While the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit was taking place in Hanoi, Vietnamese police arrested cyber-dissident Pham Hong Son at his home on 17 November, took him to a police station and beat him there, returned him to his home several hours later and thereafter prevented him from going out, he told The Mercury News.
A number of other dissidents said they were also threatened, arrested and in some case beaten by the police during the past few days while the APEC summit was being held, apparently because the authorities wanted to dissuade them from staging demonstrations or talking to foreign journalists.
“No one should look the other way when human rights are being flouted, especially when it is the country organising the 2006 APEC summit,” Son said. “More attention should be paid to the conditions in which Vietnamese live rather than signing big trade contracts,” he added.
A doctor and representative of a pharmaceutical company, Son was sentenced on 18 June 2003 to 13 years in prison for posting articles on the Internet advocating democracy and respect for human rights. His sentence was reduced on appeal on 26 August 2003 to five years in prison and three years of house arrest. He was finally freed under a presidential amnesty on 2 September.
Watchdog hails cyber-dissident’s release but says campaign for two others goes on
Reporters Without Borders hailed the release today of Pham Hong Son but said there should be no letup in the campaign for the release of the two other cyber-dissidents still held by the Vietnamese authorities. Son was freed under a presidential amnesty that is announced each year just before Vietnam’s national holiday on 2 September.
“We are very moved by Son’s release and our thoughts go out to his wife, Vu Thuy Ha, who has battled tirelessly ever since his arrest,” the press freedom organisation said. “But we call on foreign diplomats and news media to keep up the pressure on the Vietnamese authorities so that cyber-dissidents Nguyen Vu Binh and Truong Quoc Huy are also freed.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “Vietnam is making an effort to placate the international community at a moment when it is negotiating its admission to the World Trade Organization. But we should not assume there has been any real evolution in its attitude to human rights and free speech. What will happen after Vietnam has managed to join the WTO? We fear that nothing will have changed that it will be business as usual as regards crackdowns on journalists and cyber-dissidents.”
Although out of prison, Son will be subject to certain restrictions for the next three years including a form of house arrest.
A physician and pharmaceutical company representative, Son was arrested on 27 March 2002 for taking an article called “What is democracy?” from the US embassy website, translating it and posting it online. He also wrote many articles about democracy and human rights that were posted in Vietnamese discussion forums.
The Hanoi people’s court sentenced him on 18 June 2003 to 13 years in prison for “spying” and three years under house arrest. The sentence was reduced on appeal on 26 August 2003 to five years in prison and three years under house arrest.
Son suffers from an inguinal hernia and a tumour in the groin area. His wife said he also used to regularly cough up blood while in prison. Asked about his condition after his release, she said he was “fine” and that he would undergo a complete medical checkup.
Over 16 years ago, Reporters without Borders created its "Sponsorship Programme" and called upon the international media to select and support an imprisoned journalist. More than two hundreds news staffs around the globe are thus sponsoring colleagues by regularly petitioning authorities for their release and by publicising their situations so
that their cases will not be forgotten.
Pham Hong Son is sponsored by : SVM Mac, Liberation.fr, Nathalie Griesbeck (député européen), Grand est adle/UDF, conseiller général de la Metz (Moselle), Maison de la presse de Mons, Maison de la presse de Charleroi, TéléPro magazine, Vlan-Liège, El Siglo, Periodistas-es.org, The Concordian
Create your blog with Reporters without borders: www.rsfblog.org