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Cablegate: Hcmc Olympic Torch Relay Goes Forward As Planned

VZCZCXRO3821
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHNH
DE RUEHHM #0459 1231004
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 021004Z MAY 08
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4443
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 3047
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0047
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 4667

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000459

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS AND DRL/AWH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL CM VM
SUBJECT: HCMC OLYMPIC TORCH RELAY GOES FORWARD AS PLANNED

REF: A) HANOI 503 AND PREVIOUS B) HCMC 443 C) HANOI 0184

1. (SBU) Summary: Despite heavy traffic snarls and reports of
potential protests, the Olympic torch relay wound through HCMC
on the advertised route without diversion on April 29.
According to observers, the police presence was notable but not
as heavy as at other international locations. Youth activists
failed to show up for a planned protest in front of the HCMC
Opera House. A few land rights protesters and members of
blogger Dieu Cay's "Freelance Journalists Club" reported being
detained by police but were released after the torch relay was
over. In Hanoi, a handful of activists who attempted to stage
demonstrations downtown were detained on April 29, including
Bloc 8406 activist and writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia, who was
released on May 2. A planned demonstration in front of the
Chinese Embassy never materialized amidst tight security. End
summary.

2. (SBU) The Beijing Olympic torch relay moved through HCMC on
April 29 as scheduled, using the same route previously
publicized in local press reports. The procession began at the
Opera House in the heart of HCMC and wound its way through
downtown districts to a sports stadium near the airport for the
closing ceremony. Among senior GVN leaders attending were
Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan, HCMC People's Committee
Chairman Le Hoang Quan and Deputy Foreign Minister Vu Dung. The
deputy of the Beijing Olympics Organizing Board, Li Binghua, and
the Chinese Ambassador to Vietnam, Hu Qiangwen, also attended.
Eyewitnesses said traffic became snarled after police blocked
off intersections along the relay route twenty minutes before
the ceremony, resulting in thirty minute to one-hour delays for
HCMC commuters in some gridlocked districts.

3. (SBU) While police were clearly present on city streets and
near the start and end points for the relay ceremony, security
was not as heavy as it appeared to be in other international
locations that featured groups of guards flanking the torch all
along the route. Official press reports and local observers
cited 'hundreds' to 'thousands' of cheering well-wishers lining
the relay route and filling the stadium to watch the closing
ceremony.

Would-Be Demonstrators Detained Briefly
---------------------------------------
4. (SBU) Some Democratic Party of Vietnam (DPV) activists tried
to get groups of students and land protesters to stage a
demonstration in front of the Opera House, but the students did
not show up. Three land protesters were detained by police two
hours before the ceremony began, but were released after the
relay ended. Four members of blogger Dieu Cay's Freelance
Journalists Club were detained on April 28 and released at
midnight on April 29 (Ref B). Dieu Cay remains in custody on
charges of tax evasion, and a lawyer named Le Tran Luat has now
offered to represent him pro bono in any subsequent trial. DPV
leader Tran Khue said he received a police summons on April 28,
but did not go to the police station and did not venture out
during the torch relay ceremony. Dissident Dr. Nguyen Dan Que
said he also stayed at home, but noted several extra
plainclothes policemen posted outside his residence that day, as
did UBCV monk Thich Khong Thanh.

5. (SBU) In Hanoi, there were reports of a handful of
demonstrators being detained on April 29, including writer and
Bloc 8406 activist Nguyen Xuan Nghia. Nghia has reported
regular surveillance and harassment from police, and was
prevented from attending the funeral of Hoang Minh Chinh in
February (Ref C). Nghia was reportedly released on May 2. A
planned demonstration in front of the Chinese Embassy never
materialized, most likely because of heavy security posted
there. Both posts are still in the process of confirming
detentions and releases, but most detentions appear to be
temporary.

6. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Hanoi.

FAIRFAX

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