Defend the Defenders, January 13, 2017: Authorities in Ho Chi Minh City have placed a number of local activists under house arrest since early Thursday in a bid to prevent them from taking part in a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is visiting the Southeast Asian nation for the last time before stepping down on Jan 20.
Prominent lawyer Le Cong Dinh, former political prisoner, said a group of over ten plainclothes agents are stationing near his private residence on January 12-13, not allowing him to go out of the area.
Dinh said he was invited by the U.S. General Consulate in HCM City to meet with Kerry when the U.S. top diplomat comes to the city on afternoon of Friday.
Other activists have also complained of being de facto under house arrest.
After meeting with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and holding talks with Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son in Hanoi on Friday, Kerry travels to HCM City where he will meet with Dinh La Thang, secretary of the ruling communist party’s Committee in the city.
Kerry is scheduled to meet with local political dissidents, social activists and human rights defenders.
Along with barring local activists from going abroad, Vietnam’s authorities have applied a number of measures to prevent them from meeting with foreign diplomats and officials.
Last year, many activists were not allowed to attend a meeting between President Barack Obama and representatives of local civil societies as part of his visit to Vietnam on May 23-25.