Dissident writers detained for criticizing Vietnam-China agreements

March 13, 2002

His Excellency Tran Duc Luong
President, Socialist Republic of Vietnam
c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Hanoi, Vietnam

Via facsimile: 011-84-4-823-1872

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned that writer Tran Khue has been detained following a police search of his home. Tran Khue is the third Vietnamese intellectual to face reprisals in the past few months for criticizing bilateral negotiations between China and Vietnam.

On March 8, seven police officers entered and searched Tran Khue’s home in Ho Chi Minh City. They confiscated his computer equipment and several documents, according to CPJ sources.

On March 10, Tran Khue sent a message via cell phone to a friend indicating that he was in danger. Since then, all means of communication with Tran Khue have been cut, and his friends and colleagues are concerned about his safety.

According to CPJ sources, police searched Tran Khue’s house for materials relating to an open letter that he sent to Chinese president Jiang Zemin during Jiang’s visit to Vietnam in late February. The letter, which was distributed over the Internet, protested recent border accords between the two countries.

(Because of your government’s extraordinarily tight control over news and information circulated within the country, CPJ classifies open letters, pamphlets, and other forms of political speech in Vietnam as journalism.)

In recent years, China and Vietnam have signed land and sea border agreements as part of a rapprochement following a 1979 war between the two countries. Several dissidents have criticized the government for agreeing to border concessions without consulting the Vietnamese people.

Tran Khue has been under tight surveillance since September 2001, when he and other dissidents tried to legally register the “National Association to Fight Corruption.”

CPJ also calls for the release of two other dissident writers who were detained for similar reasons around the time of President Jiang’s visit to Vietnam. On January 14, Bui Minh Quoc was put under house arrest in Dalat and charged with “possessing anti-government literature,” including his own writings. Prior to his arrest, he had conducted extensive research on Vietnamese territorial concessions to China, according to international news reports.

On February 21, Le Chi Quang was detained at an Internet café and is now being held incommunicado in B14 prison in Thanh Tri district outside Hanoi, according to CPJ sources. He has also been an outspoken critic of the border agreements. An essay he wrote, titled “Beware of Imperialist China,” was widely distributed on the Internet.

Le Chi Quang’s writing is available at http://danchu.net/ArticlesChinhLuan/CollectionVN/LeChiQuang003.htm

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, CPJ condemns your administration’s efforts to silence individuals who criticize official policies. We respectfully remind Your Excellency that both the Vietnamese Constitution and the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Vietnam has signed, guarantee the right to freedom of expression.

We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Tran Khue, Bui Minh Quoc, and Le Chi Quang. In addition, we respectfully urge Your Excellency to ensure that all journalists in Vietnam are permitted to write and publish without fear of reprisal.

Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters. We await your response.


Ann Cooper
Executive Director