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Vietnam police arrest couple as they livestream criticism of the government

Vietnamese Police (Dave/Flickr)
January 15, 2022

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Police in Vietnam broke into a home and arrested a couple while the husband was livestreaming criticism of the government, their family told RFA.

Nguyen Thai Hung and his wife Vu Thi Kim Hoang were arrested Jan. 5 at about 6 p.m. in their home in the southern province of Dong Nai while Hung was on YouTube.

Viewers of the livestream were able to witness the arrest as it occurred. About 20 minutes into the broadcast, Hung left his computer to investigate what sounded like glass breaking. Shortly after, a man in an orange “Electricity of Vietnam” uniform appeared in frame, shouting, “Stay still. Don’t move.”

At that point, the webcam was turned down to show only a corner of the table and what looks to be a script.

Provincial authorities charged Hoang with “abusing the rights to freedom and democracy to violate the state’s interests.” They have yet to make any official statement on Hung’s arrest.

The couple’s arrest was carried out by people in plain clothes, Hoang’s sister, Vu Giang Tien, told RFA.

“Two men suddenly broke into my sister’s house by climbing over the fence. Then they cut the gate lock open and rushed into the house,” she said.

“My sister’s oldest daughter got scared and started screaming. My mother, who lives next door, came over immediately and shouted, ‘Robbers! Robbers!’ when seeing the intruders in plain clothes, not in police uniforms,” Tien said.

When a man wearing yellow appeared with a gun, Tien said her mother stopped shouting out of fear.

“Those people took the two kids to a room upstairs to ask questions. Others who had already entered the house broke the glass door to open it. They searched the house, making a big mess, and they arrested Hung and Hoang and took them away,” Tien said.

The police did not announce why the couple were arrested or present any documents related to the arrest, the family said.

When the family asked why Hoang was also arrested, the police said they needed to take her away for investigation because she was involved in concealing a crime.

Two days later, the family went to the police station to find out more and were told by police that Hoang had been arrested for “abusing the rights to freedom and democracy” and that she was being held at a detention house elsewhere in the province.

The police did not provide them with any information about Hung, they said.

Tien said that Hung had been sharing his views on his YouTube channel for more than a year. The channel, established in January 2020, has around 40,000 followers. Videos are no longer available on the account.

Hung’s Facebook account is active, but the most recent post, which discussed the death of a young soldier, Tran Duc Do, is from July 2021.

Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index for 2021. Vietnam’s already low tolerance of dissent deteriorated sharply in 2020 with a spate of arrests of independent journalists, publishers and Facebook personalities in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party Congress in January 2021.

Police have arrested at least 40 political dissidents since then, most of them charged with “disseminating anti-state materials,” according to RFA reports.