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APEC meeting in Hanoi, 12-19 November 2006 : Just Free Trade, no Free Speech : Hanoi dissidents are “off-limits” to foreigners during APEC meeting

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PARIS, 15 November 2006 – As thousands of participants meet to discuss free trade and open markets at the APEC meeting in Hanoi, Security Police have received strict orders to prevent any free discussion between dissidents and foreign diplomats or media visiting the Vietnamese capital.

Over the past week, Security Police have set up permanent surveillance posts outside the homes of many pro-democracy activists and placed signs saying “No Foreigners” in English on their doors, to give the impression that the dissidents themselves find foreign visitors unwelcome. Several dissidents have been threatened, physically assaulted and subjected to intensive interrogations in the run up to the APEC meeting.

 Security Police have set up permanent surveillance posts outside the homes of many pro-democracy activists and placed signs saying “No Foreigners” in English on their doors
Security Police have set up permanent surveillance posts outside the homes of many pro-democracy activists and placed signs saying “No Foreigners” in English on their doors

Ø Writer Hoang Tien, 74, said in a letter to the National Assembly that on Tuesday, 14 November Police from the Ministry of Public Security and local Security officials set up a surveillance post, equipped with tables and chairs, at the entrance to his home in Residence A11, Flat 420, Thanh Xuan Bac District, Hanoi, preventing anyone from visiting him, and even preventing Hoang Tien himself from leaving the building. When he asked for an explanation, Security Police said they had no official mandate, but had “received orders from their superiors to blockade his home during APEC”. In August 2006, Hoang Tien was subjected to intensive interrogations after he founded an unofficial online publication entitled “Freedom and Democracy” along with several other Hanoi dissidents.

Ø Lawyer Nguyen Van Dai reports that 10 Security Police have surrounded his home since Tuesday 14 November. They have posted a sign marked “No Foreigners” and prohibit all visitors. Nguyen Van Dai recently founded a “Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam”, and has been summoned repeatedly for questioning by the Police.

Ø Lawyer Le Thi Cong Nhan, spokesperson of the newly founded Progress Party, also has five under-cover Security agents posted on the staircase leading up to her flat. She has been frequently interrogated and harassed for her affiliation to the Progress Party. On 6 November, Police forced her employer, a private law firm, to terminate her employment. Her phone was cut on 12th November 2006.

Ø Journalist Nguyen Khac Toan states that Security Police are posted permanently around outside his home (11 Ngo Trang Tien St., Hoan Kiem Ward, Hanoi) and prohibit him from receiving visitors. On 12th November, Police placed a sign in English on his door saying : “Security area. No foreigner allowed”. Nguyen Khac Toan was released in a government amnesty in February 2006 after serving 4 years of 12-year sentence of “espionage” for helping expropriated farmers to write complaints to the National Assembly. He has been repeatedly harassed and interrogated since his release.

Ø Cyber-dissident Nguyen Phuong Anh is also prevented from receiving visitors, with Security Police keeping non-stop guard outside his Hanoi home. He has been subjected to repeated interrogations this month for pro-democracy articles posted on the Internet.

Ø Hanoi dissident Duong Van Duong (aka Dai Duong) was brutally beaten by four undercover police officers as he left Mai Xuan Thuong Park, where farmers and other “Victims of Injustice” (dan oan) regularly meet to protest. The Police said : “we will beat you to death”, and hit him in the face and stomach. Duong Van Duong had publicly denounced corruption by government officials in Thai Binh Province and helped protesters in Mai Xuan Thuong Park to express their grievances. He is also prohibited from receiving visitors or meeting foreigners.

Ø Security Police have also stepped up controls on dissidents in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), where the international media and several world leaders, including US President George W. Bush will pay a visit after the APEC Summit. On 14th November, factory worker Hoang Huy Chuong, a member of the newly founded unofficial United Workers-Farmers Organization was arrested in Saigon with his two brothers. Their current whereabouts is unknown. The youngest brother, Doan Trieu Kinh-Kha, is only 9 years old. They were arrested without a Police warrant.

Ø In a move reminiscent of the treatment of dissidents in the former Soviet Union, lawyer Bui Thi Kim Thanh has been committed to a psychiatric institution in Saigon following interrogations by Security Police. According to her family, in early November 2006, Police took her to a local mental hospital, where the doctors found no evidence of mental illness. Police then took her to the Central Psychiatric Hospital in Bien Hoa, Saigon, where she is now committed. Ms Bui Thi Kim Thanh is an outspoken critic of Vietnam’s land confiscation policies and an active defender of expropriated farmers and other “Victims of Injustice”, whom she has helped to file complaints and seek compensation.

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