Vietnamese Dissident Ends Hunger Strike After Prison Agrees to Study Complaint

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vietnam-nguyen-duong-thi-ha-may-2013.jpg Nguyen Thi Duong Ha holds a self-portrait by her husband Cu Huy Ha Vu in May 2013 shortly before he began his hunger strike.
Photo courtesy of Nguyen Thi Duong Ha

Jailed prominent Vietnamese dissident Cu Huy Ha Vu ended a hunger strike Friday after authorities agreed to examine his complaint over prison abuses, calling it a victory for justice and democracy in the one-party communist state.

Vu declared an end to his 25-day fast after the supervisor of Prison No. 5 in Thanh Hoa province sent a written acknowledgement of his complaint that one of his jail guards had taken actions that had put his life at risk, his wife Nguyen Thi Duong Ha told RFA's Vietnamese Service after visiting her husband in prison.

"The fact that supervisor Luong Van Tuyen of Prison No. 5 finally had to issue the response to my complaint shows that the 25-day hunger strike is a victory for justice," Vu said in a letter given to his wife which also thanked Vietnamese within the country and overseas who backed his protest.

"This is the first victory of my struggle for all Vietnamese people inside and outside Vietnam and for justice and democracy," he said, also thanking the governments and groups in the United States and 27 other countries that spoke up for human rights and other democratic principles following his action.

Vu was in “very bad” health when Duong Ha visited him last Saturday and nearly a week later he appeared frail and "very tired," she said.

Duong Ha said that prison authorities on Friday also received legal documents signed by Vu endorsing a team of lawyers to represent him in a court hearing where he would appeal his seven-year prison sentence for “conducting propaganda” against the state.

Failure to respond

Vu, 56, staged the hunger strike on May 27 after prison officials failed to respond to his complaints about detention conditions that he had first raised last year, in particular abuses by one of his guards that he says harmed his health and worsened his heart condition.

Several prominent activists in the U.S. and Vietnam have staged their own hunger strikes in solidarity with Vu, whose case prompted a call for “urgent action” from global advocacy group Amnesty International.

The U.S. government sought his release while bloggers in the authoritarian state rallied behind his cause on the Internet.

This week, in a joint letter to the top leaders in Hanoi, 33 scholars mostly from the United States and Australia raised “deep concerns” for Vu's health and called on them to take action to ensure his health and safety.

Duong Ha rejected Vietnamese state media reports that said this week that Vu had refused prison food but had eaten provisions sent by his family.

His cellmate Nguyen Dinh Dam was quoted saying by the state media that Vu "eats well."

But according to Duong Ha, Dam said that Vu "has not eaten anything or consumed any nutritional supplement other than his heart and high blood pressure medicine during his hunger strike."


Vietnam Television (VTV) also showed a video this week to back its claim that Vu was not on hunger strike, but many bloggers said it was fabricated.

A well-known legal expert and dissident who had twice tried to sue the prime minister for abuse of power, Vu was arrested in 2010 over online articles calling for a multiparty state.

His father Cu Huy Can was a revolutionary poet and a minister in Vietnam's founding president Ho Chi Minh's government.

He is among dozens of dissidents and bloggers who have been thrown in jail since the one-party communist state stepped up a crackdown three years ago. In the past month alone, three bloggers have been arrested in Vietnam, according to reports.

Reported by Mac Lam for RFA's Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.


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