A jailed Vietnamese democracy advocate Wednesday reached the 30th day of a hunger strike aimed at reducing his 16-year sentence for subversion to five years, in line with revisions to the penal code passed after his 2010 conviction, his family told RFA.
Arrested in May 2009 for writing online articles criticizing Vietnam’s one-party communist state, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc was convicted in 2010 on charges of plotting to overthrow the government under Article 79 of Vietnam’s 1999 Penal Code.
He is now calling for the charges against him to be changed to involvement in “preparations 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 in line with the new law.
The current hunger strike is the second in as many months. According to his family, Tran has this time vowed to continue the strike until his demands are met, even if it means his death.
“I wish the Vietnamese government would answer my husband’s petitions,” Tran’s wife Le Dinh Kim Thoa told RFA’s Vietnamese Service Wednesday.
“My husband is innocent, but if it is the government’s view that he is guilty, he has already spent over 10 years in jail. My family wishes the government would answer the petition soon. I have been calling on everyone through Facebook to help us send the petition to Vietnam’s Supreme People’s Court, so that he could be freed soon,” she said.
Le said her family launched the legal campaign in October in hope of sending the petitions, which ask for the exemption of the remaining years of the 16-year sentence, to Vietnam’s Chief Justice of the Supreme People’s Court Nguyen Hoa Binh, and the judicial council.
Tran’s family said they last visited him in the Thanh Chuong detention camp in Vietnam’s northern Nghe An province on Nov. 30. Since then, the detention camp has banned all visits due to COVID-19.
Tran’s health in prison has been a continuing source of concern to this family following a series of hunger strikes, most recently in October, calling for a review of his case.
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 to the offenses for which he was jailed.
Vietnam’s already low tolerance of dissent has deteriorated sharply this year with a spate of arrests of independent journalists, publishers, Facebook personalities, and other dissident voices in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party conference in January.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Eugene Whong.