Prominent Political Blogger Pham Doan Trang Leaves Hanoi Untracked despite Heavy Police Surveillance

The newly-publicized book titled Chính trị bình dân of blogger Pham Doan Trang

Defend the Defenders, February 27, 2018

Prominent political dissident and well-known blogger Pham Doan Trang has reportedly gone into hiding from Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi, despite heavy police surveillance.

Since February 24, the private residence of her mother in Le Duc Tho residential complex has been under heavy police surveillance as the Vietnamese authorities have deployed large numbers of police officers, plainclothes agents, and militia to the area in a bid to closely follow Trang, who became famous for her new book titled Chính trị bình dân or “Politics for all the masses.”

Already, for most of the recent months, Trang has been forced into hiding in a bid to avoid harassment of local authorities, especially following a brief detention after she spoke with the EU Delegation preceding the EU-Vietnam human rights dialogue in November. She had returned to her mother house in recent days to celebrate the Lunar New Year festival.

On the afternoon of February 24, security officers from the Ministry of Public Security came to the house of Trang’s mother, cheating her mother to get in and arbitrarily detained her. After interrogating her for about 10 hours in a police station, police allowed her to return to the house.

Security officers warned her of not trying to go out, saying the area was under heavy surveillance.

Trang was summoned to the police station again on February 26 for further questioning regarding her book.

Police were said to lose track of her on February 27. Many activists and friends who attempted to contact her, failed. Others said she likely temporarily relocated somewhere to avoid being troubled by security officers. After being released in mid-night of February 24, Trang said police may arrest her soon.

Many believe that Trang will not try leave the country. In 2014, she was invited to stay in the US after a short training course in journalism, but she denied, determined to come back to Vietnam to fight for human rights and democracy.

In her written statement publicized on late February 26, she said she will continue to work against the Vietnamese communist dictatorship.

Meanwhile, most activists in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City complained that they have been placed under house arrest on February 27 as local authorities are sending plainclothes agents and militia to station near their private residences. Police blocked activists from going out while others said police followed them closely when they leave their houses.

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

She has produced nearly ten books. 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.

Due to her political activities, she has been under close surveillance by security forces. She has been forced into hiding for most of the past few months.

In 2015, while participating in a peaceful demonstration in Hanoi to protest the city’s plan to chop down thousands of aged trees, she was brutally beaten by security forces which resulted in serious injuries in her left leg. The injuries have not healed. She is in need of medical care.

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 society in Hanoi when he visited the communist nation.

On November 17 last year, after a meeting with political officers of the EU Member States at the Office of the EU Delegation to Vietnam together with some other activists, she was detained for questioning for many hours, only being released around midnight.

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 of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and his faction in the country’s leadership has intensified its crackdown on local dissents and independent civil society. Since the beginning of 2017, the communist government has arrested at least 47 activists and convicted 30 of them, mostly on allegations of national security provisions in the Penal Code.

The government has discouraged citizens to get interested in politics, saying they should focus on economic activities and leave political issues, including the country’s sovereignty and environmental problems to the party and its government. It considers Chính trị bình dân a provocation as the book encourages people to get involved in politics, so all people can decide major issues of the nation instead of leaving for communists.