William Nguyen, the Vietnamese American detained during a peaceful demonstration in Ho Chi Minh, said that he regrets his actions and will no longer participate in anti-government activities.
Nguyen, 32, made the confession on state television a little more than a week after the protest on June 10. Over 100 participants were arrested.
The demonstration erupted to challenge a measure that leases land to foreigners for 99 years in three economic zones. Many protesters believe that such zones would be dominated by Chinese investors.
Nguyen, who graduated from Yale, is a graduate student in Singapore who frequently visits Vietnam. He majored in Southeast Asian studies.
According to his family, he participated in the protest “not for any particular political agenda, but in order to support the Vietnamese people and their freedom of assembly.”
Unfortunately, he ended up at the wrong place at the wrong time.
“I understand that my acts violated [the law]… I regret that I caused trouble for people heading to the airport,” Nguyen, who sustained head injuries in his arrest, said on national TV. “I blocked traffic and caused trouble to my family and friends. I will not join any anti-state activities anymore.”
According to the New York Times, Vietnamese authorities are known to coerce detainees into making similar public confessions.
In videos that have since gone viral, officers in casual clothes can be seen dragging Nguyen, whose head was covered in blood. Three people held him by an arm and both legs.
Nguyen’s family has since sought for help, but criticized the parallel efforts of Congress and the State Department for their sluggishness.
“There is no sense of urgency among [the State Department]. They don’t work together,” his sister, Victoria, told the Washington Post.
However, three California Democrats in the Congress, Reps. Alan Lowenthal, Jimmy Gomez and Lou Correa, have called for his immediate release. They said in a joint statement:
“William must be released and he must be released immediately. Our expectation is that the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam and the U.S. government do whatever it can — at the highest levels — to obtain this release.”
The family also set up a Twitter account that calls for the Houston native’s release. The page more than 200 followers to date.