Prominent Political Blogger Doan Trang Goes Missing

Prominent political blogger Phạm Đoan Trang

Defend the Defenders, March 8, 2018

Prominent political blogger Pham Doan Trang went missing in the afternoon of March 8, with friends later finding out she had been taken for questioning by the police.

Activists said, shortly before they lost contact with Doan Trang, security officers were seen stationed near the house her friends had rented for her after she left her mother’s apartment in Hanoi on February 27 to go into hiding to avoid intense police harassment.

Since leaving her mother’s apartment in Le Duc Tho residental area where police had kept her under heavy surveillance, Ms. Trang was said to stay in an apartment in Ton That Tung street. Cuong, one of her close friends and a member of the Green Tree movement, hired the apartment for her.

Activists said at noon on March 8, the landlord asked Cuong to come to make temporary registration. He was busy so made an appointment with the landlord several hours later. Cuong immediately tried to contact with Trang by phone but failed.

In the late afternoon, Cuong tried to contact with the landlord but the landlord refused.

Activists said they feared that Trang had been arrested after many unsuccessful attempts to contact her or locate her.

Trang was released late that evening, after 10 pm.

The recent spate of harassment began when Trang was detained by security officers from the Ministry of Public Security on February 24, and released about ten hours later. She was also summoned to a police station for interrogation about her recently-published book Chính trị bình dân (Politics for the masses).

On February 27, she left her mother’s apartment untracked and went into hiding.

Already, for most of the recent months, Trang has been forced into hiding in a bid to avoid harassment by 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’s house in recent days to celebrate the Lunar New Year festival.

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 as well as a namely political blog The Vietnamese.

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.

In 2015, while participating in a peaceful demonstration in Hanoi to protest the city’s plan to chop down thousands of old-growth 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.

On March 5, People in Need, a Prague-based non-profit organization founded on the ideals of humanism, freedom, equality and solidarity, awarded her 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.

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.