Viet­nam frees high-pro­file anti-China lawyer

The China Post - - COMICS - BY CAT BAR­TON

One of Viet­nam’s most prom­i­nent dis­si­dents vowed to con­tinue his anti-Com­mu­nist China ac­tivism af­ter be­ing re­leased from prison on Satur­day af­ter serv­ing two and a half years on tax eva­sion charges.

Le Quoc Quan, a Catholic blog­ger and lawyer from the com­mu­nist na­tion, was freed from jail early Satur­day in cen­tral Quang Nam province and met by fam­ily mem­bers who had long cam­paigned for his re­lease.

“I am very happy,” he told AFP in his first in­ter­view since be­ing freed, say­ing he would head straight to a hos­pi­tal for a health check be­fore spend­ing time with his loved ones.

The 43-year-old had been on hunger strike five times in prison with the most re­cent stint of 14-days end­ing on June 24.

In a char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally de­fi­ant mood, Quan promised to con­tinue the anti- Bei­jing ac­tivism that first at­tracted the ire of author­i­ties.

“I have be­come very con­cerned again about in­va­sions of China on Viet­namese sovereignty re­gard­ing the is­land,” he told AFP in English, re­fer­ring to con­struc­tion and land recla­ma­tion by Bei­jing in the South China Sea.

“I pray ev­ery day for Viet­nam’s sovereignty ( to be re­spected),” said the lawyer, adding he looked for­ward to read­ing up on the news af­ter be­ing cut off from the world while in prison.

Quan, who blogged on a range of sen­si­tive top­ics in­clud­ing civil rights, po­lit­i­cal plu­ral­ism and re­li­gious free­dom, had been in de­ten­tion since De­cem­ber 2012.

His Oc­to­ber 2013 con­vic­tion on the tax eva­sion charges was sharply con­demned by the United States and de­nounced by rights cam­paign­ers as bo­gus and po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.

The ac­tivist was also heav­ily in­volved in a string of anti-Com­mu­nist China demon­stra­tions in 2011 over Bei­jing’s ter­ri­to­rial claims in the South China Sea.

Viet­nam has strug­gled to bal­ance in­tense do­mes­tic crit­i­cism of its han­dling of main­land China’s grow­ing as­sertive­ness in the re­gion against tra­di­tion­ally friendly ties to fel­low com­mu­nists lead­ers in Bei­jing.

Anti-Com­mu­nist China protests in the cap­i­tal Hanoi have some­times been al­lowed to go ahead as a means, an­a­lysts say, of send­ing Bei­jing a mes­sage. But author­i­ties have also bro­ken up demon­stra­tions vi­o­lently, ar­rest­ing par­tic­i­pants.

‘Mis­car­riage of jus­tice’

A photo posted on Face­book by Quan’s brother Le Quoc Quyet Sat- ur­day showed a thin but healthy look­ing Quan smil­ing and hug­ging his wife. It at­tracted more than 1,500 likes in two hours.

He told AFP Satur­day that his im­pris­on­ment was “a mis­car­riage of jus­tice” and that he aimed to help oth­ers in sim­i­lar po­si­tions who were “still suf­fer­ing in jail.”

The blog­ger has al­ways de­nied the charges against him.

Viet­nam, a one-party state, is rou­tinely de­nounced by rights groups and Western gov­ern­ments for its in­tol­er­ance of po­lit­i­cal dis­sent and sys­tem­atic vi­o­la­tions of free­dom of re­li­gion.

But as Hanoi seeks closer diplo­matic and trade ties with for­mer wartime foe Amer­ica to counter Bei­jing’s in­creas­ingly as­sertive be­hav­ior in the South China Sea, it ap­pears to have toned down per­se­cu­tion of do­mes­tic crit­ics.

Last year, af­ter Bei­jing moved an oil rig into wa­ters claimed by Hanoi, anti- Com­mu­nist China demon­stra­tions rapidly mor­phed into vi­o­lent protests, with for­eignowned fac­to­ries set ablaze. At least two Chi­nese work­ers were killed.

A hand­out photo taken and re­leased on Satur­day, June 27 shows Catholic dis­si­dent lawyer Le Quoc Quan, left, pos­ing with his wife Nguyen Thi Hien af­ter he was freed from a prison in the cen­tral province of Quang Nam.

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