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Vietnam dissident detained for revolution calls

One of Vietnam's most prominent pro-democracy dissidents has been detained after calling for a revolution to overthrow the Communist government following a wave of Middle East uprisings, state-controlled media reported Monday.

Nguyen Dan Que last week posted an appeal on the Internet calling for the masses to launch an uprising to make a "clean sweep of Communist dictatorship and build a new, free, democratic, humane and progressive Vietnam."

Que called on young people to use the Internet and mobile phones to spread the word for millions to take to the streets and demand an end to Vietnam's one-party rule.

Tuoi Tre newspaper reported Monday that the 69-year-old Que was being held by police in Ho Chi Minh City for allegedly acting to overthrow the government. It said his house was searched Saturday and police found 60,000 documents on his computer calling for a revolution.

Police declined to comment.

Que told police he authored many documents and also distributed them to anti-communist organizations or individuals in Vietnam and abroad, the newspaper said.

It quoted Lt. Col. Nguyen Sy Quang, deputy administrator of Ho Chi Minh City police, as saying "Que's act is very dangerous, directly violating the stability and strength of the people's government."

Earlier this month, Que was quoted by U.S. government-funded Voice of America as saying that the Middle East uprisings were motivating Vietnamese to follow.

"The wave of protests demanding democracy in a series of Arab countries such as Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, Sudan and particularly Egypt is strongly inspiring Vietnamese people to stand up and demand human rights and democracy," Que was quoted as saying in the Feb. 10 interview.

Vietnam does not tolerate any challenge to its one-party rule, and often uses vague national security laws to imprison anyone considered a threat. The government maintains that only lawbreakers are punished.

Que is a doctor who also heads the Non-Violent Movement for Human Rights in Vietnam. He has been jailed three times since 1978, serving a total of 20 years behind bars for promoting democracy and human rights. Vietnam considers his actions a threat to national security.

On Saturday, The Washington Post ran an opinion piece authored by Que criticizing Vietnamese police for manhandling a U.S. Embassy diplomat as he tried to visit dissident and Catholic priest Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly last month in central Hue.

"If Washington is looking to Vietnam for a long-term partner for peace and regional stability, America would do well to recognize publicly that only a Vietnam that is free and democratic can provide one," it said.

Last week, Daniel Baer, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary, told journalists in Hanoi that Washington was concerned about Vietnam's increasing clampdowns on Internet freedoms, including a spate of arrests involving bloggers and pro-democracy advocates. Vietnam also blocks access to Facebook and other sites.

"We have been clear that we don't think people should be punished for peaceful expressions of political opinion or any other sort of opinion online," Baer said. "Certainly, those are worrying examples of tending toward a closed Internet and we will continue to raise them."

Que's call for a revolution comes as neighboring China works to stifle protests organized over the Internet amid democratic movements across the Middle East.