Vietnamese political prisoner Nguyen Van Dien has launched his second hunger strike of this year to protest the mistreatment of prisoners of conscience, his father told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Friday after his recent monthly visit to see his son.
Nguyen Van Dien, 34 and often referred to as Dien “Ai Quoc,” is serving a six-year, six-month sentence for conducting propaganda against the state after distributing videos critical of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party.
“He went on a hunger strike for four days already, and looks very ill and weak ... he told me that he doesn’t know when he will stop this hunger strike yet,” Dien's father, Nguyen Thai Van, told RFA after he visited his son in prison in northern Vietnam’s Than Hoa province on September 24, 2019.
“I advised him to stop, because the hunger strike does not solve anything, yet he told me that I should be supporting him instead of stopping him from doing this,” he said.
Van said Dien started a hunger strike on September 22, his second since he staged one in July, also to protest the prison's mistreatment of prisoners of conscience.
"We only hope that with the help from human rights organizations to speak up for our son will win his freedom," Van said.
Word of the hunger strike came as 45 human rights and other advocacy groups urged the European Parliament to delay passage of a free trade agreement with Vietnam until Hanoi meets basic rights standards.
The letter to the Strasbourg-based European Parliament said Vietnam has since 2016 mounted “a sustained crackdown against human rights defenders, citizen journalists, and environmental activists.”
“Rights criminalized included freedom of expression, assembly, association, to participate in public affairs and the right to engage in human rights advocacy. Victims are routinely subjected to arbitrary detention and other atrocities. Rather than build confidence in its human rights commitment, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has increased its repression, and continues to violate the international norms and laws that it has ratified,” said the letter.
Vietnam holds an estimated 128 prisoners of conscience, according to a May report by rights group Amnesty International.
Nguyen Kim Binh of Vietnam Human Rights Network said in December 2018 that the one-party communist state is currently detaining more than 200 political prisoners.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Channhu Hoang. Written in English by Paul Eckert.