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Cablegate: Police Pressure Mounts As Olympic Torch Relay Nears

VZCZCXRO6928
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHNH
DE RUEHHM #0443 1151238
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 241238Z APR 08
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4422
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0044
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 4645

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000443

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS AND DRL/AWH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL VM
SUBJECT: POLICE PRESSURE MOUNTS AS OLYMPIC TORCH RELAY NEARS

REF: HANOI 235

1. (SBU) Summary: Prime Minister Dung's public comments that
the GVN will not tolerate disruptions of the April 29 Olympic
torch relay in Ho Chi Minh City have been followed by what
appears to be a very well-orchestrated police crack down against
persons deemed likely to incite anti-China protests. Members of
a local group known for its outspoken anti-China rhetoric report
increased police attention, including "working sessions," and
outright physical intimidation. One member has left the city.
The group's leader, a prominent anti-China and pro-human rights
blogger arrested last week (reftel), has now been charged with
tax evasion. In spite of police pressure, the blog community
continues to call for protests on April 29. End summary.

2. (SBU) Members of the Freelance Journalists Club led by Nguyen
Van Hai (aka Hoang Hai or Dieu Cay), the blogger arrested last
week (reftel), are receiving increased attention and
intimidation from authorities in the run-up to the Beijing
Olympic torch relay in HCMC on April 29. Several of Hai's
associates report round-the-clock surveillance by an increasing
number of plainclothes police who are being stationed near their
homes and following them during their daily routines. Members
of the club have also been summoned to multiple "working
sessions" with the police in recent weeks.

3. (SBU) One prize-winning movie director who belongs to the
club has left HCMC temporarily to avoid further police
harassment. Another club member said plainclothes police
confronted him when he was out with his girlfriend, pretended to
be his girlfriend's "brothers" and threatened to beat him up.
They also warned him "not to go anywhere" in public. Yet
another club member said he was detained for "not carrying his
ID" while he watched police carry out a search of Hai's home.
According to other members and the club's website, this same
individual has now been called up for mandatory military
service, even though he is currently a university student.
(Comment: Most university students studying their bachelors in
Vietnam are exempt from military service. Viet Youth for
Democracy Activist and blogger Nguyen Tien Trung was also called
up for 18 months of military service in March, leading Post to
believe that mandatory military service may be a new GVN tactic
for taking young activists out of commission. End note.)

4. (SBU) Meanwhile, Cong An ("Police") newspaper reports that
the club member arrested last weekend (reftel), Hoang Hai, is
now being charged ... for tax evasion! The charges reportedly
stem from an investigation that uncovered evidence that Hai
dodged taxes on his HCMC residence in violation of Article 161
of the Vietnam Penal Code. Hai's associates confirmed to ConGen
that he is now currently being held in HCMC's district 3 police
detention facility.

5. (SBU) Despite this crackdown, which began on the heel's PM
Dung's public declaration that disruptions of the April 29
Olympic torch relay in HCMC would not be tolerated, the
situation in HCMC remains quite unsettled. Anti-China
sentiments fueled by the ongoing spat over the Spratly and
Paracel islands as well as China's recent crackdown in Tibet
remain hot button issues among Vietnamese youth. Reports and
contacts here indicate that overseas Vietnamese students
participated in anti-Beijing Olympic rallies in Europe during
Olympic torch relay ceremonies there, and the domestic blog
community continues to call for anti-China protests here on
April 29.

FAIRFAX

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