One of Vietnam’s most outspoken dissidents has been detained after allegedly calling for a Middle East-style popular uprising in the one-party state.

Nguyen Dan Que, a 69-year-old doctor who was jailed three times previously for his opposition to the communist-led political system, was arrested on Saturday, according to a report on the government website.

The government claimed that Mr Que had admitted calling for strikes designed to bring down the government in documents that were distributed to “reactionary and hostile elements in the country and abroad.”

Buoyed by the “jasmine” uprisings in the Middle East and north Africa, small numbers of democracy activists in neighbouring China have also launched a renewed push to spread their message. But, as in Vietnam, they have been muffled by the might of the state security apparatus.

Like Egypt and Tunisia, Vietnam has a young, internet-savvy population and is facing economic difficulties, with annual inflation hitting 12.3 per cent this month. But diplomats believe there is currently little support for any sizeable anti-government movement given that most young people are still optimistic about the country’s long-term future.

Although many complain privately about government corruption and soaring food prices, few dare to speak out openly in this police state. The authorities regularly detain activists, journalists and bloggers for a variety of political offences. The Vietnamese government insists that it respects free speech and only arrests those who break the law.

On the same day that he was arrested, Mr Que had an op-ed published in the Washington Post in which he criticised the Vietnam government’s human rights record, following an incident last month in which a US diplomat was manhandled by Vietnamese police while trying to visit another dissident.

Fifteen years after re-establishing diplomatic ties, the US has been attempting to foster a closer economic and military relationship with Vietnam, which Washington sees as a useful potential counter-balance to the dominance of China in the region.

But the US and Vietnam clash regularly over the southeast Asian nation’s human rights record. Hilary Clinton, US secretary of state, warned on a trip to Hanoi last year that Vietnam should match economic progress with “improvements in political freedom”.

Mr Que concluded his op-ed by arguing that “if Washington is looking to Vietnam for a long-term partner for peace and regional stability, America would do well to recognize publicly that only a Vietnam that is free and democratic can provide one.”

By admin

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