Do Anti-Chinese Protests Pose a Threat to Vietnam’s Authoritarian Rulers?

Do Anti-Chinese Protests Pose a Threat to Vietnam’s Authoritarian Rulers?
A row of charred vehicles is seen at a fire and police station, Binh Thuan province, Vietnam, June 12, 2018 (AP photo).

Will Nguyen doesn’t remember much of what happened immediately after he was beaten by police officers at a mass demonstration in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest metropolis.

A fellow protester tipped him off that he was about to be arrested, but before he could escape into the crowd, half a dozen plainclothes officers descended on him, beating him with fists and clubs. What happened next is fuzzy. Video subsequently posted online shows him being dragged to a police truck, where he had a bag placed over his head before being taken to jail, but Nguyen doesn’t remember that. “When I was put on the truck, apparently I stood up with a bloody head and continued waving the protestors on,” he says in an interview from Singapore, where he recently finished a master's degree at the National University of Singapore. “I don’t have any memory of that, either.”

Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American native of Houston, Texas, was planning a vacation in Vietnam when he heard about the June 10 rally and decided to attend. At first, he assumed the role of an observer, documenting the demonstration and posting photographs and video to his Twitter account. Gradually, however, he became more actively involved with the protesters, helping the throngs of people climb over barriers and push through police lines. That, he suspects, is what led authorities to single him out for arrest.

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