An American citizen detained in Vietnam on public order charges confessed Monday night on state television, apologizing for his role in public demonstrations that rocked the country earlier this month and promising to stay away from protests in the future, news sources said on Tuesday.
William Nguyen, a 32-year-old graduate student from Houston, Texas, was beaten by police and detained on June 10 in Ho Chi Minh City, also called Saigon, for attending what began the day before as a peaceful protest over government plans to grant long-term leases to foreign companies operating in special economic zones (SEZs).
News of the proposed concessions had stirred public fears that the leases would go to Chinese-owned firms.
In tweets posted from the rallies, Nguyen had described clashes between citizens and the police and said that protesters were also demonstrating against a cybersecurity bill that would further restrict citizens’ use of the internet.
The law, approved by Vietnam’s National Assembly last week, required companies like Google and Facebook to delete posts considered threatening to national security and to store users’ personal information inside Vietnam.
Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Tuesday, Vietnam-based blogger Nguyen Lan Thang said that Nguyen had clearly been singled out by authorities for arrest.
“Seeing him at the protest on June 10 was very encouraging to other protesters, and it was also encouraging to young Vietnamese in the United States and in other places,” he said.
“The government is very worried about further protests on the same scale, because the size of this last protest was completely beyond their expectations.”
“There are people who want to return to Vietnam to contribute to changes in this country, and this decision was a warning to other Vietnamese living overseas who might have any interest in coming back,” he said.
It’s a spiritual crackdown,” he said.
Protests meanwhile continued over the weekend, with protesters detained on Sunday in Ho Chi Minh City.
Thousands also demonstrated in central Ha Thinh province, following clashes earlier in the week in south-central Binh Thuan province, where protesters wielded bricks and Molotov cocktails against police and damaged official buildings.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.