The US has urged the Vietnamese authorities to release one of its citizens who was among dozens of people arrested during violent protests last week.
Will Nguyen, 32, a Yale graduate who comes from Houston, Texas, was visiting Ho Chi Minh City, en route from the US to Singapore, where he was due to graduate from a master’s programme in July.
According to a statement released on Thursday on behalf of Mr Nguyen’s family and friends, he was “beaten over the head and dragged into a police truck” after joining a rare demonstration on June 9 against proposed special economic zones that have raised fears of Chinese encroachment.
A video linked to the statement allegedly shows Mr Nguyen being dragged along the street with blood streaming from his face. He is later shown standing on the back of a police pickup truck.
Vietnam’s Communist government bans anti-government protests and public gatherings must be approved by the authorities.
However, demonstrations erupted over the weekend over planned special economic zones that would give leases to foreign investors with less red tape, stoking fears that national security would be undermined by giving China control over Vietnamese territory.
Before he was arrested, Mr Nguyen was live-tweeting from the protest, revealing that events had taken a nasty turn after police had allegedly struck a man, who was seen in lying motionless on the ground.
The statement released on Thursday said that he had been taken to a police station and accused of “causing a scene and destroying public property.”
Police struck a protestor and chaos has broken out pic.twitter.com/XMf5x6lEwb— Will Nguyen (阮英惟） (@will_nguyen_) June 10, 2018
It said the authorities had confiscated his laptop, passport and credit cards from the AirBnB property where he had been lodging, and that he had been falsely accused of being a member of the reform-focussed Viet Tan political party, which is banned in Vietnam.
This was “not plausible” said the statement. “The diplomatic protocol is that the Vietnamese have 48 hours in which to notify the US embassy that one of its citizens has been detained, but this has not been adhered to in the current situation,” it alleged.
“The state of his health and his whereabouts are currently unknown.”
Pope Thrower, a US embassy spokesman told the New York Times that the embassy was “aware of media reports that a US citizen was arrested.”
He added: “When a US citizen is detained overseas, the US Department of State works to provide all appropriate consular assistance.”