A Vietnamese blogger who was arrested in a recent crackdown and who also printed T-shirts to protest a controversial mining project has been released after a week in custody, he told AFP Sunday.
Bui Thanh Hieu, 37, was one of three online writers recently arrested in a “mounting crackdown” that drew strong condemnation Friday from a global press watchdog.
All three had touched on the sensitive topic of Vietnam’s relations with China.
Hieu, who blogs under the name Nguoi Buon Gio (Wind Trader), said he was set free on Saturday after being arrested for allegedly “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state”.
He said he had printed T-shirts in protest against bauxite mining projects in the Central Highlands that had triggered a rare public outcry, partly because a Chinese company has been granted a major contract there.
Vietnam and China, both ideologically communist, are engaged in a boundary dispute over two South China Sea archipelagos, the Paracels and Spratleys.
Another blogger, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, 30, was arrested by about 15 officers around midnight Wednesday at her home in the southern coastal city of Nha Trang, her mother told AFP.
The blogger, who wrote under the name “Me Nam”, on July 20 wore a T-shirt calling for the cancellation of the bauxite project and announcing Vietnamese sovereignty over the Paracels and Spratleys, her mother said.
A foreign diplomat, who asked not to be named, said Quynh had gone “a step further” than blogging by wearing and producing the T-shirts.
Hieu and Pham Doan Trang, a journalist for prominent news website VietnamNet who was arrested on August 28, was also involved in the T-shirt venture, the diplomat said.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) had called for the immediate release of Hieu and Trang.
“Growing commercial and diplomatic ties with China are particularly sensitive in Vietnam, given the two neighbouring countries’ often antagonistic history,” the CPJ said in a statement.
US ambassador Michael Michalak recently expressed concern over Vietnam’s efforts to crack down on the media and to “criminalise free speech.”