Jailed Vietnamese democracy activist Tran Huynh Duy Thuc has ended a months-long hunger strike, his third since October, but said he will starve himself to death if his 16-year sentence for subversion is not reduced to five years, family members say.
Tran Huynh Duy Thuc launched his latest strike on Feb. 20 but ended it on July 8 after prison officials visited him six days before to urge him to resume eating, his brother Tran Huynh Du Tan told RFA on Monday, saying his brother had then eaten a little rice and drunk some Ensure nutritional milk.
“But he told them that he would [resume and] continue his strike even if he has to die,” Tran’s brother said, adding, “He said he does not joke around with his life and that he doesn’t want to remain in prison any longer.”
“Either he is released, or he will die, he told them,” he said.
Speaking to his family by phone on July 30, just three weeks after ending his strike, Tran said he felt as if he had returned from the brink of death, his brother said. “He can’t walk by himself, and he has fallen and fainted several times.”
Calls to prison authorities at Detention Center No. 6 in Nghe An province seeking comment on Tran’s condition on Monday were not answered.
Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, who has already served 11 years of his 16-year prison term, was arrested in May 2009 for writing online articles criticizing Vietnam’s one-party communist state and was convicted in 2010 on charges of plotting to overthrow the government under Article 79 of Vietnam’s 1999 Penal Code.
He is now demanding that charges against him be changed to involvement in “preparation to commit a crime,” an offense calling only for a five-year term of imprisonment under Vietnam’s revised 2015 Penal Code, and Tran’s family and lawyers have tried several times to petition authorities for his sentence to be reduced.
Continuing source of concern
Tran’s health in prison has been a continuing source of concern to his family following a series of hunger strikes.
In July 2019, Tran began a hunger strike over poor conditions in detention, including the removal of electric fans from cells in the soaring summer heat, and an earlier strike in August 2018 left him exhausted and thin after he protested police pressure on him to admit his guilt in the offenses for which he was jailed.
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.
Vietnam’s already low tolerance of dissent deteriorated sharply last year with a spate of arrests of independent journalists, publishers, and Facebook personalities as authorities continued to stifle critics in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party Congress held in January. Arrests continue in 2021.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by Radio Free Asia.