A 17-year-old boy, Do Dang Du, has died in a Hanoi hospital after sustaining severe injuries while in police custody on a theft charge.
Dozens of police officers were reported to be guarding the boy’s room when human rights activists attempted to visit him in recent days.
The activists were told by doctors that he was suffering from swelling of the brain and that his limbs were swollen and bruised.
They suspect he was beaten and tortured by police officers during his two months in detention.
The boy’s mother was informed by police that he was in coma when he was taken to hospital from his cell earlier this week.
She and other family members went to the mortuary after hearing of their son’s death and were seen crying hysterically outside.
Du was arrested in August for allegedly stealing the equivalent of nearly $70 from a neighbour to play online games, according to human rights campaigner, Thuy Nga, who went to the hospital while he was still in a coma.
She said that he was caught red-handed and immediately reported to the police.
“If he committed theft, he would receive punishment imposed upon him by an adequate court. He should not be tortured as such by the police from Chuong My district,” Thuy Nga wrote on her web page.
In March, a report by the Ministry of Public Security said 226 people died in detention centres around the country between October 2011 and September 2014.
The ministry said the primary cause of the deaths was disease and suicide.
Human rights activists accuse the police of regularly using torture and other forms of abuse against detainees.
They say they have no means of appeal against such violence in a country where the police, the prosecutors and the judiciary are all controlled by the Communist Party.