December 6, 2014 – Vietnamese police arrested a prominent blogger earlier today, the second writer seized in the last fortnight as the country’s communist authorities keep up their long-running crackdown on online dissent.
Commentator Nguyen Quang Lap was arrested at his house in Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday afternoon, his wife said. “More than a dozen security people searched our residence for several hours and took him away,” Ho Thi Hong said. “They said his blog ran articles against the (communist) party’s policies and guidelines,” she added.
Mr Lap, 58, a member of the official Vietnam Writers’ Association, is a well known figure in the Southeast Asian nation. His blog has received million of hits while his Facebook account has nearly 15,000 followers. His website hosted his own writings – and pieces by others – some of which often made critical points about social and political issues in Vietnam.
Many of the posts were strongly anti-China, reflecting widespread animosity among many Vietnamese, including intellectuals, for the country’s northern neighbour. Hanoi and Beijing are currently locked in a long-standing territorial dispute over fishing rights and island chains in the South China Sea.
Vietnam’s authoritarian rulers are sensitive to any criticism of their handling of the dispute, and have routinely broken up anti-China demonstrations and arrested organisers. Vietnam bans private media while all newspapers and television channels are state-run.
The one-party state is regularly denounced by rights groups and Western governments for its intolerance of political dissent. Mr Lap’s arrest is the second time a prominent blogger has been arrested this month.
Last Saturday police in Ho Chi Minh took 65-year-old blogger Hong Le Tho into custody on similar charges. One well-known blogger, Anh Ba Sam, is currently in detention awaiting trial, while anti-China activist Bui Thi Minh Hang is awaiting an appeal hearing to challenge a three-year prison term handed out in August this year. According to Reporters Without Borders, Vietnam is currently holding at least 34 bloggers in prison.