Long-Serving Vietnamese Political Prisoner Vows Hunger Strike ‘Till Death’
RFA | 2020-12-02
Jailed Vietnamese democracy advocate Tran Huynh Duy Thuc has launched a new hunger strike, his second in the last two months, demanding that his 16-year sentence for subversion be reduced in line with a law enacted after he was sentenced, and vowing to continue till he dies, sources say.
Family members now worry that Thuc will die in jail, Thuc’s brother Tran Huynh Duy Tan told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Tuesday following a visit to the Thanh Chuong detention camp in Nghe An province three days before.
“On Nov. 30, our family went to the detention camp to see my brother,” said Tan. “He told us that he had already been on a hunger strike for the last seven days, meaning he has now been on hunger strike for nine days.”
Thuc appeared to be in failing health and had to be supported as he walked to the visiting booth to speak with his family, Tran said, adding, “He said that his blood pressure has fallen, and that he has lost 3.5 kg [over seven lbs.] of weight.”
Reading from a note passed from Thuc to his family, Tran said that unless he is released, his brother has now vowed to remain on strike until he dies.
“You must continue our struggle for human rights and use my death as inspiration to push our struggle forward through the end of this year and into the next,” Thuc wrote to his family, Tran said.
Arrested in May 2009 for writing online articles criticizing Vietnam’s one-party communist state, Thuc was convicted in 2010 on charges of plotting to overthrow the government under Article 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. He was tried along with lawyer Le Cong Dinh, engineer Nguyen Tien Trung, and entrepreneur Le Thanh Long.
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 Thuc’s family and lawyers have tried several times to petition authorities for his sentence to be reduced in line with the new law.
Continuing concerns over health
Thuc’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, Thuc 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.