Authorities in Vietnam are barring a blogger from leaving the country to accept a major award.
Authorities in Vietnam are barring a blogger from leaving the country to accept a major award honoring his father and sister for their commitment to free expression and courage in the face of persecution. In so doing, the Vietnamese government has demonstrated yet again the stifling of the kind of free expression such international recognition is intended to promote.
Huynh Trong Hieu is the son of Huynh Ngoc Tuan and brother of Huyn Thuc Vy, prominent pro-democracy writers who post articles online commenting on and frequently criticizing government policies. In recognition of their work, the group Human Rights Watch selected them among 41 poets, playwrights, journalists, bloggers and other writers from 19 countries to receive Hellman/Hammett awards and grants for the year 2012 to support their work. With Mr. Tuan too ill to travel and Ms. Vy under police surveillance, it was decided that the son would travel to New York to accept the award.
On December 16, however, police detained Mr. Hieu as he arrived at Ho Chi Minh City airport to board his flight. They questioned him for two hours before releasing him and confiscating his passport, citing unpaid “Internet violations” totaling about $13,500. Pro-democracy advocates say the government often imposes travel bans to intimidate activists.
The United States is troubled by reports of Mr. Hieu being prevented from traveling to New York to accept the award for his father and sister. This is the latest in a series of restrictions against those seeking peaceful expression of their views, restrictions that are inconsistent with international standards on freedom of expression.
Given the worsening of the human rights situation in Vietnam, we call on the government there to take concrete steps to improve its record on human rights and adhere to its international obligations.