Vietnam activist in hiding after book interrogation


Hanoi (AFP)

A high-profile Vietnamese writer says she has gone into hiding after being interrogated about her banned book and placed under de-facto house arrest by plainclothes police, vowing Thursday to continue pressing for democracy in the one-party state.

Activist Pham Doan Trang said she was held for questioning by security officials for several hours on Saturday over her most recent book "Politics for the Masses", which is outlawed in Vietnam and includes sections on democracy and political ideology.

Plainclothes police surrounded her home in Hanoi after her release late Saturday, she told AFP.

"I escaped... which is a miracle," she said from an undisclosed hideout in Vietnam, adding that she was targeted because of her 2017 book, which she called a political science textbook.

"Vietnam's Communist Party simply dislikes anyone who purports to be more legitimate than them, more worthy than them to hold power," she said.

The former journalist has previously been detained in Vietnam, which routinely locks up bloggers, lawyers and dissidents who are critical of the state.

A conservative leadership in charge since 2016 has been accused of tightening its grip on activists, arresting and convicting dozens.

Trang, 39, has long been a thorn in the side of the authorities with her pro-democracy writing and her work on an environmental disaster in central Vietnam in 2016 that prompted rare protests across the country.

Prague-based rights group People in Need said last month it would award Trang for her activism.

The former journalist for prominent news website VietnamNet was held for more than a week in 2009 after she was accused of planning to print controversial T-shirts, which she denies.

Despite repeated threats of arrest, she vowed to continue speaking out.

"I feel strongly about writing more, I cannot stay silent," she said, adding she would remain in her country.

Human Rights Watch says at least 24 activists were convicted in Vietnam last year and another 28 arrested in one of the harshest years for dissidents.

When asked about Trang's case on Thursday, foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said anyone breaking the law would be "punished in accordance with Vietnamese laws".

"Vietnamese functional authorities did their duty correctly," she told reporters.