Reporters Without Borders called today for the release of Nguyen Hoang Hai, an independent journalist better known by the blogging pseudonym of Dieu Cay, who was arrested in the southern city of Dalat on 19 April and was subsequently charged with tax fraud.
“The charge is just a pretext to prevent one of Vietnam's most influential bloggers from continuing to post comments critical of the government,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Dieu Cay's arrest on 19 April came just a few days before the Ho Chi Minh City leg of the Olympic torch relay for which the government insisted on ‘absolute security' and sanctions against any ‘trouble-makers.' We do not think it was a coincidence and we call for him to be released pending trial.”
Dieu Cay had been under close police surveillance since taking part in protests against Chinese policy that took place in Ho Chi Minh City earlier in the year. At one point, the police threatened to let Chinese agents kill him.
The police offered no explanation when they arrested him on 19 April. He was held for two days in a Ho Chi Minh City prison before being charged with “tax fraud” on the grounds that he had not paid any tax on the rent of his office. No date has been set for a trial.
In the run-up to the Ho Chi Minh City leg of the Olympic torch relay, several Vietnamese were arrested for demonstrating against human rights violations in China and the Chinese government's policy in the South China Sea, where China and Vietnam are disputing control of the Spratly and Paracel Islands.
Overseas Vietnamese websites reported that the official Chinese torch relay website showed these two archipelagos as being part of the People's Republic of China.
According to a government website, Prime Minister Nguyn Tan Dung called on 20 April for “absolute security” during the Olympic torch relay in Ho Chi Minh City and warned against “hostile forces” that might be tempted to try to disrupt it.
Dieu Cay posted entries on his blog about the demonstrations around the world that accompanied the Olympic torch relay. He also posted articles criticising China's policy in Tibet and its policy regarding the Spratly and Paracel Islands and he called for protests against the torch relay in Ho Chi Minh City.
Dieu Cay is affiliated to a group of bloggers known as the Free Vietnamese Journalists Club, some of whose members have been threatened and arrested on several occasions. One, who does not want to be named, was fired from his job at the government's request and fears he could be arrested on a charge of “divulging information abroad with the aim of overthrowing the government” for giving interviews to foreign news media.
Vietnam is on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Internet Enemies.” The way the government's management of the Internet is evolving suggests that it is based on the Chinese model. Nine cyber-dissidents are currently detained in Vietnam.