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Defiant Vietnam publisher won't be silenced

Publishing house faces continued police harassment for defying state censorship

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

Updated: May 19, 2020 09:45 AM GMT
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Defiant Vietnam publisher won't be silenced

'Cam Nang Nuoi Tu' (A Handbook for Families of Prisoners) is among the titles banned by Vietnam's government. (Photo courtesy of Liberal Publishing House)

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The only unregistered publishing house in Vietnam has made firm commitments to spreading "banned knowledge" to the public despite its members and readers being attacked by police.

On May 8, Phung Thuy, a shipper who works for the Liberal Publishing House, was interrogated and tortured for 18 hours by security police concerning the activities and staff of the independent publisher, which defies government censorship. He fell into the police trap after they ordered him to ship banned books.

Thuy, 56, only escaped from the police station when his daughter was asked to bring him medicine, but his daughter is still being held in detention.

Three days later, he suffered from tightness in the chest, twitching pains, breathing difficulties and vomited blood. He remains in hiding from the police in Ho Chi Minh City.

On May 18, Pham Doan Trang, whose books are published by the Liberal Publishing House, said Thuy’s health has improved after many readers made donations and showed him how to treat his wounds.

Trang, who is targeted by police, said the publishing house established early in 2019 has reaffirmed its commitment to its mission — spreading knowledge and freedom of information to the public.

The advocate for human rights and democracy announced that the publisher is reprinting one of her books, Cam Nang Nuoi Tu (A Handbook for Families of Prisoners), which details basic court and criminal procedures and the human rights of detainees, defendants and prisoners.

Trang, who used to work for a state-run newspaper, said on Facebook that since the book was published for the first time one year ago, the publishing house has been constantly harassed by police.

“I have not had a peaceful day since I returned from the US in January 2015,” she said, adding that she has gained more practical experience in dealing with police. She said the publisher plans to put out other noticed books this summer.

Liberal Publishing House, which publishes books by former prisoners and activists considered sensitive by the communist government, said it has delivered thousands of copies of Cam Nang Nuoi Tu to brave readers across the country for the past year despite police harassment. Online copies of the book are also available for free on the internet.

It said its staff and independent journalists make efforts to provide basic knowledge about laws and human rights to the public.

“Vietnamese must enjoy the most basic rights — freedom of speech, press, thought and expression — like other nations around the world,” it said, adding that it follows its mission while taking terrible risks of being persecuted, beaten and terrorized by police.

The publisher said many journalists have been jailed, its members constantly hunted down, while those who ship its books are also tortured.

“Hundreds of people who buy our products are questioned by security officers. The people’s rights to writing and reading have never been repressed as much as at the present,” it said.

It said it commits itself to never abandoning its mission “to bring necessary knowledge to the people.”

On May 14, Amnesty International called on people around the world to urge Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to stop the crackdown against the Liberal Publishing House and its supporters immediately.

It said Vietnam should respect the publisher’s rights to freedom of expression, information and publishing.

The group also asked the government to release Thuy’s daughter immediately and stop the harassment and intimidation against him and his family.

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