Testimony of a Vietnamese blogger on the difficulties to exercise his right to freedom of expression

Press release

Nguyen Bac Truyen, a blogger from Saigon, testified via an audio message the harassment he is been victim of in Vietnam because of his blogger activities during a side event organised in Geneva (dubbed in English by Penelope Faulkner, VCHR).

This event called Criminalisation of legitimate expression on the internet: testimonies of Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia was co-organised by FIDH, IFEX, Article 19, VCHR, HRW and PEN International. It took place September 11th.

Listen to the testimony of Nguyen Bac Truyen

Nguyen Bac Truyen

Background information : Stifled Southeast Asian Voices: NGOs Unite Against Criminalization of Free Expression on the Internet


" My name is Nguyen Bac Truyen. I live in Saigon, Vietnam. I want to describe the events I have been living through over the past few weeks. On 10 August 2013, I was invited to meet members of the U.S. Congress’ Committee on Foreign Affairs who were visiting Saigon. After the meeting, when I stepped outside the hotel, I saw a large number of secret police and security agents waiting outside. I was sure they were going to arrest me. I went back to inform the members of the U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee. They told me to stay inside whilst they called some people. Ten minutes later, two staff members from the U.S. Embassy arrived. After they made some phone calls and looked around outside, they assured me that everything was alright, I could go home safely. I took a taxi to my mother’s house in the 4th District of Saigon where I am now living. The secret police followed right behind. When the taxi pulled up outside my mother’s house, I saw that the place was surrounded by secret police. For the next few days, they kept watch on us day and night. There were at least ten of them posted there all the time. They worked in shifts so they could keep us under permanent surveillance.

On 16 August, young activist Nguyen Phuong Uyen was released. Her 6-year prison sentence was reduced on appeal to a 3-year suspended sentence and she was released right after the trial. Bloggers and former political prisoners Bui Minh Hang, Truong Minh Duc and friend called Quang Dung came to take me to the Redemptorist Church where a celebration party was being held for her and her family. Secret Police followed us from our house to the Church. Afterwards, we decided to spend the night at a hotel at 128/5 Phạm Ngũ Lão Street, District 1, Saigon so we could attend the church service for Phuong Uyen and her family the next day. Again, secret police followed us to the hotel. Next morning, when I went to buy breakfast with Truong Minh Duc, the secret police agents came into the hotel and started beating us. Minh Hang saw them and began filming the scene. First of all, they beat me. Then they beat Thuy Nga who was carrying her 8 month-old baby. They tried to grab the cameras and cell-phones from Minh Hang and Duc, but the Hotel’s security staff intercepted them and escorted them outside. That evening, I took the bus with Minh Hang, Nguyen Thuong Thuy and Thuy Nga to the city of Vung Tau. They followed and harassed us all the way. As Minh Hang was buying the tickets at the Hoa Mai bus station, secret police beat her on the head with a rock. They followed our bus from Saigon to Vung Tau, and have kept us under non-stop surveillance since then. As I speak to you today, a dozen plain-clothed agents and security police are posted day and night outside Minh Hang’s home. They routinely follow and harass her, as well as her siblings and her children. For example, when I took her young son Trung out on my motorbike in the city of Vung Tau, police threw stones at him and wounded him in the head.

Le Quoc Quyet, the brother of detained dissident Le Quoc Quan, was also attacked after he visited us in Vung Tau. Traffic police stopped his car and stood watching whilst plain-clothed security agents beat him brutally. Afterwards, Minh Hang and some other dissidents staged a demonstration outside the Police station in Vung Tau-Ba Ria to protest this violence and press the Police to write a statement admitting their unlawful acts.

In Hanoi, the situation of bloggers is also very bad. Recently, several bloggers who were holding English classes in their homes were raided by Police and arrested for several days. One very disturbing case is that of activist and blogger Dũng Aduku. He was arrested in Hanoi on 21 August 2013, and he has not been heard of since. We have no news of his whereabouts. Many bloggers have had their computers or cell-phones confiscated by Police. When they went to the Police station to ask for them back, they were savagely beaten right inside the Police station. This is what happened to Thang, a blogger in Hanoi.

Since Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang came back from a visit to President Obama in the United States at the end of July, government repression has entered a new, more violent phase. Bloggers and activists are directly targeted. Secret police openly brutalize and intimidate us. They stop at nothing in order to terrorize and repress Vietnamese human rights defenders, bloggers and dissidents.

Recently, Vietnam adopted Decree 72 which restricts Internet freedom. The Decree seriously violates the international treaties Vietnam has signed which oblige the respect of freedom of expression.

I ask you to take heed of the plight of bloggers and pro-democracy activists in Vietnam. I urge you to press Vietnam’s Communist authorities to cease human rights abuses and respect their international obligations to uphold freedom and human rights. "

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