Religious and rights groups in Vietnam marked International Day in Support of Victims of Torture by criticizing police for a brutal crackdown on demonstrators.
About 200 men and women were arrested and detained for hours by police and security forces at a sports center in Ho Chi Minh City on June 17. They were suspected of gathering to oppose the newly passed cybersecurity law and a controversial draft law on the establishment of three new special economic zones.
The groups said police violently searched people’s bags, took away their cellphones and personal papers, and accused them of illegally gathering for public disorder. They also beat and badly treated detainees, it is claimed.
Nguyen Thanh Loan, a Catholic, said her husband was beaten to unconsciousness by plainclothes police. She asked police to return her phone so that she could call relatives to help hospitalize him, but they refused. Police also left her husband in a hospital without paying any fees.
Loan, whose husband is still in bad health, said she asked some people to stop a young man from following her while she was riding a motorbike at night on June 25 in Ho Chi Minh City. The man took photos of her and told her that he had watched her because she had committed a crime.
“I did not commit any crime. I only took to the streets to protest the Chinese invasion,” Loan said, adding that police have not returned personal papers to her and her husband since June 17.
The groups said in a statement that police committed arbitrary and unlawful acts to forcefully arrest and detain peaceful protesters.
The statement, issued on June 26 to mark International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, said police actions showed that “the authoritarian communist government treats the people like animals or enemies.”
It accused the National Assembly of intentionally not passing a demonstration law, although the right to peaceful protests is stated by the constitution.
“Demonstration is a right and duty the people have to exercise … and speak out their needs and aspirations as masters of the country,” said the statement signed by 19 Catholic, Buddhist, democracy and civil society groups and 42 activists and intellectuals.
The groups said the government should not crack down on demonstrations, which are essential to create a healthy and democratic political atmosphere and a good chance for people to express their patriotism. The government should see the terrible risks to the nation posed by the cybersecurity law and the proposed special economic zones.
They also called on victims to sue security forces for their brutal acts in domestic and international courts.
Father Peter Phan Van Loi, a member of the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience group, urged people to sign the statement to condemn police harassment and torture.
Le Hieu Dang Club, a group of former government officials and party members who work for rights and democratic values, demanded the government “investigate and try those who beat, torture and disgrace innocent people in recent protests.”
They also asked the government to offer medical treatment, pay compensation and apologize to victims.