HANOI, Oct 25, 2012 – A 20-year-old Vietnamese student, missing for two weeks since a police raid on her home, is being held for allegedly spreading propaganda against the one-party communist state, reports said Thursday.
University student Nguyen Phuong Uyen, who was detained on Oct.14, is accused of distributing anti-state leaflets and is being questioned as part of a case involving “security matters”, according to a brief report in the state-run Ho Chi Minh City Law newspaper.
Uyen, a student at Ho Chi Minh City’s Food Technology University, is being held at a jail in Long An province in southern Vietnam, the report said, quoting sources involved in the investigation.
Charges of disseminating anti-state propaganda, which carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail, are routinely laid against dissidents in a country where the ruling Communist Party forbids all political debate.
Uyen was arrested “after 10 policemen stormed into her room” and was held at an undisclosed location, according to an open letter by Uyen’s classmates to Vietnam’s President Truong Tan Sang on Saturday.
The letter, widely reproduced on Vietnamese-language websites, said Uyen was “always the first in line to help school charity events and activities,” the students wrote, calling for her immediate release.
Rights groups accuse Vietnam of stepping up its fight to stamp down on dissident in recent years, amid scrutiny from increasingly bold online critics.
A copy of Uyen’s arrest warrant was posted on Vietnamese-language blogs and social forums, while online reports said she had participated in anti-China activities and joined campaigns against rampant corruption in the communist state.
Vietnam routinely arrests and imprisons anti-China demonstrators and anti-corruption activists, with dozens of bloggers, lawyers and activists currently serving lengthy jail terms for involvement in peaceful protest.
Charges of propaganda fall under article 88 of the criminal code, which rights groups say is one of many “vaguely defined articles” regularly used to prosecute dissidents.
Last month, a court in southern Vietnam jailed three bloggers for up to 12 years for “anti-state propaganda” at a brief but dramatic hearing, prompting objection from the United States, EU and international rights groups.