Will Nguyen ’08, the American citizen and Yale alumnus arrested more than a month ago during protests in Ho Chi Minh City, will be released from government custody and deported for “disturbing public order,” Vietnamese authorities announced last Friday.
The news came as a huge relief to Nguyen’s friends and supporters, who had feared the Vietnamese government would sentence him to prison time — up to seven years, under Vietnamese law. According to social media posts from Nguyen’s friends and family, he is now in Singapore and will return to his native Houston on August 1. Over the past month, American lawmakers and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have spoken in out in support of Nguyen, and Yale alumni have worked behind the scenes to ensure his safe return home. Much to the dismay of Nguyen’s biggest advocates, though, University President Peter Salovey, did not issue a public call for his release.
“We are all deeply frustrated, saddened, and disappointed that the Yale administration itself made no public comment or demands,” Mary-Alice Daniel ’08, a personal friend of Nguyen’s who helped coordinated the Yale alumni response to Nguyen’s detainment, told the News. “It’s deeply concerning when the values of the alumni are out of sync with those of the administration. We would like, but do not expect, an explanation regarding their lack of effort and action both public and private.”
Pericles Lewis, Yale’s vice president for global strategy, said that for Yale it was “most effective to use quiet diplomacy” to help Nguyen rather than applying public pressure. He added that the combination of public and private efforts from Nguyen’s supporters, including the University, “worked out well.”
And in a statement to the News, Salovey said that he was “delighted to learn from the State Department earlier today that Yale alumnus William Nguyen has been released from detention in Vietnam.”
He also issued a number of thank yous — to “numerous officials” at the U.S. Department of State, Embassy in Hanior and Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City for their help freeing Nguyen and to Nguyen’s “classmates, friends, and loved ones” for their advocacy.
“Will has left the country, and we have been told that he is in good spirits, greatly uplifted by the tremendous outpouring of support that he received from the Yale community,” Salovey said.
Still, in an interview on July 11, when Nguyen was still awaiting trial, Daniel expressed her frustration that the University had not made more of an effort to work with her and Nguyen’s other closest supporters, despite their requests for help.
“We are very confused, but I am too tired to be angry,” she said at the time.
On Friday, Daniel thanked the Yale Alumni Network for helping draw media attention to Nguyen’s arrest. She said that Mark Beyersdorf ’08, a media consultant, was “especially helpful” for coordinating media relations and that Kevin Webb ’10, an attorney, helped Nguyen’s friends and family lobby for help on Capitol Hill.
“It was the post in the Yale Alumni [Facebook] group that triggered an outpouring of support and resources,” Daniel told the News. “Without the Yale Alumni Network, many of the contacts we made in order to get such extensive media coverage would have been impossible.”