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Vietnamese journalist faces arrest for banned book

Police detain prize-winning female author of book on party politics who has vowed to destroy 'totalitarian state'
Vietnamese journalist faces arrest for banned book

Fathers Anthony Le Ngoc Thanh (left) and Nguyen Duy Tan raise copies of the book Chinh Tri Binh Dan at Tho Hoa parish house on Feb. 25. (Photo supplied)

Published: February 28, 2018 04:30 AM GMT
Updated: February 28, 2018 04:36 AM GMT

Police have detained a respected Vietnamese journalist for questioning about her recent book on the policies of the communist government that was banned in the country but has still managed to attract a readership there.

Pham Doan Trang, 40, was escorted from her home in Hanoi on Feb. 24 and interrogated for 10 hours about her book, Chinh Tri Binh Dan (Politics for the Masses), which she published in the United States last September.

She claims the police had no search warrant or any other official documents to justify her arrest.

One of the reporter's friends, human rights activist Trinh Kim Tien, said Trang was questioned about where the book was printed and how it was published.

Tien said her friend was not released until midnight and that she expected to be summoned for another round of questioning in the coming days.

A police guard has also been set up around her home with power lines and internet connectivity taken down by the authorities.

Tien said Trang may now face arrest for publishing the book in light of the ban.

Even though the 500-page book was published in America many copies have reportedly found their way back to Vietnam.

Customs officers in the former French colonial port of Da Nang, known for its sandy beaches, seized an unspecified number on Feb. 9.

Authorities have grown more concerned due to reports that electronic copies of the book are easily accessible on social media.

Trang described her book as a basic introduction to political science that was designed to help laypeople understand the internal politics of Vietnam's communist government.

Many people avoid talking about politics in the Southeast Asian country due to fear of government persecution, according to political observers.

Father Anthony Le Ngoc Thanh, another rights activist, said the author is able to present complicated political issues in an easily digestible, fun-to-read way that illustrates the real-life situation in Vietnam.

Father Thanh, who has read the book, encouraged more people in communist countries like China and Vietnam to read it to gain a better understanding of how they can become involved in political issues.

He said communist governments monopolize politics and try to deprive people of their basic rights.

As the internet, social media and other forums for disseminating information keep on growing, people are becoming better-informed, he said, adding that Hanoi recently had to adapt some of its policies to keep pace with the changing times.

"Government leaders are starting to be more discreet about dealing with public opinion," he said, adding that people should be wary of bad governance but not politics per se.

Father Nguyen Duy Tan, the pastor of Tho Hoa parish in Dong Nai Province, posted on his Facebook account that Trang's book provides useful information about the political situation in Vietnam and raises important issues including freedom, democracy, human rights and equality.

"Those who want to arrest and imprison Trang should be held in solitary confinement and given hard labor," said the priest, who advocates for human rights issues.

"I'm very happy the book has won a large readership, for which I am so grateful to my readers," Trang wrote on her Facebook account on Feb. 26.

The controversial author of 10 books since 2003 said many people "want to destroy me and my books."

"I am fighting against any kind of dictatorship, and because the communist state in Vietnam is a totalitarian regime I have been and will continue to fight to end it," she posted.

On Feb. 13, People In Need, an international human rights organization based in the Czech Republic, announced that it would award Trang the Homo Homini Prize for "the courage she employs while tirelessly pursuing a democratic change within her country, despite harassment and persecution." 

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