisions in the Penal Code.