A Vietnamese civil society activist was held at an airport in Hanoi on Tuesday and questioned for more than 12 hours on his suspected ties to “anti-government” forces following his return to the country from an overseas trip, he said.
Nguyen Quang A, 69, was treated courteously but was asked detailed questions about his contacts in the United States, including at Radio Free Asia, he told RFA’s Vietnamese Service by phone on Wednesday following his midnight release.
“They said that the people I met with in the U.S. are ‘reactionary forces’ opposed to Vietnam,” A said, adding that he was shown a list of names of people he had spoken with, including that of RFA’s Vietnamese Service director.
“They asked about my relationship with those people, and wanted to know who had sponsored my trip,” he said.
Though his interrogators—two men in uniform and two in civilian clothes—were “calm and polite in their attitude toward me,” A said, he refused to answer any questions, adding that what they had called their “invitation” to speak with them was actually a forced detention.
“I also told them that I didn’t care that they thought I had met during my trip with people fighting the Vietnamese government,” he said.
‘A better way’
Brought into a private room by police at Noi Bai International Airport at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, he was finally released at midnight, almost 12 hours later, he said.
Presented with a document to sign, and which he was not given time to read, A refused to sign.
“I did not commit myself to anything,” he said.
A said that during his trip, which included meetings in Berlin in July, he felt encouraged when seeing that the people he spoke with were free to choose their own course in how best to promote democracy and civil society in their own countries.
“This is not the case in Vietnam,” he said.
“In Vietnam, whoever you are, whatever your group is, if what you do conflicts with what the Communist Party wants, you will be considered a ‘hostile force,’” he said, adding, “This way of thinking is very childish and wrong.”
“My job now is very simple—I hope to reduce that mistake, to help them think about a better way of doing things,” he said.