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American University Student Arrested in Police Crackdown on Protests in Vietnam

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An American university student was among the dozens of protesters beaten and arrested in Vietnam this week during clashes between demonstrators and police, according to the New York Times.

Houston native Will Nguyen, 32, was visiting Ho Chi Minh City when he joined protests on Sunday over the government’s plan to allow foreign companies long-term leases in Vietnam’s special economic zones. Thousands of people in cities across Vietnam reportedly flooded the streets over the weekend in a backlash prompted by fears of Chinese encroachment.

Nguyen was “beaten over the head and dragged into the back of a police truck,” when police came to quash the protests around 3 p.m. local time, according to a statement from his family and friends.

Video footage from the protests shows Nguyen with a bloodied face as a group roughly drag him along the road.

According to the statement, he was taken to a police station and charged with “causing a scene and destroying public property.”

Nguyen’s family and friends said the police fines were paid by a Vietnamese acquaintance, yet Nguyen was not released as expected. His current location and wellbeing are unknown as his family says they cannot reach him.

“On June 12, the police arrived at Will’s hosts’ apartment to confiscate his laptop, passport, credit cards, and a change of clothes. They did not respond to questions about Will’s whereabouts or welfare,” the statement says.

Pope Thrower, spokesman for the United States Embassy in Hanoi, told the Times the embassy was “aware of media reports that a U.S. citizen was arrested in Vietnam.”

Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American, was visiting Vietnam ahead of his graduation from a masters program at the University of Singapore this summer. Shortly before his arrest, he tweeted photos from the protest and emphasized the enormity of the Vietnamese government allowing “people to assemble peacefully” to “protest injustice.”

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Write to Laignee Barron at Laignee.Barron@time.com