The blogger and author, Pham Doan Trang, has been tracked and harassed by the police for years – forced into an exhausting cat and mouse game for speaking out openly on subjects considered sensitive by the Communist party.
Now the game has taken a still more sinister turn after she was hauled in for ten hours of intensive questioning on Saturday. Her mother’s house, where she is staying, was later sealed off and had its internet and electricity cut.
Trang’s many admirers and supporters fear that the police moves could herald the criminal prosecution of one of Vietnam’s best known and most courageous political activists.
Surrounded by police agents
Doan Trang, a sometime contributor to Vietnam Right Now, has consistently riled the authorities with her defiant demands for political freedom.
Copies of her recently published book, Politics for All, were seized by the authorities amid signs of a new determination to silence one of the Communist government’s most determined critics.
Trang told friends that she had been instructed by her interrogators to “work” with police in the coming days.
She was warned not to try to escape from her mother’s house in Hanoi as it was surrounded by police agents and informers.
Two plainclothes officers had come to the house on Saturday afternoon and introduced themselves as members of the EU mission to Hanoi. After they were admitted, Trang recognised them as officers who had questioned her late last year after she had attended a meeting with EU diplomats.
She was taken away to a police station and questioned about her contacts dating back several years, and who had helped her publish the latest book.
Banned in Vietnam
Trang was badly hurt by police in 2015 during a demonstration to protect some of Hanoi’s oldest trees from a local government plan to chop them down. She has since had a series of operations on her leg but continues to suffer severe pain.
Some activists suspect the injuries were inflicted deliberately to warn her of the dangers of political activism.
Her book is now being sold online by Amazon but has been banned in Vietnam.
It urges people to take their future into their own hands and not allow the Communist party to continue to hold its monopoly on power.
Trang has extensive contacts with politicians and rights activists in other countries and was one of the dissidents invited to meet President Obama during his visit to Vietnam in 2016. On that occasion, she was detained by security agents to prevent her attending the meeting.
This month, she was awarded the annual Homo Homini Prize by the Czech human rights group, People In Need, in recognition of the extraordinary courage with which she faces down Vietnam’s internal security establishment.
On numerous occasions in recent years, Trang has felt obliged to flee her home because of harassment by the police and their civilian proxies.
She has campaigned extensively for the release of fellow bloggers and rights activists who have been arrested, beaten or imprisoned during the current crackdown on dissent which began more than two years ago.