The family of a Vietnamese political prisoner and former RFA videographer have appealed to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to advocate for his release during his visit to Vietnam this week, his family told RFA on Thursday.
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 industry workers jobless in four central provinces.
Nguyen, 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.”
“Our family wants the European Union and the United States to speak out about my brother’s case,” Nguyen’s older sister, Nguyen Thi Hue, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service Thursday.
“We hope they can intervene and speak out to protect my brother and demand that the Vietnamese government release him soon,” she said.
She also said that in early October, the family traveled to An Diem detention camp in central Quang Nam province to visit him, but were not allowed to meet him because Nguyen Van Hoa was refusing to wear a prison uniform.
Nguyen was however allowed to contact his family by phone on Tuesday, when he told them that prison authorities had refused to send his letter to them without explaining why.
Nguyen also told his family that he had asked the prison authorities to allow him to see a doctor outside the prison for a possible ear infection, but his request was denied.
He also has asked for a transfer to another prison so that it is easier for his family to visit him from their home in Ha Tinh province, more than 300 miles to the north of Quang Nam.
U.S. Congressman Alan Lowenthal announced last week 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.
Pompeo, who is a tour of Asia, visits Vietnam Thursday and Friday following trips to India and Indonesia. During the visit, he will mark the 25thanniversary of diplomatic relations between Washington and Hanoi.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Eugene Whong.Print