A Vietnamese activist lost two teeth in a beating by plainclothes policemen in Hanoi this week after he tried to win release of another activist who had been detained for attending an unauthorized commemoration of a deadly 1998 naval clash with China, his fellow activists told RFA’s Vietnamese service on Thursday.
Dung Truong was beaten when he went to the police station to seek the release of Nguyen Thuy Hanh, who was herself detained and questioned over her attendance at the ceremony in central Hanoi Wednesday to mark 30 years since a conflict with China over a disputed South China Sea reef killed 64 Vietnamese sailors, Hahn told RFA.
“They dragged Dung Truong into (the station) when he was sitting outside. They tried to take his iPhone but he broke it before they could grab it,” she said.
“They all dashed toward him, beat him very brutally right inside the station. He lost two teeth. After he fainted they called a taxi and took him home. They just threw him out of the taxi on the pavement near his house,” she said by telephone.
Blogger Nguyen Tuong Thuy wrote on his blog that Dung was found by neighbors lying on the pavement near his house at 10 p.m. Wednesday with several bruises on his face and body and was sent to hospital for a checkup.
RFA could not reach Dung or his family because his phone was broken.
Hanh, who was released after several hours of questioning, said police “asked if I raised money to hire lawyers for prisoners of conscience who are to stand trial in the future.”
“The second thing they asked me was about my call for ceremonies to mark January 19, February 17 and March 14,” she said, referring to dates associated with Vietnamese military conflicts with China.
On March 14, 1988, Vietnam sent two armed transport ships and a landing craft carrying around 100 People’s Army of Vietnam soldiers to Johnson South Reef, Collin Reef, and Lansdowne Reef in the contested Spratly Island chain with construction materials in a bid to secure its territorial claims.
Chinese frigates deployed members of the People’s Liberation Army to confront Vietnamese soldiers on Johnson South Reef in a bid to remove a Vietnamese flag planted there, sparking a skirmish between the forces on the ground.
The ships then exchanged fire and the heavily outgunned Vietnamese vessels were sunk, leaving 64 Vietnamese soldiers dead and 11 wounded. The Chinese forces, which suffered only one wounded casualty, arrested nine Vietnamese troops who were later freed.
On Tuesday, Vietnam’s one-party Communist government permitted relatives of soldiers and veterans of the naval clash to observe the 30th anniversary by visiting waters near the clash in the South China Sea and holding a prayer ceremony to honor the dead.
But Vietnamese police routinely break up unofficial protests marking the anniversaries of the takeovers of the Spratly and Paracel islands and detain demonstrators.
In Wednesday’s incident, a group of about 10 activists gathered to commemorate the Johnson Island skirmish in the center of Hanoi under close watch of plainclothes policemen and security officials.
There was a brief brawl between activists and a few others believed to be government supporters at the ceremony, but police did not interfere, activists told RFA.
Activists in Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam held a ceremony on Wednesday and encountered no police interference, they said.