Dissident jailed for posting pro-democracy essays online

April 29, 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) condemns the continued incarceration of Pham Hong Son, who was detained in late March for publishing an online article about democracy. Son is the third person to be apprehended in Vietnam since February for writing or distributing content on the Internet.

On March 27, police arrested Son, a medical doctor by profession, after searching his home and confiscating his computer and several documents, according to the Democracy Club for Vietnam, an organization based in both California and Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital.

Prior to his arrest, Son translated into Vietnamese and posted an essay titled, “What is Democracy?” (The article first appeared on the U.S. State Department Web site.) Son had previously written several essays of his own promoting democracy and human rights, all of which appeared on Vietnamese-language online forums.

After Son’s arrest, the government issued a statement claiming that his work was “anti-state and anti-Vietnam Communist Party,” according to international press reports. Son is currently being held in Prison B14 in Thanh Liet Village, Thanh Tri District, outside Hanoi, according to the Democracy Club for Vietnam.

In recent months, two other dissidents have also faced harsh penalties for their work on the Internet. On February 21, Le Chi Quang was detained at an Internet café over an online essay that he wrote criticizing bilateral negotiations between China and Vietnam. He is also being held at Prison B14.

CPJ protested the harassment of dissident Tran Khue in a March 13 letter to Your Excellency. On March 8, police officers searched his home and confiscated his computer equipment and several documents after he used the Internet to circulate an open letter to Chinese president Jiang Zemin. The letter criticized recent border agreements between the two countries. Tran Khue is under tight official surveillance at his home in Ho Chi Minh City, according to CPJ sources.

As a nonprofit organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, CPJ respectfully reminds Your Excellency that the right to freedom of expression is guaranteed both by the Vietnamese Constitution and by the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory.

CPJ calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Pham Hong Son and Le Chi Quang, and for an immediate end to the persecution of Tran Khue. We further urge Your Excellency to ensure that all people in Vietnam are able to express themselves in public media without fear of reprisal.

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


Ann Cooper
Executive Director