Bloggers and netizens who took part in “picnics to discuss human rights” in public places in several Vietnamese cities on 5 May were violently attacked by police and many were briefly detained.
“We firmly condemn this deliberate police violence against news providers and we are very disturbed to see that such unacceptable violence seems to be the automatic and systematic response from the authorities to any attempt to use freedom of expression,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“The authorities should take firm and exemplary disciplinary measures against the police officers responsible for this violence.”
Organized via Facebook, the picnics were due to take place in Saigon, Hanoi, Nha Trang and other cities. In Nha Trang, the public security department quickly blocked access to the designated venue in a park. Barbed wire was deployed around the park and the police hit participants with sticks and steel bars.
The police were present in large numbers in Hanoi but did not prevent the participants from gathering beside Lake Hoan Kiem, in the city centre.
Pham Thanh Nghien, a blogger who has been under house arrest in Hai Phong since her release in September 2012, after four years in prison, tried to show her support for the movement by organizing a picnic in her garden with her mother.
But when she began reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights out loud, she and her mother were attacked by the police officers responsible for keeping them under surveillance.
In Saigon, the bloggers Nguyen Sy Hoanh (“Hanh Nhan”) and Nguyen Hoang Vi were able to organize a gathering in a public park and distribute copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Vietnamese. They were allowed to talk in small groups for an hour until evicted by municipal employees in civilian dress on the pretext that the grass needed watering.
The municipal employees used force when they objected to being made to leave. Hoanh and Vi were badly beaten and arrested. The police held Vi at a police station until 3 a.m. on 6 May and confiscated her smartphone and tablet computer without issuing any receipt.
Police officers also beat Vi's sister, Nguyen Thao Chi, and mother, Nguyen Thi Cuc, breaking three of Chi's teeth and causing Cuc to lose consciousness. A policeman then stubbed a cigarette out on her forehead. The blogger Vo Quoc Anh was also arrested, questioned and beaten by the police.
Other bloggers such as Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (“Me Nam”) whose homes are closely watched were prevented from attending these gatherings. Their Internet and phone connections were disconnected in advance.