Vietnamese Former RFA Videographer Ends Hunger Strike in Prison

2020-12-07
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Vietnamese Former RFA Videographer Ends Hunger Strike in Prison Vietnamese activist and dissident blogger Nguyen Van Hoa is shown in an undated photo.
RFA

A Vietnamese political prisoner and former RFA videographer has ended an eight-day hunger strike launched to protest conditions at his detention camp after prison officials met many of his demands for change, his sister said on Monday.

Nguyen Van Hoa, now serving a seven-year prison term for “conducting propaganda against the state” after filming protests outside a polluting steel plant in 2016, called home on Dec. 1 to say he had ended his strike on Nov. 27, Hoa’s sister Nguyen Thi Hue told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

Two fellow prisoners—Nguyen Bac Truyen and Pham Van Diep—had also resumed eating that same day after prison officials met “most of their requirements” to end their strikes, Hoa’s sister said, without saying which of their demands for change had been met.

Diep, who had protested against the mistreatment of prisoners at the An Diem detention camp in Quang Nam province, had been on hunger strike for four days, while Diep, whose family letters had been seized by prison officials, had been on strike for two days, Hoa’s sister said.

Nguyen Van Hoa, 25, was jailed on Nov. 27, 2017 after filming protests outside the Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics Group steel plant, from which a toxic spill in 2016 killed an estimated 115 tons of fish and left fishermen and tourism workers jobless in four central provinces.

A former blogger and videographer for RFA, Hoa was arrested on Jan. 11, 2017 for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state,” but the charges against him were later upgraded to the more severe “conducting propaganda against the state.”

U.S. Congressman Alan Lowenthal announced in October that he had officially adopted Hoa under the Defending Freedoms Project, in which U.S. lawmakers work to raise awareness of the cases of political prisoners and advocate for their freedom or a reduction in their sentences.

Another strike continues

Jailed democracy advocate Tran Huyn Duy Thuc has meanwhile entered the third week of a new hunger strike, his second in the last two months, demanding that his 16-year sentence for subversion be reduced in line with a law enacted after he was sentenced.

Now in the 14th day of his strike at the Thanh Chuong detention camp in Nghe An province, Thuc has vowed to continue until his demands are met or until he dies.

Thuc’s brother Tran Huynh Tuy Tan told RFA on Monday that many of Thuc’s friends, including the Le Hieu Dang Club civil society organization have sent petitions to Vietnam’s Supreme People’s Court and to relevant government departments, asking that Thuc be freed.

Other letters will be sent to the U.N. and to international human rights groups to put pressure on the Supreme People’s Court, Tran said, adding, “They also sent a letter to our family, asking that this be delivered to my brother, urging him to stop his hunger strike. However, they have not been able to deliver this to him yet.”

Convicted of subversion

Arrested in May 2009 for writing online articles criticizing Vietnam’s one-party communist state, Thuc was convicted in 2010 on charges of plotting to overthrow the government under Article 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. He was tried along with lawyer Le Cong Dinh, engineer Nguyen Tien Trung, and entrepreneur Le Thanh Long.

He is now calling for the charges against him to be changed to involvement in “preparations to commit a crime,” an offense calling only for a five-year term of imprisonment under Vietnam’s revised 2015 Penal Code, and Thuc’s family and lawyers have tried several times to petition authorities for his sentence to be reduced in line with the new law.

Thuc’s health in prison has been a continuing source of concern to his family following a series of hunger strikes, most recently in October, calling for a review of his case.

Vietnam, with a population of 92 million people, has been consistently rated “not free” in the areas of internet and press freedom by Freedom House, a U.S.-based watchdog group.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Vietnam 175 out of 180 in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index. About 25 journalists and bloggers are being held in Vietnam’s jails, “where mistreatment is common,” the Paris-based watchdog group said.

Vietnam has increasingly rounded up independent journalists, bloggers, and other dissident voices as authorities already intolerant of dissent seek to stifle critics in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party congress in January.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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