Liberal Publishing House’s Shipper In Critical Health Conditions After Being Beaten by Vietnamese Security Officers
Defend the Defenders, May 15, 2020
Mr. Phung Thuy, a shipper of the unregistered group Liberal Publishing House (LPH), is in critical health situations due to injuries caused by officers from the Ministry of Public Security, a prominent dissident and political writer Pham Doan Trang has said.
Currently, Mr. Thuy, 56, has been going into hiding in order to avoid being re-captured by security forces after fleeing from a police station in the early hours of May 9. However, his daughter is still held by police as a hostage and the police’s reward would be his surrender.
Ms. Trang said due to the torture which lasted from 9 AM of May 8 to 3 AM of May 9, Mr. Thuy felt chest tightness, had difficulty breathing and nausea three days later. From the afternoon of May 12, he vomited fresh blood. His body twitched because of pain while his stomach swelled up, and whenever he touched his hand he felt a twitching pain, so much that he couldn’t breathe.
As Defend the Defenders reported, Mr. Thuy fell into the police’s trap as they ordered him to ship some books printed by LPH. They took him to the headquarters of the ministry’s Representative Office in Ho Chi Minh City located in Nguyen Van Cu street, District 1. In the police station, police officers beat him repeatedly from 9.00 AM on Friday to the early hours of Saturday. Specifically, police officers were punching in his face, chest, ribs, and stomach. They kicked his shins and at least six police officers had stepped his toes.
During the torture, police officers interrogated him about his relations with Ms. Trang and other activists involving in the affairs of the underground publisher as well as the place Ms. Trang is staying now. Thuy reportedly received serious attacks after giving negative answers the police officers did not want to hear.
The interrogators used all their professional skills from Germany’s Stasi to beat him until he collapsed at midnight on Friday. As his relatives brought some medicines for him, they took their motorbike and forced him to sign in a minute in which he has to confirm that he was treated properly, not being tortured during the working time with the police.
They continued to interrogate and beat him until 3 AM on Saturday (May 9) when Thuy had to call his family again to bring the medicines for him. When his daughter arrived at the police station, Thuy took this chance, running out of the interrogation room to grab the motorbike of his offspring and drive away.
Police officers were chasing him closely like in an action film made by Holywood. With luck, Thuy successfully escaped from angry policemen. Angry of failing to catch him, police detained his 24-year-old daughter and hold her as a hostage.
Trang said there is a nationwide campaign of Vietnam’s police to destroy LPH and halt its print and dissemination of books with contents aiming to promote human rights, multi-party democracy, and civil rights in the country ruled by communists for decades. Along with seeking printing facilities of the publisher, police are making tricks to catch its staff and shippers. She herself has been forced to live in secret places in Vietnam from a long time ago in order to avoid being detained by security forces.
LPH, which was officially introduced to Vietnam’s public on February 14, 2019, publishes a range of non-fiction books written by Vietnamese authors on topics such as political science, public policy, and other social issues. Some titles include Politics of a Police State, Non-Violent Resistance, Politics for the Common People, Life Behind Iron Bars, and A Handbook for Families of Prisoners. Many of these books are considered sensitive by the government and their publication is banned. The Vietnamese authorities generally censor publications that are perceived to conflict with government policy.
Since the Liberal Publishing House began operations, the police have launched several sting operations to try to arrest people working for it. It has also been subjected to online harassment, its Facebook page was subjected to a coordinated reporting campaign conducted by cyber-troop, where a military unit operates online and targets activists, human rights defenders, and political dissidents. This led to the closure of the Facebook account in February 2019, the same month LPH came online. In July, three different banks informed the publisher that its bank accounts would be closed. No justification was given. Police forced shipping companies to provide names and addresses of buyers. Those who refused to comply faced frequent intimidation, harassment, and intrusive surveillance. In November 2019, the publishing house’s newly launched website (https://nhaxuatbantudo.com/) was targeted by multiple cyberattacks, attempting to take over the control of the website, only with the support of IT expert that the website could maintain its operation.
Since early October 2019, police have harassed and intimidated dozens of people connected to LPH –- in what appears to be a targeted campaign. The harassment has taken place in at least three major cities, including Hanoi, HCM City, and Hue, in addition to the provinces of Binh Duong, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, and Phu Yen. The individuals who have been targeted are believed to have either bought or read books printed by the publisher or to have worked for the publisher. Individuals in those locations have been summoned to local police stations where they have been interrogated about books they bought from LPH. After questioning, most were pressured to sign statements promising that they would not buy books from LPH again. In one case, police detained and allegedly tortured Vu Huy Hoang in custody on October 15, 2019 in Ho Chi Minh City, to force him to confess to working for the publisher. Police detained him for more than 12 hours, during which time he was repeatedly beaten until his nose bled. Fearful of re-arrest, the man went into hiding as soon as he was released.
On October 23-24, a man in Phu Yen province received two letters from the police summoning him to the local station for questioning about his receipt of “banned” books. After interrogating the man, police searched his house and confiscated books printed by LPH. While in early November, a man who occasionally works with the publisher went into hiding, fearing arrest, after police instructed his regular employer to inform them when he next came to the office.
On May 14, Amnesty International launched a campaign urging the international community and Vietnamese to write a letter to Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and his government to request the end of the persecution against LPH and its supporters as well as ensure the right to freedom of expression, information, and publishing.
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