The police of Phu Yen province has just announced that Nguyen Bao Tien, a driver, has been detained and accused of “conducting anti-state propaganda” for “distributing” banned books which are printed by the unsanctioned Liberal Publishing House. A statement allegedly issued by Liberal Publishing House said that Tien may have been detained 18 months ago.
The People’s Police newspaper on May 5 said that the police had just searched the house and arrested Mr. Nguyen Bao Tien related to the publishing of books by the Liberal Publishing House.
However, the Phu Yen Provincial Public Security website announced the arrest of Mr. Tien on April 20, and on the afternoon of April 29, Mr. Pham Dai Duong, Secretary of the Phu Yen Provincial Party Committee, praised the Provincial Police for “excellent work” in the process of investigating this case.
Mr. Bao Tien was probed and accused of committing the crime of “Stockpiling, distributing and propagating documents to oppose the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” according to the provisions of Point a, Clause 1, Article 117 of the Criminal Code.
According to this page, Mr. Tien is said to have “proactively” accepted and distributed books such as “Handbook of imprisonment“, “Popular politics“, “Non-violent protest” which are the books that the government considers “no allowed for circulation due to their content against the Vietnamese government.”
The Công An Nhân dân newspaper said that from August 2019 to October 2019, Mr. Tien repeatedly received a total of 68 parcels (containing the above books) and distributed them to recipients of 24 parcels. This page said “recently,” while “distributing” 21 parcels at the Kerry Express Post Office in Phu Yen province, they were discovered and seized by the police force.
Vietnamese media and Phu Yen police did not detail when he was found to be “distributing” these publications and when he was arrested.
Mr. Nguyen Bao Tien was born in 1986 and lives in the city of Tuy Hoa, Phu Yen province.
In a statement on May 6 that VOA received, Liberal Publishing House said that the arrest of Nguyen Bao Tien, a collaborator of Tu Do Publishing House, “has too many doubts.”
“We have grounds to suspect that Tien has been arrested and detained from October 2019 up to now, thus, Mr. Tien may have been illegally detained or under house arrest for the past 18 months,” Liberal Publishing House said.
The publisher said that Nguyen Bao Tien’s job was completely justified, he only exercised the right to freedom of speech, freedom of publication, and the right to read books in a peaceful manner.
The publisher stated that Tien was “innocent.” The publisher “strongly condemned this crime by the Vietnamese government, demanding that the government release Nguyen Bao Tien and other prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally.”
Liberal Publishing House, established in February 2019, is a non-profit organization “whose main activity is to publish and distribute publications that are not subject to the censorship of the Vietnamese government.” For their safety, most Free Publishers members do not disclose their identities.
“Since its inception and operation up to now, the Liberal Publishing House’s members and collaborators have been continuously persecuted, detained, and harassed. Typical is the arrest of Ms. Pham Doan Trang, an author, co-founder, and former member of Liberal Publishing House,” Liberal Publishing House said in the statement.
According to Amnesty International, Vietnam’s security forces have questioned at least 100 people across the country, searched the homes of at least a dozen people, confiscated books on democracy and public policy issued by the publisher.
In June 2020, the Liberal Publishing House was awarded the Prix Voltaire by the International Publishing Association (IPA). At that time, journalist Pham Doan Trang, spokesperson for Liberal Publishing House, told VOA:
“In the context of Vietnam where persecution of human rights – including freedom of publishing – has increased, this award is an honor for us. Of course, we are under pressure from the authorities, but we will have to try harder.”
In a statement at the awarding of the award, the IPA said: “Liberal Publishing House’s employees put themselves at great risk to help others exercise their right to freedom of expression.”