A Vietnamese woman violently forced by authorities to take a coronavirus test in an encounter that went viral on social media will file a lawsuit against the government, she said Tuesday.
Police in the city of Thuan An, in the southern province of Binh Duong, last week cut a lock on the door of Hoang Thi Phuong Lan’s apartment and dragged her out to a testing site in front of the building.
Lan had told them that she had already tested negative for COVID-19 and was in the middle of teaching an online yoga class at the time of the incident. She also said she was afraid of getting infected at a crowded testing site.
“I have the right not to let anyone touch my body, and what they did was absolutely wrong from a legal standpoint, and it also went against the regulations on pandemic prevention and control,” Lan said in a livestreamed Facebook video.
“It was wrong that they decided to give me a fine even after they were able to get my specimen. Therefore, I am taking legal action,” she said.
Lawyers told local media and RFA’s Vietnamese Service that the police broke the law and violated Lan’s human rights.
State media reported after the incident that Vo Thanh Quan, the Communist Party secretary of Thuan An, visited the apartment and apologized to Lan over the incident. But they still cited her for breaking quarantine rules, seized her ID card, and put the citation on her record.
The party officials spent 40 minutes trying to persuade Lan to “forgive them, forget the incident, remove the Facebook post, and cooperate with them [in the fight against COVID-19],” she said in a Facebook chat.
Lan said in this week’s video that she received the local government’s decision to fine her two million dong (U.S. $88) for health law violations.
She also said that she was afforded no opportunity to contest the fine with local authorities.
Authorities were in the wrong for forcing Lan to be tested, Bui Quang Thang, a lawyer, told RFA.
“According to the Law on Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, Ms. Lan was not suspected of having a transmissible disease as there was no information about her close contact with an infected case or about her own infection,” said Thang.
“Therefore, she cannot be subject to a forced test. As a result, fining Ms. Lan for not taking a test as requested by heath authorities is unreasonable… If the trial is fair, Ms. Lan has a good chance of winning this case,” he said.
Thuan An’s Steering Committee on COVID-19 Prevention and Control issued a decision to reprimand Quan, for his role in directing the police to break into Lan’s home and force her to get tested, but according to the authorities, the administrative fine against Lan is meant as a deterrent to would-be offenders.
Lan’s case is only one example of many incidents where authorities are caught on video committing violence against citizens.
In the city of Bien Hoa in neighboring Dong Nai province, authorities Monday said they were investigating a case of beatings perpetrated by a group of people wearing militia uniforms.
The incident occurred near Market K860 in Bien Hoa’s Long Binh Ward, when the group in militia uniforms detained two young men.
One person was subdued on the ground by the group, while the other was repeatedly beaten on his back and legs with police batons. Video footage of the incident shows that the men in militia uniforms kept striking the two men even after a police officer arrived, state media reported.
In an interview with the local Ho Chi Minh City Law newspaper, a representative from Bien Hoa City’s Police confirmed the incident and said that they had summoned those involved for an investigation.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Eugene Whong.