Jailed Priest Suffers Stroke

One of Vietnam’s leading dissidents is partially paralyzed.
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A security officer covers the mouth of Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly after he shouts in protest during his trial at a court in Hue, March 30, 2007. Credit: AFP
A security officer covers the mouth of Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly after he shouts in protest during his trial at a court in Hue, March 30, 2007. Credit: AFP

BANGKOK—A Catholic priest jailed for urging authorities to allow religious freedom in Vietnam has suffered a stroke in prison and is now partially paralyzed, according to relatives.

Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly, 63, suffered a stroke early Sunday and was transferred to Police Hospital 198 in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, for medical treatment.

An officer who identified himself as Maj. Nam, who was supervising Ly in prison, called the priest’s relatives to inform them about his health, family members said. 

A relative surnamed Hieu said the right half of Ly’s body had been paralyzed following the stroke, but that the priest was conscious and recuperating at the hospital.

Hoang, Ly’s nephew, was permitted to visit the hospital and described his current condition.

“He’s conscious and able to talk,” Hoang said, adding that while Ly had no paralysis in his mouth, he had extremely limited motion in his right extremities.

“He can raise his leg 20 cm off the bed, and a similar amount with his arm, so there’s been improvement,” he said.

Treated well

A map displays Police Hospital 198 in Hanoi. Credit RFA

Hoang said his uncle was receiving daily IV drips, shots, and medication and that the head physician at the hospital’s coronary department had personally been checking on his progress.

“He has been well treated. He stays in a room under the supervision of five policemen,” Hoang said.

He added that his uncle was in a positive mood and wanted to thank his caretakers.

Ly’s work as a pro-democracy activist and advocate for religious freedom in Vietnam has seen the priest jailed for a total of nearly 20 years since 1970.

Years in jail

He spent a year in prison from 1977-78, and an additional nine years from 1983-92, for what Vietnamese authorities deemed “opposing the revolution and destroying the people's unity.”

In 2001, Ly was arrested at his church and accused of abusing conditions of his probation, leading to a 15-year prison sentence that was later commuted.

He was released in 2004 but placed under house arrest at the Archdiocese of Hue city in central Vietnam.

In April 2006, Ly joined a group of writers known as Bloc 8406 in signing the “Manifesto on Freedom and Democracy in Vietnam” and later began publishing an online magazine called Free Speech.

In September that year he helped establish the Vietnam Progressive Party.


But in February 2007, police raided the offices of the Hue Archdiocese and arrested Father Ly.

As a member of Bloc 8406, he was sentenced to eight years in prison for trying to organize a boycott of upcoming elections.

During his trial, which was attended by foreign press, Ly began to shout “down with communism” but—in a televised image that became an icon for advocates of free expression—was silenced by a security officer who covered Ly’s mouth with his hand.

The image became widely circulated and endures as a reminder of Hanoi’s continued intolerance of free speech in Vietnam.

In July, 37 U.S. senators signed a letter addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanding the priest’s release and urging the State Department to re-designate Vietnam a Country of Particular Concern, citing violations of human rights and religious freedom.

Original reporting by RFA’s Vietnamese service. Vietnamese service director: Khanh Nguyen. Translated by Hanh Seide. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

Comments (21)

Anonymous Reader

I support Mr Thach Chea's assertion is true Vietnam is plunderer is a barbaric tribe of China no certain place to stay. Until 900 AC, We emerged from China. First our Vietnamese captured Champa then to Cambodian Land illegally. The World recognize that claim. We never seen any Vietnamese related historical events in the south-occupied Land. If we do not know anything, let keep silent is better, then no one blames us deaf at all. Mr. Wang also correct. Only Edwin Tran foolish alone. Very unfortunate, our Vietnam have this stupid guy like him. We sorry to Thach Chea and Wang Chang Ly.

Nov 25, 2009 10:51 PM

Anonymous Reader

I remembered there was a time; publics quoted ‘No Chinese No Dogs’ on the street of Shanghai and now you have turned into a one.

Nov 25, 2009 02:15 PM

Anonymous Reader

Thach Chea,
If you a religious man then there is no place nice up here. We are all hardball!

Nov 25, 2009 02:08 PM

Anonymous Reader

Wang Chang Ly,
World is still belonging to China; US financially owe the Chinese and was also why you called yourself as the centre of the world ‘Trung Cock’. Am I right?
It was the true, if China did not help Vietnam then we properly still slave for the French or the US and equally, if the South was to win that war, we would have thanks the US, Japan, S. Korea, Philippines and so on. Vietnam was a play ground for the superpowers battle fields. If I to thanks the Chinese then I must Thank the Russian and the Eastern blocks of Europe much more sincere than the Chinese.
Now, I like chit chat up here only and no need for personal email exchange!

Nov 25, 2009 02:06 PM

Anonymous Reader

Vow! How can you guy claim that those provinces owned by Vietnam? It's very ridiculous and ignorant to say so of the uneducated person like you Edwin Tran. By our government help, your country could stand today if without our government assistance, you have no country and living as a slave. We got you survive on present soil. Think before saying, don't talk without conscience. We Chinese will not tolerate anyone encroaching us, at any costs, we will protect our country. Some islands in which China controlling and more also will be taken because our government gave help to your isolated country to fight America by weapons and all necessary things at that time. And your country leaders agreed to cede us those lands. If you have any doubt, let mail me at lychangchina@gmail.com.

Nov 25, 2009 03:11 AM

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