Five people, including a well known blogger, were arrested in Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday after police moved in to break up a rally by hundreds of human rights activists in a rare show of public defiance in the Communist country.
Similar rallies were also held in Hanoi and in Nha Trang, sources said.
Witnesses said the activists carried banners which said: “Freedom to gather is a right of citizens” and “Return freedom to Vietnam.”
They also distributed copies of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration on Human Rights, they added.
Sources said the event was organized by a group called Citizens of Freedom through internet messages posted in mid-April which had drawn increasing support from bloggers, academics, former soldiers and activists.
The group in its online message called for people to gather at public rallies to openly discuss human rights issues which would help promote social justice.
Sources said security officials initially videoed proceedings then moved in to prevent more people from gathering or listening to speeches.
“Many activists were threatened or prevented from attending the gatherings,” they said.
“The police beat and took away five activists while they were handing copies of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights to people in Ho Chi Minh City,” one source who wished to remain anonymous said.
The source said four were later released while the whereabouts of the other is still unknown.
Among those arrested was Nguyen Hoang Vi, a well-known blogger who was among seven women who received a human rights award in March from the Canada-based International Freedom of Expression Exchange network for their efforts to win freedom of expression in Vietnam.
Witnesses say Vi and members of her family were severely beaten by a group of unidentified men after they complained that Vi’s i-Pad had been confiscated by police and not returned.