A popular Vietnamese blogger forced into exile said he will stop writing to end targeted government harassment of his family back home.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Bui Thanh Hieu, who writes under the name “Nguoi Buon Gio” (Wind Trader), had announced his decision to censor himself on Facebook.
Now living in Germany, Hieu cited abuse suffered by his ailing mother as the reason behind his decision.
“I beg your understanding for having to say farewell to you for a long time. Farewell, my friends,” Hieu wrote.
“Many people took advantage of my mother, [using her] to force me to comply with their wishes, they want to turn me into a pawn under their control,” he wrote. “This situation just happened in the last few days.”
Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, called the decision of the Vietnamese security apparatus to leverage the poor health of individuals in order to silence critics abroad “absolutely despicable.”
“The authorities are displaying appalling creativity in their attempts to gag those who try to provide their fellow citizens with alternative information to the Vietnamese Communist Party’s propaganda,” Bastard wrote. “We urge foreign diplomats based in Hanoi, above all the German embassy, to closely monitor the harassment of Bui Thanh Hieu’s family.”
Hieu, who began blogging on political and social themes in 2005, was arrested and detained on numerous occasions as reprisal for his critical posts and activism.
Hieu told DW News it was everyday corruption in Vietnam that had prompted him to start writing about the country’s social ills.
“When my son was born [in Vietnam] in 2005, my wife had some complications,” he told the German outlet. ”But hospital staff only wanted to take care of her if I bribed them. That was the moment I started writing about how unfairly regular people are treated.”
He was last arrested in January 2013 after critically reporting on a trial of 14 dissidents. Later that year, he was able to come to Germany after receiving a scholarship from the writers’ association PEN. Since taking up residence in Berlin, he has written three books.
Vietnam has long been ranked near the bottom of RFS’s World Press Freedom Index. The country placed 176th out of 180 countries in the non-profit’s 2019 Index.