"Why are you following me?"
The Swedish PEN received a letter in May from the pseudonym ”Danlambao”, who wanted to tell us about the state of freedom of speech in Vietnam and one writer in particular, Bui Chat. You can read the whole letter here. It illustrates Swedish PEN's work in practice.
Dear Ola and Elnaz,
Tonight, at around 12:20 am, June 7, Bui Chat was attacked on his way back from a friend's house where he and other friends had got together for dinner after they learned that he had been released on June 6.
When Bui Chat was about 100 metres away from his home, he stopped his motorbike at an intersection, and 4 security police members stopped their bikes right in front of his and some were behind him. He asked them: "Why are you following me?" Upon his question, they immediately threw punches at him, one hit him on his shoulder and the other aimed for his head. Thanks to his safety helmet, he was not seriously hurt. His shoulder now looked bruised but hopefully no internal injury (as the security police are well trained to cause serious internal injuries without leaving visible evidence on the body).
They also shouted at him: "Who said we followed you? It's OUR street, we could go wherever we want, do you hear?" They also threatened: "If you ever dare to show your face in the street again, we'll kill you". Then one of them used his safety helmet to smash Bui Chat's bike's headlight as their last action of "warning".
In addition, earlier that morning, when Bui Chat was interrogated, the security police had told him that they might charge "Scrap Paper Publishing House" with an "administrative violation" for publishing without a permit, and the fine could be up to $30 millions Vietnamese currency.
After leaving the police station, he joined friends for dinner and was attacked physically by a different group of security police force.
If psychological harassment has escalated to physical attacks whenever he's in the street, is there any possibility that we could bring Bui Chat to a safe haven outside of Vietnam.
Thank you again for your kindness and valuable support for Bui Chat and our cause.
All the best,
The Vietnamese writer Bui Chat (born 1979) has repeatedly been harassed by the Vietnamese police for having published poetry collections and organized "illegal" poetry readings. He has also been active in the literary movement, "open your mouth" trying to lay the foundation for an open debate.
To support him and point out the problems that the literature and press freedom have in today's Vietnam Swedish PEN has decided this spring to elect Bui Chat as an honorary member. When he would get his charter, he was arrested at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Shortly thereafter he was released again.