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Free Blogger Dieu Cay

This is a guest blog entry from Duy Hoang of Viet Tan. Viet Tan aims to bring about democratic changes in Vietnam through nonviolent means and civic engagement.

Two and a half years ago, in April 2008, police in Vietnam arrested Nguyen Van Hai and detained him secretly for several weeks. Mr. Hai, now 58-years old, blogged under the nickname Dieu Cay which means “the peasant’s water pipe.”
At the time, authorities denied targeting Dieu Cay for his writings even though he was then one of the country’s best known bloggers and government critics. Through his Yahoo 360 blog, Dieu Cay exposed government corruption, called for freedom of expression and was among the first Vietnamese to criticize a Chinese government decision to incorporate the Paracel and Spratly Islands—which are claimed by Vietnam and several other Asian countries— into an administrative unit under China’s Hainan island.

Dieu Cay was one of Vietnam’s pioneering citizen journalists. Blogging effectively took off in the country in 2007 as internet penetration reached a critical mass; the Yahoo platform became widely popular thanks to free Yahoo email accounts, Yahoo messenger and the 360 blog service; and a series of developments sparked independent reporting. Dieu Cay and his blogger friends formed the Free Journalists Club (Câu Lạc Bộ Nhà Báo Tự Do) which published an unsanctioned website.

Members of the Free Journalists Club joined the protests outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi and consulate in Saigon on two consecutive Sundays in December 2007. The protests, which were eventually banned by the Hanoi government, attracted hundreds of youths and were largely coordinated online. During one of the rallies outside the Chinese consulate, a witness photographed Dieu Cay being dragged away by police. This iconic picture quickly spread through the internet.

Despite frequent police intimidation, Dieu Cay continued blogging and on January 19, 2008, appeared with other bloggers on the steps of the Opera House in the central quarter of Saigon. Wearing matching tshirts with the logo of the Olympic rings as handcuffs, the demonstrators called attention to China’s invasion and occupation of the Paracel Islands exactly 34 years before. Calling for civil disobedience, Dieu Cay proposed a boycott of the Beijing Torch Relay which was to parade through Vietnam on April 29, 2008.

Police summoned Dieu Cay for questioning and even threatened his personal safety by suggesting that they would not be responsible if Chinese agents chose to harm him. Before the Beijing Torch got to Vietnam, police officially arrested Dieu Cay on April 19, 2008. Authorities charged him with tax evasion and he was sentenced to 30 months in prison. Leading international human rights groups accused the Vietnamese authorities of applying trumped up charges to silence political speech. The Vietnamese government, on the other hand, insisted that Dieu Cay was a common criminal and there was no political connection to his conviction.

Last week, Dieu Cay’s friends eagerly anticipated his release from prison. They even initiated a campaign online referring to October 19, 2010 (the conclusion of Dieu Cay’s 30 month prison sentence) as “Vietnam Blogger Day.” But the 19th of October went by and Dieu Cay was not freed. According to Dieu Cay’s former wife, police recently raided his old home and have indicated that he would be kept in jail further under the new charge of “propaganda against the socialist state,” which is forbidden under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code.

This is an ironic twist. The Vietnamese authorities originally insisted that blogger Dieu Cay was not arrested for his political activities but now they appear to confirm that Dieu Cay is being punished for his writings. Moreover, since he has been in jail for the last two and a half years one wonders what type of “propaganda” did Dieu Cay undertake?

The case of Dieu Cay is a worrisome example of “rule by law” in Vietnam where authorities use the legal system to justify their political control. Free speech advocates and everyone with a stake in the honesty of Vietnam’s legal system ought to join the movement to FREE DIEU CAY.

11 comments

  • Duy Nguyen

    Yes, blogger DieuCay should be released. But the call for his release should not come from an organization that used to advocate the overthrow of the Vietnamese government by force, ‘terrorists’ in recent language. How would anyone feel when Al Qaeda now claimed that it had become a ‘pro-democracy party’ like Viet Tan does?
    The Vietnamese government is very much concerned about the situation in the South China Sea and sees China as a threat, no difference from DieuCay’s point of view on the subject. What it doesn’t want is for the terrorists under \pro-democracy\ groups like Viet Tan to take advantage of people like DieuCay to disturb the peace and stability that the Vietnamese people have enjoyed for the past 35 years, after decades and decades of wars.
    Stay out of Vietnam, Viet Tan! You are unwanted there!

    • Lieu Do

      To Duy Nguyen,
      1. You said: “Yes, blogger DieuCay should be released.” Yes, I agree with you, and he should not be arrested and jailed in the first place. Sentencing and imprisoning him for fraud is the most ridiculous and unscrupulous act by the Vietnamese communist government. Now they are pushing the ridicule to the extreme with more slanders, trying to keep Dieu Cay in jail. Duy Nguyen, if you still have any sense of shame, stop defending the Vietnamese communist regime.
      2. How can you say “The Vietnamese government is very much concerned about the situation in the South China Sea and sees China as a threat, no difference from DieuCay’s point of view on the subject.”??? Instruct yourself! It was Ho Chi Minh who ordered his then PM Pham Van Dong to acknowledge that our Paracel Islands belong to China. It was the Vietnamese Communist Party and the Vietnamese Communist government that gave our thousands of km2 of land and tens of thousands of km2 of sea to China in 2000.
      The only concern that the Vietnamese communist leaders have in mind is to remain in power, and because they are controlled by China, they will do anything the Chinese ask, including giving them our sea and land.
      Wake up Duy Nguyen!

    • Loc Nguyen

      Duy Nguyen
      “…should not come from an organization that used to advocate the overthrow of the Vietnamese government by force, ‘terrorists’ in recent language….” .
      Get your facts straight. Living in a free country, there are so many ways to verify your facts, unless you are living in Vietnam then I will cut you some slack.
      Here are few facts you should ask yourself:
      1- why training youths, defending the country’s environment and territorial sovereignty, exercising freedom of religion and campaigning for social justice are considered “aiming to overthrow the socialist government.”
      2- Can you demonstrate Hanoi is not the regime terrorizes people when there are so many examples to prove them otherwise. such as security police in Ben Tre province (located in the Mekong delta) launched a crackdown against land rights activists, physically beating people and using electric prods. Or a case of Nguyen Ngoc Quang, a prominent Vietnamese activist based in Vietnam’s southern Ho Chi Minh City, was assaulted by police in the evening on Sept. 18 as he traveled to the home of a fellow dissident.
      3- Viet Tan challenges the Hanoi regime to substantiate their claims against Viet Tan, can you help Hanoi?
      Please check your facts or readers will make judgments about your intelligence, personality, and ability to represent your thoughts.

    • Nguyen

      I agree with you, Duy Nguyen. Those who replied to you don’t have any experience in run a country, so forgive them for being naive and inexperience.

  • Huong Pham

    Duy Nguyen, a few questions pop up, when I read your comment. 1. How do you know that Viet Tan is unwanted in Vietnam? What makes you think you can speak on behalf of 86 mill. Vietnamese? 2. If there is peace and stability in Vietnam, how come bloggers like Dieu Cay, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy get arrested for blogging? and CPJ calls Vietnam one of the worst countries to blog? 4. Hmmm.. what the Vietnamese government labels ” terrorism” is what the civilized world calls ” promoting free speech” 5. I challenge you and the Vietnamese government to find any valid evidence that Viet Tan has conducted terrorist acts 6. If Viet Tan is in fact a terrorist organization, how come Ms. Hong Vo who recently was arrested under “terrorism” article 84 of Vietnamese law, got released after just 10 days?

  • Andrew

    @Duy Nguyen
    you’re sprouting ideas that are purely misformation that was spread by the Vietnamese government’s propaganda machine – Viet Tan is hardly a terrorist group. its strategies have roots in purely non-violent methods and no one BUT the vietnamese machine would think such a thing.

  • Andrew

    I don’t think the government of Vietnam had its people in mind when it let china in to mine for bauxite. Nor is the government worried about basic human rights like freedom of expression or assembly when it arrested farmers seeking redress. These are exactly the sentiments that bloggers such as Me Nam or Dieu Cay expresses online and yet they are harshly crackdown.

  • Matt

    Nguyen, you should know it’s not only Viet Tan who calls for Dieu Cay’s release; RSF, HRW, CPJ also endorse the call -google these names along DC-.

    On your reasoning to call VT a terrorist organization, how would people like you call the government of Hanoi and the now defunct Front for Liberation of South VN when they led and advocated armed fighting in South VN in the aim of disturbing peace and stability there, and of overthrowing its elected government? to the point of “burning up the whole Truong Son mountains, if necessary”, in the word of your own generals.

    No, not VT. The Duy Nguyen, Nguyen Tan Dung, Nguyen Minh Triet, and the whole of Vietnam Communist Party, get out of Vietnam! You are unwanted anywhere but in the international courts for crimes against humanity.

  • neptune

    almost people speaking here are living in foreign countries, and I don’t think they have a good understanding about what’s happening in Vietnam today. What a ridiculous conclusion when saying Hanoi’s government is bad and US’, France’s … (i.e. terrorisms) actions in Vietnam are good :P. Please, don’t lie anymore.

  • Dao

    It is very sad, disapointed, and shame when there are still more people as like as Duy nguyen, nguyen, and neptune. This is the reason why the Viet nam communist gangters still stay and control all Viet Nam and people that living in this country. They knew how communist mafia leaders to robber all Viet Nam from 1945 to now. I knew that their parents, grandparents, and great grandparent were all victims of that communist gangters. The mother of Truong Chinh is an sample. The mother of Nong Duc Manh is another of example when Ho Chi Minh try to kill his mother, and more and more….. There are more and more 80 millions people are being victims of this communist Mafia gangters.
    We are the Vietnamese. We are only one thing to try stand up making a good plan to take over this power from them. We really need to a good, smart, and honor Leader to guide to this country to free and democracy.

  • Tu Nguyen

    If you agree Dieu Cay Blogger should be released. It means he is innocent. Why did the Vietnam government jail the innocent person for his free speech? China threat have been with Vietnam for thousand of years. This is just an excuse to jail him in order to suppress and to warn any potential dissidents that call for change in the government for a truly democracy country. Look at the congress formation in Vietnam and you know what I’m talking about. Most congress members are members of communist party and firstly hand-picked by the Party then elected by the people.

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