As the mother and wife of jailed Vietnamese dissidents, Nguyen Thi Kim Lien and Linh Chau have both endured hardships since their loved ones were arrested. Lien’s son, Dinh Nguyen Kha, is serving a four-year prison term for “conducting propaganda against the state” over leaflets he distributed at a protest over territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea. Chau’s husband, Nguyen Van Oai, was arrested Jan. 19 for “resisting persons on duty” after authorities accused him of violating the terms of a house arrest order he received in 2015 for having ties to the outlawed Viet Tan organization. Lien and Chau spoke to RFA’s Vietnamese Service on International Women’s Day about how their lives have changed and how supporters have helped them to carry on in the face of their difficulties.
Nguyen Thi Kim Lien:
For the four years since Kha was arrested, my life has existed just within this garden [at my home]. I take care of the garden by myself while waiting for him to be released. With support from others I have enough to pay for expenses whenever I visit him in prison.
Before their arrests [her other son, Dinh Nhat Uy served time in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms” in Facebook posts calling for his brother’s release], I did not know anything about International Women’s Day. It was only after they were arrested, when their friends from Saigon began to visit every March 8 to give me flowers and presents, that I came to know about this day.
I have never thought of giving up my fight. I won’t stop looking for justice for my sons and the Vietnamese people until Vietnam has freedom.
Every March 8 my husband used to get up early to go to the market, prepare food and honor me and his mother … He took care of everything in the house before his arrest.
Our life is tougher now that he has been imprisoned. We have an old mother to take care of. I was two months pregnant and not very well when he was arrested. I had to be hospitalized several times since then.
I never want to give up. However, sometimes when I go to visit him in prison, I feel exhausted from traveling the long distance and frustrated if they don’t let me see him. Sometimes I feel sad.
But I have support from people who believe in what my husband has done. They encourage me and that makes me stronger to continue supporting him on his quest for justice … Just like other women, I wish to be beside my husband on March 8, hear his best wishes and be cared for by him.
Reported by Cat Linh for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Edited by Joshua Lipes.