Dear Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc,
I am writing to express my grave concern about the crackdown against members and patrons of the Liberal Publishing House (Nhà Xuất Bản Tự Do), a local independent publisher that has produced books on public policy and political thought in Viet Nam. I find it particularly distressing to learn about two of its members who have been arbitrary detained and tortured, and many others who have had to flee for their safety over the last year.
Most recently, on 8 May 2020, police in Ho Chi Minh City arrested and detained Thủy Tuất, a member of Liberal Publishing House when he was delivering books to a reader. While in custody, Thủy Tuất was interrogated and brutally tortured, including punching in the face, chest, ribs and stomach by police from 9am to 3am the following day. Upon release, despite having serious injuries, Thủy Tuất went directly into hiding fearing that police might re-arrest him. Subsequently, police arrested his 24-year-old daughter and refused to release her unless Thủy Tuất returns to the police station. She remains detained in police custody.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Police in Ho Chi Minh City have been accused of arbitrarily detaining and torturing a staff member of Liberal Publishing House before. In October 2019, another member was forced to go into hiding after being harassed by the police. Across the country, hundreds of people have reported their experience of being interrogated for buying books from Liberal Publishing House since October 2019, many have had their houses searched and books confiscated by the police.
Both Viet Nam’s Constitution and international human rights law guarantee the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to receive and impart information and ideas. This includes accessing and reading information contained in books such as those printed by the Liberal Publishing House. Freely accessing such information and ideas is also an important aspect of the right to education.
I therefore urge you Prime Minister to:
- Release Thủy Tuất’s daughter immediately and stop the harassment and intimidation against Thủy Tuất and his family;
- Stop the crackdown campaign against Liberal Publishing House and its supporters immediately, and order an independent and thorough investigation into the alleged torture and arbitrary detention cases;
- Ensure that Liberal Publishing House and other independent publishers can enjoy their rights to freedom of expression, information and publishing.