Earlier this month, an American student was arrested in Vietnam for his alleged involvement in a protest over government plans to allow long-term land leases to China.
After little over a week, he appeared on state television to apologize for breaking the law and promised not to participate in anti-government activities.
Will Nguyen, a 32-year-old Vietnamese-American, was traveling through Ho Chi Minh City when the protests erupted against a controversial proposed law that would allow foreign investors to lease land long-term inside country’s special economic zones.
Nguyen joined thousands of demonstrators who took to the street on June 10 as they feared encroachment by China – a country with which Vietnam has a rocky history.
According to his family, he participated in the protest “not for any particular political agenda,” but in order to support the Vietnamese people and their freedom of assembly.
Unfortunately, Texas-born Nguyen ended up at the wrong place at the wrong time.
In a video that have since gone viral, officers in plainclothes can be seen dragging the 32-year-old by his arms and legs through a crowd of protesters. What’s even more disturbing was his head and face was covered in blood.
The law enforcement agencies accused Nguyen of "causing public disorder" and attempting to damage a fence, along with obstructing traffic heading to the airport.
“I understand that my acts violated [the law]… I regret that I caused trouble for people heading to the airport,” said Nguyen on national TV. “I blocked traffic and caused trouble to my family and friends. I will not join any anti-state activities anymore.”
"I will not join any anti-state activities anymore," he added.
Nguyen was reportedly forced to apologize earlier this month on state television as Vietnamese authorities have been known for coercing accused criminals into choreographed confessions, usually in exchange for more lenient sentences.
Nguyen, who is of Vietnamese descent, attended Yale University and was visiting Vietnam before graduating from the University of Singapore next month.
Up until his arrest, he was live-tweeting the event.
I can’t stress how enormous of an achievement this is for the #Vietnamese people. The communist government is allowing people to assemble peacefully and the people are exercising their civic duty to protest injustice. #Vietnam#Phandoidackhu— Will Nguyen (???? (@will_nguyen_) June 10, 2018
Nguyen’s family and friends made up a Twitter account to draw attention towards his detainment and called on the Trump Administration to intervene.
Forceful escalation from our fierce, determined Congressional team @RepLouCorrea@RepJimmyGomez@RepLowenthal. But one disturbing detail we must remember is that NO charges have been filed against Will yet! Held unjustly. @realDonaldTrump: Will has no voice--will you help him? pic.twitter.com/9xQFjjhWEI— Free Will Nguyen (@FreeWillNguyen1) June 20, 2018
The U.S. State Department engaged with Vietnamese authorities on the matter and Nguyen was granted consular access on June 15, five days after his arrest.
Moreover, three California Democrats in the Congress, Reps. Alan Lowenthal, Jimmy Gomez and Lou Correa issued a joint statement, calling for his immediate release.
“William must be released and he must be released immediately. Our expectation is that the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam and the U.S. government do whatever it can — at the highest levels — to obtain this release,” they said.
However, the 32-year-old’s family wasn’t satisfied with the efforts of the Congress and department.
“There is no sense of urgency among [the State Department]. They don’t work together,” his sister, Victoria, told the Washington Post.
As of yet, it is still unknown, whether Nguyen was forced to issue a public apology or was it something he did voluntarily. However, his friends and family insisted his intentions were not to cause any unrest but be there for his people.
“He went because he was talking about how it was going to be a very historic moment, not because of the particularly political agenda, just because it was Vietnamese people gathering in public taking advantage of their rights of free assembly,” said Mary-Alice Daniel, a friend of Nguyen’s from Yale University. “He was there as a observer in terms of supporting the Vietnamese people.”
Banner Image Credits: REUTERS/Staff