Imprisoned Vietnamese activist ‘Onion Bae’ denied family visits

They haven’t been able to see him since his appeal 7 weeks ago.
By RFA Vietnamese
2023.10.17
Imprisoned Vietnamese activist ‘Onion Bae’ denied family visits Bui Tuan Lam with his handmade human rights products.
Facebook: Le Thanh Lam

Bui Tuan Lam, the Vietnamese activist known as ‘Onion Bae,’ has not been allowed to see his family since his unsuccessful appeal on Aug. 30, his wife told Radio Free Asia.

Police at the detention center in Da Nang have given the family no reason for the decision despite their requests.

Lam, 39, was arrested in Sept. 2022 on charges of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under the controversial Article 117 of the criminal code.

He is an active human rights defender who took part in the movement protesting China’s territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea.

He was arrested shortly after posting a video mocking the expensive dining habits of the country’s public security minister.

In the first instance trial in May, Lam was sentenced to five years and six months in prison and four years of probation. 

The Higher People’s Court in Da Nang upheld the verdict in the appeal session. Lam’s wife Le Thanh Lam told RFA Vietnamese on Monday, she has been unable to meet him since then.

“My husband was disciplined in September so he was not allowed a visit,” she said. 

“I sent in a request on Oct. 2. Up to now, the camp still has not given permission for us to see him.”

Last month Lam’s wife went to the detention center to meet her husband but was refused on the grounds that he was being disciplined. The camp did not say what the disciplinary action was or why it was being taken.

Ms. Lam said she is worried about her husband because she had not heard anything from him since their last meeting at the end of August, a few days before the appeal hearing.

“I didn’t know if my husband had any problems or not, but they were preventing that visit because they may have been afraid that my husband would reveal some information, so they behaved in such an illegal way.”

She did not rule out the possibility that her husband had been transferred to prison to serve his sentence without the police notifying his family.

RFA called Da Nang City Police and Hoa Son Detention Center to ask for information about Lam and verify the information provided by his wife, but no one answered the phone.

According to Article 9 of the Law on Enforcement of Custody and Temporary Detention, people have the right to receive letters and gifts, as well as meet relatives and advocates.

During her husband’s trial, Lam and her family members were not allowed to enter the courtroom. His two younger brothers were beaten and detained by the police while his wife was taken to the police station and only allowed to return home in the evening.

After the trial Lam was put in leg shackles but the police gave no reason for the disciplinary action.

Before the appeal, lawyer Le Dinh Viet was not allowed to meet his client to prepare for his defense. During the appeal hearing, Lam and his lawyer were prevented from communicating, even by eye contact, according to Viet.

Lam is one of dozens of activists who have been imprisoned on charges of “anti-state propaganda” in recent years. Not many of the prisoners have been disciplined and denied family visits.

Before Lam’s trial and appeal, Human Rights Watch called on Vietnam to drop the charges and release him, saying it was legal to criticize the government in a peaceful manner. 

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang.

POST A COMMENT

Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.