A Vietnamese lawyer and dissident blogger detained by authorities has started a hunger strike, RFA reports:
Le Quoc Quan began refusing food on Sunday, three days after he was arrested on his way to drop off his children at school in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, according to a priest with the Vietnamese Redemptorist Church in Ho Chi Minh city.
“Dr. Le Quoc Quan began the hunger strike three days after being arrested by police,” priest Dinh Huu Thoai told RFA’s Vietnamese service.
“His wife Hien said the chief of the detention center had announced that Dr. Quan cannot receive any food sent by relatives nor eat in the prison because he started the hunger strike [nearly] a week ago,” he said.
Quan is being held incommunicado in Hoa Lo Prison No. 1. and neither his lawyer nor his family have been able to visit him to date, according to a statement by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), which joined other rights groups in condemning his arrest.
By arresting one of Vietnam’s best-known dissidents and bloggers, the authorities are “raising the stakes in the Communist-run nation’s crackdown on Internet criticism of its one-party rule and potentially worsening the country’s relations with the United States and other important trading partners,” one observer suggests.
Quan’s arrest is the latest step in a “political vendetta” waged by Vietnamese authorities, said Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch.
“[They] have been pursuing a political vendetta against Le Quoc Quan for several years, and now we see a tax evasion charge coming out of nowhere, just as in the Dieu Cay case previously,” Robertson told RFA.
Quan was previously arrested in 2007 for three months on his return from a five-month Reagan-Fascell fellowship at the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.