Police in Vietnam detain YouTube activist for days without informing family

Phan Van Bach posted videos about people who experienced injustice.


RFA | 2024.01.02

Police in Hanoi have detained a former member of a YouTube channel on which videos about those who had suffered injustices were posted, his wife told Radio Free Asia on Tuesday.

Authorities apprehended Phan Van Bach, a former member of the CHTV channel, an independent television channel on YouTube specializing in social injustice issues, from his home in the capital’s Dong Da district on Dec. 29. They have held him for five days without informing his family, his spouse Nguyen Thi Lieu said.  

Bach, 48, was involved in the channel from 2017 to 2019, according to Vu Manh Tuan, another CHTV member who now lives in Nha Trang city.

“Bach did not focus on any particular subjects,” he told RFA. “He used to conduct talks in an improvisational way. He used to talk about the bad things of the regime and society. Then, Bach announced he was quitting CHTV.” 

It is common for security forces in the one-party communist state to detain activists for days of interrogation before publicly disclosing their arrest warrants and charges.

Lieu said her husband was home alone at the time of his arrest, and before leaving with authorities, gave his house keys to a police officer in charge of the residential area to hand over to his family. 

That officer told Lieu that city police searched their home but confiscated nothing. 

“The neighborhood police officer said that my husband had been ‘invited’ to a meeting by the city police,” Lieu said. “I went there [to city police headquarters] the next day to ask about my husband, but the staff said I’d better just leave my phone number, and their agency would contact me later.” 

As of Tuesday, the family had not received any updates from police. 

No word

During the past few days, Lieu dropped by city police headquarters multiple times only to receive the same response.  She said she didn’t know why police were still holding her husband.

“Previously, they summoned him for meetings several times but let him return home on the same day,” she said. “However, this time [is different].” 

RFA could not reach the neighborhood police officer for comment.

A staffer at the Hanoi police hotline said the service did not have information about Bach’s detention.

Bach participated in several peaceful demonstrations in Hanoi, including protests against China’s aggressive activities in the South China Sea since 2011, tree cutting in 2015, and the environmental disaster caused by a toxic waste spill that affected Vietnam’s central coastal area in 2016. 

He also spoke up against government crackdowns on political dissidents, supported people facing injustice via Facebook, and took part in campaigns demanding the release of detained activists. 

Founded by prisoner of conscience Vu Quang Thuan, CHTV covered hot-button socioeconomic issues in Vietnam. 

Thuan along with members Le Van Dung and Le Trong Hung are in prison on charges of disseminating anti-state propaganda because of their involvement in CHTV.

Former CHTV member Tuan said police also summoned and questioned him about the YouTube channel, but released him the same day. 

When visiting friends and some activists in the Central Highland province of Lam Dong in late December 2018, Bach was injured during a beating by local security forces, and then forced to return to Hanoi, said activist Pham The Luc. 

In recent years, Bach worked with a company that sends Vietnamese people abroad as guest workers, according to information on his Facebook account. 

Translated by Anna Vu for RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.




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