Vietnamese Blogger Mother Mushroom’s Health Condition Unclear Amid Hunger Strike

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh's mother has had no word of her since July 18, she says.

Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh is shown in court in Nha Trang on Nov. 30, 2017.

Jailed Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known as Mother Mushroom, may be in failing health in what could be the third week of a hunger strike behind bars, according to her mother, who says she last received news of her daughter in a letter sent by prison authorities on July 18.

“My daughter was still on hunger strike as of that date, and I haven’t heard anything about her since then,” the jailed blogger’s mother Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on July 24.

“I don’t know if she is still on hunger strike or not, or what her health condition is,” Lan said, adding that she has written to prison officials asking for permission to visit her daughter on Thursday.

“They have not responded, though, and we have no other information about her. They gave me a phone number to call, but no one answered the phone when I called.”

“I am very worried,” Lan said.

Quynh began her hunger strike on July 6, citing authorities’ refusal to transfer her to a cell away from a hostile and threatening cellmate.

She has continued since then to refuse food despite being moved to another cell, saying her new cell lacks privacy, with even the toilet visible to guards.

'Propaganda against the state'

Now serving a 10-year prison term following her June 2017 conviction on charges of spreading “propaganda against the state,” Quynh had blogged about human rights abuses and official corruption for more than a decade.

She had also criticized the government’s response to a 2016 toxic waste spill by the Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics Group that destroyed the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Vietnamese living in four coastal provinces.

In a July 24 statement, the Vietnam-based Vietnam Bloggers Network called on friends and supporters, the UN Human Rights Council, rights groups, and foreign embassies in Vietnam to pay urgent attention to Quynh’s case.

Visits should now be organized to Quynh’s prison in Thanh Hoa province to demand information about her current condition, the Network said, adding that “letters of encouragement” should be sent to the jailed blogger and foreign governments persuaded to apply pressure on Vietnam to secure her release.

Authorities have long targeted activist writers and bloggers in an ongoing crackdown in one-party Communist Vietnam, where dissent is not allowed.

Rights group Amnesty International estimates that at least 97 prisoners of conscience are currently held in Vietnam’s prisons, where many are subjected to torture or other ill-treatment.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.