Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang Passes Away At 61

Kenzaburo Fukuhara / Getty Images

Tran Dai Quang, the president of Vietnam, was announced dead on Friday at the age of 61. Quang passed away at a military hospital in Hanoi after a short period of what was described as a “serious illness,” state media told CNN.

Quang has been the president of Vietnam since April 2016. In Vietnam, the position of president is largely a ceremonial position, with Quang serving alongside the more powerful Communist Party Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

Before his ascension to the presidency, Quang served as a minister of public security.

Quang’s presidency was marked with a crackdown on dissent, with multiple reports of rights activists being jailed during his time in office, according to CNN‘s reports.

Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, described Quang’s time as president, saying, “President Quang’s legacy is a multi-year crackdown on human rights and putting more political prisoners behind bars in Vietnam than any time in recent memory. More than anyone else, he’s responsible for the ministry of public security’s expansion into all aspects of daily Vietnamese life, bringing all the rights abuses, corruption, and extortion that come with increased police presence.”

Quang spent his career working his way through the ranks of the Communist Party, eventually becoming a police general and member of the Politburo since 1997.

According to reports from the Asia Times, Quang’s death has opened up a power vacuum in Vietnam’s Communist Party. Quang’s hard-line reputation in the party put him in the role as a potential successor to Trong.

Quang and Trong often disagreed during their time in power. Trong has been making major efforts in pushing the party back to his ideological roots and launched a massive anti-corruption campaign. While neither Quang nor Trong made public comments about each other, Vietnamese media has been full of speculation about the relationship between the two over the past year.

Quang had been making much fewer appearances than expected by the Vietnamese president over the past year, including not appearing at the commemoration of the end of the Vietnam War as well as several meetings with foreign dignitaries, usual appearances for his role.

The no-shows raised speculation that Quang had been toppled by Trong, which never had any concrete evidence. Others pointed to the now more likely reason for the absence as Quang’s poor health. Some of the more conspiracy-minded members of the media have alleged that Quang may have been poisoned during a state visit to China, according to the Asia Times’ report.