Vietnamese Political Prisoner and Former RFA Videographer Launches Hunger Strike in Prison

A Vietnamese political prisoner and former RFA videographer has launched a hunger strike to protest conditions at his detention camp, and is now in a dangerously weakened state of health, his sister says.

Nguyen Van Hoa, 25, was jailed on Nov. 27, 2017 after filming protests outside the Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics Group steel plant, from which a toxic spill in 2016 killed an estimated 115 tons of fish and left fishermen and tourism works jobless in four central province.

Hoa, who had blogged and produced videos for RFA, was arrested on Jan. 11, 2017 for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state,” but the charges against him were later upgraded to the more severe “conducting propaganda against the state.”

Hoa’s health behind bars is now extremely poor, his sister Nguyen Thi Hue told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Nov. 27, saying her brother had already been on hunger strike at the An Diem detention camp in Quang Nam province for at least eight days.

“My family came to the An Diem detention camp early in the morning of Nov. 26, and it was announced that we had come to see my brother at the K-2 sub-camp,” Hue said.

“About five to ten minutes later, we saw Hoa, but I couldn’t believe it was him because he looked so ill and tired, and he had to be supported by someone who helped him walk to the visiting booth because he was too weak to walk by himself.”

“This was the first time in the last four years that I saw my brother’s health so badly broken down,” Hue added.

Hue added that her brother said prison guards had seized letters he was going to send to her, and prohibited him from sharing information about official wrongdoing and conditions at the camp with outside contacts.

Hoa had agreed to wear prison uniform—a change from his earlier policy of refusal–so that he could see her and let her know about his hunger strike and the hunger strikes launched just a few days earlier by fellow prisoners Nguyen Bac Truyen and Pham Van Diep.

As of Nov. 26, Hoa had received no replies to letters he sent to Vietnam’s Public Security Ministry and the National Assembly’s Judicial department complaining about conditions at An Diem, Hue said.

US support to raise awareness

U.S. Congressman Alan Lowenthal announced in October that he had officially adopted Nguyen Van Hoa under the Defending Freedoms Project, where U.S. lawmakers work to raise awareness of the cases of political prisoners, advocating for their freedom or for a reduction in their sentences, and calling attention to the laws or state policies that led to their unjust imprisonment.

Vietnam, with a population of 92 million people, has been consistently rated “not free” in the areas of internet and press freedom by Freedom House, a U.S.-based watchdog group.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Vietnam 175 out of 180 in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index. About 25 journalists and bloggers are being held in Vietnam’s jails, “where mistreatment is common,” The Paris-based watchdog group said.

“As Vietnam’s media all follow the Communist Party’s orders, the only sources of independently-reported information are bloggers and independent journalists, who are being subjected to ever-harsher harsh forms of persecution, including plainclothes police violence,” RSF said.

Vietnam has increasingly rounded up independent journalists, bloggers, and other dissident voices as authorities already intolerant of dissent seek to stifle critics in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party congress in January.

 

 

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