Fri, Oct 29, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Vietnam arrests activist ahead of summit

PRIORITIES:US lawmakers, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch urged US President Barck Obama to make human rights a key issue at the ASEAN summit

AFP, HANOI

Authorities in Vietnam have arrested a democracy activist, his wife said yesterday, ahead of an ASEAN summit at which US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has been urged to raise human rights concerns.

Vi Duc Hoi, 54, a former communist official, was arrested on Wednesday at his family home in northern Lang Son Province bordering China, said his wife, Hoang Thi Tuoi.

“My husband told me he was arrested for the charge of propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam ... The police took away his computer and mobile phone,” she said.

Upon conviction, the charge carries a maximum 20 year prison term.

She said her husband worked as a district official, including head of a local propaganda department and was a Communist Party member for three decades until he resigned to become a democracy activist.

Tuoi said that, as far as she knew, her husband had written articles “about general anti-corruption issues.”

His arrest came as US lawmakers on Wednesday called on Clinton to raise human rights with Vietnam during her visit to the country which is schedule to begin today.

The latest appeal was led in part by Representative Loretta Sanchez.

She and three other members of the US Congress asked Clinton to “raise specific cases and demand actual progress” when she meets Vietnamese leaders on the sidelines of a summit between leaders of ASEAN and other countries in the region.

“We encourage you to take the opportunity to make human rights a cornerstone of US-Vietnam policy and to demonstrate America’s support for the basic freedoms of the Vietnamese people,” they wrote.

In a similar letter, Senator Barbara Boxer of California asked Clinton to “urge the Vietnamese government to immediately release all prisoners detained for peaceful advocacy of their beliefs.”

The lawmakers sent the letters just as Vietnam, in two separate cases, convicted three labor -activists and six Catholic villagers. The labor activists were jailed for between seven and nine years.

In a separate case, which sparked concern from the US embassy, the six villagers were arrested after a clash in May between residents and a large group of police in Con Dau Catholic parish, near the central city of Danang, said residents.

Three US Congressmen alleged the villagers had been tortured and asked top Vietnamese leaders to intervene and consider granting their unconditional and immediate release.

Britain-based global rights watchdog Amnesty International on Wednesday said Vietnam must “stop this needless crackdown on government critics and peaceful activists.”

It condemned the “harsh” sentences given to the trio of labor activists and said the continuing arrests of activists and bloggers “paint an increasingly bleak picture of freedom of expression and association in Vietnam.”

US-based Human Rights Watch called for Clinton to speak out against an “intensifying campaign of harassment, arrests, beatings in custody, unfair trials, and long prison terms” against peaceful bloggers, community activists and others in Vietnam during her visit.

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