The sincerity of Vietnam’s commitment to human rights dialogue with the international community is being called into question after it again prevented a government critic from meeting a visiting delegation.
The prominent activist, Dr Nguyen Quang A, seen as a leading moderate voice in the reform movement, was held for “questioning” by police for ten hours during a planned meeting with Australian diplomats.
An embarrassed Dr Quang A could merely inform the visitors by Facebook that he was being held “for the safety of Vietnam”.
He had been prevented from meeting President Obama in May in a similar fashion, along with the blogger, Pham Doan Trang.
“The Australian side was disappointed that Dr Nguyen Quang A, a prominent academic and respected member of Vietnam’s civil society, was prevented from meeting the delegation on 5 August”, said the Australian foreign ministry delegation in a statement after its talks with government officials.
The Australians, nevertheless, concluded that their 13the annual human rights dialogue had involved “a candid and constructive exchange of views on a wide range of human rights issues.”
The statement said they had expressed concern about restrictions on civil and political rights, and reiterated serious concerns about the harassment, arrest and detention of peaceful human rights activists.
“Australia requested the release of all persons detained for peacefully exercising their freedom of expression and raised particular cases of concern. It also requested access to visit such persons and to be allowed to observe trials,” said the statement.
The value of such encounters, however, remains far from clear, given increasing repression in Vietnam and the jailing of prominent government critics in recent months.
The overt tactics used by police to prevent meetings between dissidents and visiting foreign delegations appears to show an open contempt for the process of “human rights dialogue”.