Hanoi protesters denounce police arbitrary detention

A group of protesters contemporarily arrested in the march “Walking for the Green Trees” of April 26 have filed a complaint to the police department of Hanoi, denouncing police and the so-called “civil order defense” force for arbitrary detention of peaceful activists. This is the first time Vietnamese protesters take a legal action against those who suppress them.

May 28

The compliant, dated May 28, wrote, “As do the majority of people in the country, we were so frustrated and infuriated with the massive destruction of trees across Hanoi… However, right when we joined together [for the march], a group of more than 100 men who wore either red bands labelling themselves as “civil order defenders” or police uniform rushed to us… They extended their arms to bar us from moving forward, blocking all of our accesses, directing their megaphones to us and causing jarring noises to disturb our peaceful rally.”

May“Then these men began to push and pinch us sharply on our body. They were particularly rude to women. Some woman protesters in the traditional ao dai were pushed and pulled so harsh that their ao dai were torned and their limbs got bruised… There were 19 people arrested arbitrarily by those self-claimed “civil order defenders” at 10am… During the subsequent interrogation at the Long Bien police station, those arrestors tried to extort and defamed us by accusing us of “causing public disorder”. When we asked them to present evidence for their accusation, none of them gave us any evidence or proof based on which they slanderously accused us.”

The denouncers said the arrestors had seriously violated citizens’ rights and infringed the law, particularly Article 20 of the Vietnamese Constitution and Article 123 of the Penal Code regarding “illegal arrest, custody or detention of people.”
Demonstrations, marches and protest rallies of any kind are very rare in Vietnam after the communist took over the country in 1975, although government-organized marches are sometimes seen, such as the “anti-US” march organized by the Communist Youth Union in 2003 to protest at the US invasion of Iraq. In 2007, the first non-state demonstrations broke out in Hanoi and Saigon opposing China’s ratification of a plan to set up “Sansha City” to administer the Spratly and Paracel islands. Repression began right afterwards: All bloggers who proved to be “influential” face harassment, and in the next year, blogger Dieu Cay was imprisoned.
Harassment, defamation and arbitrary detention against activists have since become widely used in Vietnam as a way to silent dissent voices. But the denunciation of May 28 is the first effort by activists to use the law as a tool to protect themselves from political repression.
22 protestors were contemporarily arrested and questioned in a march on April 26, 2015. All of them were accused of "causing public disorder."

22 protestors were contemporarily arrested and questioned in a march on April 26, 2015. All of them were accused of “causing public disorder.” Photo by Phan Tat Thanh