Vietnamese online democracy activist Nguyen Hoang Vi was beaten by plainclothes security officers near her home in Ho Chi Minh City in an apparent bid to thwart plans by her and friends to mark International Human Rights Day, the blogger said Wednesday.
The assault took place at about 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday as she returned home following a visit to a local hair salon, Vi told RFA’s Vietnamese Service in an interview. It was the third such attack launched against the veteran blogger in the last two years.
“When I was on my way home, I saw three women riding two motorbikes who maneuvered their bikes to hit me, and though I moved onto the pavement and tried not to react, they still chased after me,” she said.
“They rode ahead of me and then turned around to hit me again,” she said, adding that when she turned around she saw “many plainclothes security men and women behind me.”
Though she tried to run home, Vi said, she was quickly surrounded and brutally beaten.
“One of the women on a bike that had struck me shouted that I was having an affair with her husband,” she said.
Her attackers left her after she fell to the ground and area residents began to gather nearby, she said.
Though she called her commune’s police chief for help, “The people who witnessed the attack knew that the police had set this up and told me not to wait, that the police would not come, and they urged me to call a taxi to take me to the hospital.”
After she had summoned a cab, though, security officers stopped the vehicle and ordered its driver to take her home, she said.
“They have now been around my house since yesterday, watching me day and night and not letting me out of the house,” she said.
Vi said she had been hurt in two similar attacks in the past—once when she and her family were assaulted by police following a “human rights picnic” on May 6, 2013, and a second time at a coffee shop on International Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, the same year.
“They snatched a teddy bear from blogger Me Nam and her child, and hundreds of people including women then attacked me and Me Nam,” she said.
Tuesday’s attack may have been prompted by efforts by Vi and her friends to observe the annual human rights event again this year, she said.
“On Dec. 8, the Vietnam Bloggers Network organized a small party to celebrate International Human Rights Day and the anniversary of the network’s founding.”
Security forces had not prepared for the party, though, because they did not know about it ahead of time, she said.
“And so they could not stop it, though parties in Nha Trang city and Hanoi were all blocked,” she said.
“The next day, they started following me and took their revenge."
International human rights groups and the United States have repeatedly criticized Vietnam for arresting citizens who peacefully voice their views and have urged the country to improve its human rights record.
Paris-based press freedoms advocacy group Reporters Without Borders says Vietnam currently holds at least 34 bloggers in detention.
Reported by Hoa Ai for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.