A Vietnamese activist has been sent to a drug rehabilitation center as apparent punishment for her participation in anti-China protests, her lawyer said.
Ha Huy Son said 47-year-old Bui Thi Minh Hang was detained Nov. 27 after joining a small protest in southern Ho Chi Minh City. The next day, Hang was transferred without trial to Thanh Ha drug rehabilitation center in northern Vinh Phuc province, near Hanoi. She is to spend two years at the center.
Son said Wednesday that he's lodged a complaint with Hanoi Mayor Nguyen The Thao but has not heard back from him. His request to visit Hang was not met.
The U.S. and New York-based Human Rights Watch have called on the Vietnamese government to immediately free the activist.
"There is no justification for the Vietnamese authorities to pack off a peaceful protester to what is effectively a forced labor camp," Phil Robertson, the group's deputy Asia director, said in a statement Thursday. "Detaining Bui Thi Minh Hang without trial shows a disturbing disregard for her human rights and guarantees for freedom of expression contained in Vietnam's own constitution."
The U.S. Embassy in Hanoi said in a statement Thursday that "no person should be imprisoned for exercising their freedoms of expression or peaceful assembly, or any internationally recognized human right."
Hang was active in the weekly anti-China demonstrations that took place in the capital last summer after Hanoi accused Beijing of interfering with its oil exploration activities in the South China Sea.
Her detention prompted more than two dozen intellectuals and activists to send an open letter in late December to President Truong Tan Sang urging him to release her.
Prior to her most recent arrest, Hang had been detained at least four times in five months for participating in protests, according to Human Rights Watch.