Pro-government mob harasses activists

Thang's jokey reference to Uncle Ho appears to have infuriated Party loyalists

Thang’s jokey reference to Uncle Ho appears to have infuriated Party loyalists

A prominent pro-democracy blogger and his wife have been attacked in what activists said was an escalating campaign of harassment by government supporters.

Nguyen Lan Thang said he was on his way to pick up his baby daughter from her nursery when he was confronted by an angry crowd.

His wife, Le Bich Vuong, said she was also set upon at the nursery by a group of women, who accused her husband of being an anti-state campaigner.

The couple said they sustained blows from some demonstrators but managed to run off with their daughter.

The incident comes amid mounting recriminations over the death in custody of a teenager, who activists suspect may have been beaten and tortured by police.

Earlier in the week, some 30 government supporters had staged a demonstration in front of the couple’s apartment, following allegations that Thang had insulted the memory of the Communist Party’s founding leader, Ho Chi Minh.

The demonstrators are believed to have been members of the Communist Youth Union and pro government bloggers who describe themselves as defenders of the Vietnamese Communist Party.

They were led by two well known party loyalists, identified by witnesses as Tran Nhat Quang, 58, and Do Anh Minh, a student in his early twenties.

Online messages from Facebook groups that back the government had earlier called for a punishment attack on Thang for what was described as defamation of Ho Chi Minh, who is revered by the state as the author of national independence.

The demonstrators are reported to have banged on the door of the couple’s apartment and used a megaphone to demand public apologies to the late president and the people.

They also handed out pamphlets of accusations against “the anti-state Nguyen Lan Thang” to his neighbours and passers-by.

A family friend, Trung Nguyen, said he was hit by some of the demonstrators when he tried to enter the house but managed to escape without serious injury.

Trung said later that at least two plainclothes policemen stood by and watched while the assault on him took place.

The demonstrators dispersed when more of Thang’s friends and supporters came to the apartment two hours later.

Many had previously called the local police and emergency services, but received no answer.

Nguyen Lan Thang, 40, is one of the best known bloggers in Vietnam. He is a photographer who has focused on human rights violations and the fight for democracy in Vietnam.

He has a Facebook following of tens of thousands of people.

In recent days, he has become involved in a campaign to claim justice for Do Dang Du, the 17-year-old boy who died in police custody after being arrested on a charge of petty theft.

Family members and campaigners suspect he died from injuries sustained during a police beating.

The police say that Du was attacked by a fellow inmate after an argument over doing the washing up in their prison.

Thang had satirised the police story with a reference to Ho Chi Minh’s early job as a lowly seaman and kitchen worker during his years in exile.

He posted a picture of himself looking at a photograph of Ho, saying “if you had also done washing-up badly, the country and the people would not have ended up like this.”

The joke about the Communist Party’s revered icon infuriated government supporters and sparked the backlash.

Vietnam’s official history states that Ho Chi Minh had worked as a deck hand on a French ship, and one of his duties was supposed to be washing dishes.

His real aim, however, say the histories, was to find a way to work for the liberation of the country from French colonial rule.