May 7, 2021
Vietnam Arrests Shipper of Liberal Publishing House, Charging Him with “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda”
Defend the Defenders, May 6, 2021
Vietnam’s security forces have arrested Mr. Nguyen Bao Tien, a shipper and a collaborator of the unregistered Liberal Publishing House (LPH), and charged him with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the Criminal Code.
According to the state-controlled media, the Police Department of the central province of Phu Yen publicized the arrest and the criminal probe on May 5. The security forces were said to conduct a house search and confiscated dozens of books printed by LPH but considered harmful for the authoritarian regime in Vietnam.
According to the Phu Yen police, Mr. Tien, 35, participated in distribution of books illegally printed by LPH in August-October 2019. He was said to have received 68 postal boxes containing the illegally-printed, of which he handed over 24 to readers.
Phu Yen police said he was arrested recently while tried to send the books in a post office in Phu Yen province.
One day after the Phu Yen province’s police announced the arrest of Mr. Tien, LPH issued a statement confirming that Tien was among its collaborators, once time distributing its books when Vietnam’s authorities launched a campaign to halt activities of the unsanctioned publisher. It lost contact with him since early October 2019 while his Facebook and Whatsapp accounts were likely locked. The publisher suspected that the Phu Yen police arrested Tien in early October two years ago and kept him in police custody without informing his family.
Similar to other political cases, Mr. Tien will be held incommunicado for at least next four months.
LPH was established in February 2019 by a group of activists including prominent human rights defender and political blogger Pham Doan Trang who wrote a series of dissident books. It printed a dozens of books considered harmful to Vietnam’s authoritarian regime as their content is about human rights and democracy as well as bad nature of communism and communist regimes worldwide. Its uncensored products met great interest of Vietnam’s public. Due to its great work, in 2020, it was honored with Prix Voltaire of the International Publishers’ Association.
However, it met strong persecution from Vietnam’s security forces which detained several contributors of the publisher for interrogation. Some of them were brutally tortured in police custody and they were forced to relocate after being released or escaped from police. In October 7, Vietnam’s police arrested Ms. Pham Doan Trang on charges of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code (1999) and Article 117 of the Criminal Code (2015).
Tien’s arrest may be linked to the detention of Ms. Trang who may face imprisonment of between seven to 12 years in prison, even to 20 years. Due to fierce suppression of the Vietnamese government and its internal issues, LPH was forced to suspend its operation in 2020.
If Tien was truly arrested on May 5 as the Phu Yen police said, he would be 11th activist being detained so far this year and the 5th alleged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” while other six were charged with “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the Criminal Code, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics. As of May 5, Vietnam’s regime has convicted 14 activists and sentenced them to a total 106 years in prison and 21 years of probation.
With his arrest, the number of prisoners of conscience in Vietnam rose to 261, the latest statistics of Defend the Defenders showed.