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Bloggers face severe repression due to policies on China

Bloggers and journalists in Vietnam continue to be arrested for writing critically about Vietnam's policies toward China, report the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). China and Vietnam, where flourishing blogging cultures have encountered severe monitoring and restriction, are among Asia's worst nations for persecuting bloggers, reports CPJ.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, a blogger who writes under the pen name Me Nam, or Mother Mushroom, was arrested on August 28 by police officials who stormed her house at around midnight, the Free Journalists Network of Vietnam (FJNV), an independent press freedom group, told CPJ.

According to news reports, she agreed to stop blogging as a condition of her release. "It's time for me to put an end to this blog,'' Quynh said in a handwritten statement posted on her website after her release on 13 September. ''I was wrong and I am responsible for what I did.''

Recently, she had blogged about a controversial bauxite mining project led by Chinese investors in the country's Central Highlands region and territorial disputes with China over the Paracel and Spratly islands, says SEAPA.

According to RSF, Quynh was arrested for the same reason as Bui Thanh Hieu, the blogger arrested on 27 August, and Pham Doan Trang, the online journalist arrested on 28 August. They were all arrested due to the Communist Party's desire to suppress all criticism of its relations with China in the run-up to the 2011 congress, at which the country's top posts will be decided. Hieu and Trang have been released.

Trang edits "Tuan Vietnam," an online weekly that is a part of "Vietnamnet," the country's most popular news website, says RSF. In her articles, she has criticised China's role during Vietnam's partition in 1954 and refuted China's territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Hieu also wrote about the bauxite mining project and the criticism it has received because of the threat it poses to the environment, says RSF. He has been on the radar of the state and questioned many times about his political activities since taking part in an "anti-Chinese" demonstration last year.

"We deplore the arrests of one blogger after another and the systematic suppression of online free speech," RSF said. "The Vietnamese authorities are so sensitive about relations with China that one wonders what role the Chinese government is playing in this crackdown on bloggers writing about China and Vietnam."

A third blogger who wrote under the pen-name "Sphinx" was detained by authorities on August 29 and released four days later, reports CPJ. According to FJNV, he was subjected to sleep deprivation during interrogations over his posts that also touched on Vietnam-China relations, including the bauxite mining project and territorial disputes.

The government announced in August that it would prosecute some or all of the 27 democracy activists arrested in recent months, says RSF. Vietnam was ranked 168th out of 173 countries in the 2008 RSF press freedom index. In 2008, CPJ found that bloggers and other online journalists were the single largest professional group in prison, more than print and broadcast journalists for the first time.

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