September 26, 2002
His Excellency Tran Duc Luong
President, Socialist Republic of Vietnam
c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Via facsimile: 011-84-4-823-1872
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) condemns the detention of writer Nguyen Vu Binh.
At about 8 p.m. on September 25, security officials searched Binh's home in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, before arresting him, said CPJ sources. It is not known where Binh is being held.
Police did not disclose the reasons for the writer's arrest, although CPJ sources believe it may be linked to a recent essay he wrote criticizing border agreements between China and Vietnam.
In late July, Binh was briefly detained after submitting written testimony to a U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus briefing on freedom of expression in Vietnam. Since then, authorities have required him to report to the local police station daily. He has also been subject to frequent day-long interrogation sessions.
Binh is a former journalist who worked for almost 10 years at Tap Chi Cong San (Journal of Communism), an official publication of Vietnam's Communist Party. In January 2001, he left his position there after applying to form an independent opposition group called the Liberal Democratic Party.
Since then, Binh has written several articles calling for political reform and criticizing current government policy. Last month, he wrote an article titled, "Some Thoughts on the China-Vietnam Border Agreement," which was distributed online.
Vietnamese authorities have recently cracked down on critics of land and sea border agreements signed by China and Vietnam as part of a rapprochement following a 1979 war between the two countries. Several writers have criticized Your Excellency's government for agreeing to border concessions without consulting the Vietnamese people.
On February 21, Internet journalist Le Chi Quang was detained in Hanoi after an essay he wrote, titled, "Beware of Imperialist China," was distributed online. In August, officials informed Quang's mother that her son would be tried on national security charges "soon," although no exact trial date has been announced.
As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide, CPJ condemns the use of criminal charges against journalists. 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 release of both Nguyen Vu Binh and Le Chi Quang.
Thank you very much for your attention to this matter. We await your response.