(VNRN) – The son of a prisoner of conscience and a reporter are two people recently barred from leaving Vietnam and their passports were confiscated.
The reporter is Anna Huyen Trang (Huyền Trang), who works for Vietnamese Redemptorists’ News (VRNs), an independent online news outlet operated by the Catholic order Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. The other person stopped at the airport is Nguyen Thanh Thuy (Nguyễn Thanh Thủy), the son of imprisoned writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia (Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩa).
Huyen Trang was checking in at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City to a flight to the U.S. on Apr 13 for her work with the Redemptorists when immigration authorities confiscated her airline ticket and her passport and refused her exit. The immigration police would not tell her any reason or show any documentation showing she is banned from leaving the country. Instead, they referred her to city police.
Huyen Trang was locked in a separate room, and the police wrote the minutes recording the exit ban. Huyen Trang, however, refused to sign the minutes unless they include that the police had taken her passport and her airline ticket. She also refused to leave until the minutes had included those facts.
As Huyen Trang related on the Vietnamese Redemptorists’ web site, two police officers then grabbed her, grappled her at the neck and dragged her outside. As Huyen Trang screamed, a third policeman, a colonel, stroke her in the throat. They then pushed her outside the gate area.
The next day, Nguyen Thanh Thuy, 26, arrived at the same airport for a flight to the U.S. where he has been given an immigrant visa.
As he was checking in, helped by a representative of the International Organization for Migration, he too was refused exit. His ticket and his passport were taken as well. He was given a letter informing him that he has been barred from exiting and that he had to check with the police in the northern city of Hai Phong for more details.
“I asked them for the reason and they say that’s not their responsibility and I’d have to work with the Hai Phong police,” Thuy told Radio Free Asia.
Although Thuy himself is not an activist, his father the writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia is currently serving a six-year sentence for “propaganda against the Socialist Republic” under Article 88 of the Penal Code. Nghia’s sentence would have been fully served by this September. In 2013, the Independent Chinese PEN Center honored Nghia with the Liu Xiaobo Courage to Write Award.
These two cases are only the last of at least a dozen instances where the government of Vietnam has barred people linked to the opposition from leaving the country. In March, a group of people who had had their passports taken away held a ‘human rights coffee’ roundtable in Hanoi, attended by Western diplomats, to discuss the right to freedom of movement.
The Redemptorists, for whom Huyen Trang works as a reporter, is among the most visible Catholic organizations confronting the government over the issues of church property and religious freedom from government control.