The mother of jailed photo-journalist Nguyen Dang Minh Man expressed hope that the Vietnamese government will soon release her daughter, but she also expressed doubts that Hanoi will let her stay in the country.
“I hope that Minh Man will be released unconditionally, but I think even if she is released unconditionally, she still can’t come home,” her mother Dang Thi Ngoc Minh told RFA’s Vietnamese service.
“They will expel her from Vietnam,” Dang Thi Ngoc Minh added. “Our family wishes that Minh Man could return and continue her fight with her family, but if the government does not allow her to return home, then it is out of our control.”
Minh Man was one of 14 bloggers, writers and political and social activists who were convicted in 2013 of plotting to overthrow the government and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to 13 years in what human rights groups said was the largest subversion case to be brought in the country in years.
According to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OCHCR) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Minh Man was sentenced to eight years in prison and five years house arrest because she photographed “HS.TS.VN” graffiti and anti-China protests in Ho Chi Minh City over territorial disputes.
"HS.TS.VN" means "Hoang Sa, Truong Sa, Viet Nam,” a slogan that translates to: “The Paracel and Spratly Islands belong to Vietnam.” It’s a statement that reflects the Vietnamese government’s official position on the South China Sea islands, which have been a flash point as Beijing has expanded its presence in waters near Vietnam.
‘Her arrest and detention was not because of any threat to national security’
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on Hanoi to release her because “it is clearly impossible to invoke any legal basis justifying the deprivation of liberty” for Minh Man. While the decision was dated Sept. 20, 2016 it was announced on the working group’s website this month.
“In absence of any information indicating that Ms. Minh Man had engaged in violent activity, or that her work directly resulted in violence, the Working Group concludes that her arrest and detention was not because of any threat to national security,” the group wrote in its finding. “Rather, she was detained in order to restrict the dissemination of material that was critical of the Government and which drew attention to issues of current interest."
While Minh Man was convicted for her activities as a photographer, she was also associated with the Viet Tan pro-democracy group. The U.S.-based group was labeled as a terrorist organization by Hanoi in October.
The group was formed in 1982 by a vice admiral in the former U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government. Viet Tan says it is committed to nonviolent struggle to end Communist rule, and the U.S. government has said it has seen no evidence that the group is engaged in terrorism.
In a statement the Viet Tan said it welcomed the called the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s decision a “victory for freedom of association in Vietnam.”
“We urge the United Nations to task a special rapporteur to examine the cases of all Vietnamese citizens arbitrarily detained for exercising their fundamental rights,” the organization wrote in its release.
Reported by and translated by RFA's Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.