A group of international scholars has called on Vietnam’s leaders to take action to ensure the health and safety of a jailed dissident in the fourth week of his hunger strike protesting maltreatment in prison.
In a joint letter to the leadership in Hanoi, 33 scholars mostly from the United States and Australia raised “deep concerns” for the health of prominent legal expert Cu Huy Ha Vu, who began a hunger strike on May 27 while serving a seven-year prison sentence on charges of “conducting propaganda” against the state.
“We strongly request the relevant authorities to intervene immediately on this matter to ensure the safety and security of Mr. Ha Vu,” the June 17 letter to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and other top officials said.
“We also urge the authorities to reconsider their position on all prisoners of conscience in Vietnam and rather seek resolution to their differences through dialogue and constructive engagement.”
Vu, 56, told his wife Nguyen Thi Duong Ha that he was staging the hunger strike to protest mistreatment by guards at the No. 5 Prison in Thanh Hoa province that he says has harmed his health and worsened his heart condition.
After visiting with him on Saturday for the first time in weeks, Duong Ha told RFA that Vu was in “very bad” condition and that she was frightened at how frail he was.
Several prominent activists in the U.S. and Vietnam have staged their own hunger strikes in solidarity with Vu, whose case has prompted a call for “urgent action” from global advocacy group Amnesty International.
Vietnamese state media ran reports this week rejecting claims that Vu had gone on hunger strike, saying he had refused prison food but had eaten provisions sent by his family.
Duong Ha said after her visit that Vu told her he had not eaten since May 27.
A well-known legal expert and dissident who had twice tried to sue the prime minister for abuse of power, Vu was arrested in 2010 over online articles calling for a multiparty state.
He is among dozens of dissidents and bloggers who have been thrown in jail since the one-party communist state stepped up a crackdown three years ago.
So far this year at least 46 people have been convicted of national security crimes, and in the past month authorities have arrested three bloggers for “abusing democratic freedoms” by speaking critically of the government online.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.