Tran Binh Nam
The Encyclopedia Britannica defines terrorism as “… the systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective. Terrorism has been practiced by political organizations with both rightist and leftist objectives, by nationalistic and religious groups, by revolutionaries, and even by state institutions such as armies, intelligence services, and police.”
Based on that definition, what the police did to student Nguyen Tien Nam, writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia and schoolteacher Vu Hung on April 29, 2008 at Dong Xuan market in Hanoi amounted to an act of deliberate terrorism.
In an interview by Radio Free Asia broadcasting in Vietnamese on the morning of May 1, 2008, student Nguyen Tien Nam revealed that, at 9:30 am on April 29, 2008 he came to the marketplace of Dong Xuan in the center of Hanoi, and found some family members of those fishermen who were fired upon and killed by the Chinese Navy in early 2005. They got word to come there to protest against the Chinese for these killings and also for the Chinese annexation of two group of islands Paracels and Spratlys of Vietnam last December. The writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia and schoolteacher Vu Hung were supposed to be there, but Nam did not see any of them.
Student Nguyen Tien Nam carried a banner featuring five handcuffs instead of five rings of Olympics, the dominant sign of the Olympic torch procession in Saigon on that day. He spoke to the crowd in the market, urging them to participate to the peaceful protest.
The police in plainclothes converged toward him, separated him from the crowd and beat him savagely. They then brought him to the office of the Dong Xuan market, beating him hard on the street. There Nguyen Tien Nam met with writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia and schoolteacher Vu Hung, who had been apparently arrested earlier somewhere in the city and brought there.
At the market office the plainclothes police kept beating student Nguyen Tien Nam, causing him to vomit out the food he ate in the morning. Writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia complained against the police brutality toward Mr. Nam, and he himself, in turn, was silenced by blows from the police. Teacher Vu Hung told the police that they should not beat an elderly man such as writer Nghia who was as old as their fathers. As a consequence, teacher Vu Hung was beaten as well.
Thereafter the police in uniform showed up and drove them to the police station of the district of Dong Xuan for questioning. There the police abused them with vulgarity and by midnight sent them back to their homes for further questioning by the local police. Student Nguyen Tien Nam was sent to Yen Bay province, writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia to the harbor city of Hai Phong, and schoolteacher Vu Hung to the province of Ha Nam.
Back in Hai Phong, writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia composed the following poem:
My fatherland is like the donkey skin
That shrinks each time one has a wish
A wish of prosperity: its woods lose their trees, its seas their fish
A wish of territorial integrity: its islands and mountains were annexed by the foreigners…
I stood peacefully with my sign, protesting Beijing
The first people to come were the police
They looked at me as a scabrous dog
I fell down, they lift me up
Their punches again landing on my face.
Yet, they’re my compatriots
Sharing with me this arid land of rocks and sands
This land of thousands years of struggle and pain
To survive and to overcome…
I lied on the ground
My tears swallowed
Which dynasty like this one,
Along the 4000 years of my people’s history
- Nguyen Xuan Nghia (Hai-Phong, May 1st, 2008)
What was the meaning of the violence committed by the police against Mr. Nguyen Tien Nam, Nguyen Xuan Nghia and Vu Hung? It could not be seen as an act of maintaining public order. Force may be used as the last resort to maintain public order, and not to be used to deal with a peaceful protest. The gatherings organized by the student Nguyen Tien Nam conformed to the terms of Vietnam’s constitution and in doing so he did not violate any current law. In fact, the Vietnamese authorities did not indict them and released them after questioning.
As said, the use of force by the plainclothes policemen and the intimidation by the police in uniform against Messrs. Nam, Nghia and Hung should be seen as an act of terrorism, and those who committed these acts must face justice according to the law by the Vietnamese authorities. Otherwise this act of violence amounts to an act of state terrorism condoned by the highest leaders of the civil administration of Vietnam, namely President Nguyen Minh Triet and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. Triet and Dung must be considered as terrorists and to be dealt with by the world community as such. They should not be allowed to travel freely in the civilized world until they order their security apparatus to stop to terrorize the people of Vietnam.
The world community should have a say in this affair to enhance the universal effort to combat terrorism under any form, whether practiced by political organizations, by religious groups, by revolutionaries, or even by state institutions such as the police in Vietnam under the leadership of the Vietnam communist Party.
May 16, 2008