A Vietnamese activist serving a seven-year prison term for his role in protesting a chemical waste spill three years ago on Vietnam’s coast ended a 12-day hunger strike earlier this month, a day after his family visited him in jail, his sister said.
Nguyen Thi Hue told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that her brother, Nguyen Van Hoa, who staged his hunger strike to call for police officers and prison guards who assaulted him to be punished, sent the family a letter mailed on March 6 which arrived on Monday.
“In the letter Hoa writes that he stopped the hunger strike on March 6 after 12 days. Our family visited him on March 5 and had advised him to stop,” she told RFA. Hoa is being held in at An Diem prison in south-central Vietnam’s Quang Nam province.
“Hoa wrote that he got help from other political prisoners during his hunger strike days,” said Hue, who said her brother in his letter also thanked a U.S. diplomat from the embassy in Hanoi who had shown concern for him.
It was not clear whether authorities had taken any action on Hoa’s demand that an investigation be carried out into beatings he received in detention in 2017 and later in 2018, when he was brought from prison to testify in the trial of another detainee.
Hoa, aged 22, was jailed by the People’s Court of Ha Tinh in Nghe An province on Nov. 27, 2018 after filming protests outside the Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics Group steel plant whose spill in 2016 killed an estimated 115 tons of fish and left fishermen and tourism industry workers jobless in four central provinces.
Hoa, who blogged and produced videos for RFA, was arrested on Jan. 11 for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state” under Article 258 of the Penal Code, but the charges against him were upgraded in April to the more severe "conducting propaganda against the state" under Article 88.
Held for nine days at the Ha Tinh police station following his arrest, Hoa was hung by his hands and beaten by eight police officers, who also threw water in his face, one of Hoa’s petitions says, listing the names of the officers who attacked him.
On Aug. 18, 2018, after being brought to testify at another activist’s trial in Nghe An, Hoa was taken by police guards to an isolated room where he was again beaten and verbally abused, with guards from the team transferring him from his prison to the court taking part, Hoa’s petition reads.
Hoa’s petition notes that physical abuse in custody is prohibited by Vietnam’s own constitution and laws, and by the U.N.’s International Convention on Civil and Political and Rights.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has said that police brutality is systemic in Vietnam, whose own Ministry of Public Security has admitted that 226 suspects and inmates died in police stations and detention facilities throughout the country between October 2010 and September 2014.
Prominent blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known as Mother Mushroom and one of the best-known of Vietnam’s roughly 130 political prisoners before her release into exile last year, had documented 31 cases of mysterious deaths in police custody before being imprisoned for her online writings criticizing the government.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Paul Eckert.