Vietnam dissidents released, sent to US ahead of PM's Washington visit

Vietnam has previously released high-profile political prisoners ahead of of diplomatic meetings with the U.S.
By RFA 's Vietnamese Service
2022.05.12
Vietnam dissidents released, sent to US ahead of PM's Washington visit Prisoner of conscience Ho Duc Hoa, in an undated photo from a supporter's Facebook page.
Photo: RFA

Vietnamese journalist Ho Duc Hoa was released from prison and put on a plane to the United States ahead of a regional summit this week after more than a decade behind bars for treason in what rights activists said was proof that international pressure works on the one-party Communist regime in Hanoi.

Hoa was released Wednesday from the Nam Ha Detention Center in Nghe An province after serving 11 years of a 13-year jail term—just as Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Minh Chinh traveled to Washington to attend a two-day summit between U.S. officials and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Also put on a plane across the Pacific was Tran Thi Thuy, a lands rights activist who was sentenced to eight years in prison on the same charges and had completed her jail term in 2018, the pro-democracy group Viet Tan told RFA

“Ms. Tran Thi Thuy and Mr. Ho Duc Hoa are on their way to the U.S. on schedule,” Viet Tan Director Ly Thai Hung told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

"We did not accept the sentences and fought for their freedom and of course with the support and advocacy of the U.S. government as well as political parties and organizations," he added.

“Like all political prisoners, both Ho Duc Hoa and Tran Thi Thuy should never have been arrested in the first place. Their release shows that sustained international pressure does work. International advocacy is particularly important for the courageous activists who are in need of medical care,” the group said in a statement.

 In 2013, the Nghe An Provincial People’s Court sentenced Hoa and several others to prison for “carrying out activities to overthrow the People’s Government.” Authorities had accused the reporter of maintaining ties to the U.S.-based Viet Tan in a case that drew condemnation from Washington and international rights groups at the time.

Vietnamese state media, which had extensively covered Hoa’s trial, made no mention of his release on Wednesday.

While in prison, Thuy garnered international attention over repeated charges of abuse by authorities. Her brother told Amnesty International at the time that she was unable to recognize him during one prison visit, and said her health had seriously deteriorated.

Vietnam is currently detaining 253 prisoners of conscience, according to the rights group Defend the Defenders, though the organization said it believes that the actual number is higher. Prisoners charged with “sabotaging the national solidarity policy” and religious prisoners comprise the largest number of detainees, while about 100 belong to ethnic minority groups, the organization’s leader said.

Vietnam has previously released high-profile political prisoners ahead of diplomatic meetings with the U.S. When Vice President Kamala Harris visited Vietnam in August 2021, Hanoi released detained Vietnamese-Americans Angel Phan and James Han Nguyen.

Reported by Anna Vu and written in English by Nawar Nemeh.

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