A Vietnamese activist serving a seven-year prison term for his role in protesting a chemical waste spill three years ago on Vietnam’s coast has entered the seventh day of a hunger strike calling for police officers and prison guards who assaulted him to be punished.
No action has been taken on petitions written by Nguyen Van Hoa denouncing his treatment, Hoa’s sister Nguyen Thi Hue told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Thursday, two days after visiting Hoa at An Diem prison in south-central Vietnam’s Quang Nam province.
Hoa is now demanding that an investigation be carried out into beatings he received in detention in 2017 and later in 2018, when he was brought from prison to testify in the trial of another detainee, Hue said.
The officers responsible for the abuse must then be prosecuted, and written apologies presented for his treatment in custody, the petitions demand, with copies addressed to authorities in Nghe An province, Nghe An’s Ha Tinh district, and the Supreme Procuratorate in the capital Hanoi.
Hoa has vowed to continue his strike until his demands are met, Hue said.
Hoa, aged 22, was jailed by the People’s Court of Ha Tinh in Nghe An province on Nov. 27, 2018 after filming protests outside the Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics Group steel plant whose spill in 2016 killed an estimated 115 tons of fish and left fishermen and tourism industry workers jobless in four central provinces.
He was arrested on Jan. 11 for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state” under Article 258 of the Penal Code, but the charges against him were upgraded in April to the more severe “conducting propaganda against the state” under Article 88.
Held for nine days at the Ha Tinh police station following his arrest, Hoa was hung by his hands and beaten by eight police officers, who also threw water in his face, one of Hoa’s petitions says, listing the names of the officers who attacked him.
On Aug. 18, 2018, after being brought to testify at another activist’s trial in Nghe An, Hoa was taken by police guards to an isolated room where he was again beaten and verbally abused, with guards from the team transferring him from his prison to the court taking part, Hoa’s petition reads.
Hoa’s petition notes that physical abuse in custody is prohibited by Vietnam’s own constitution and laws, and by the U.N.’s International Convention on Civil and Political and Rights.
Plea for help
Speaking to RFA on Thursday, Hoa’s sister Hue said she has contacted the U.N. Committee Against Torture, asking for their intervention in her brother’s case, saying that prison officials at An Diem may never have allowed Hoa’s petitions to be sent.
Hoa has asked his family to visit him in prison as soon as possible in March, and he has also asked for a Catholic priest to come to perform a blessing, Hue said.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has said that police brutality is systemic in Vietnam, whose own Ministry of Public Security has admitted that 226 suspects and inmates died in police stations and detention facilities throughout the country between October 2010 and September 2014.
Prominent blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known as Mother Mushroom and one of the best-known of Vietnam’s roughly 130 political prisoners before her release into exile last year, had documented 31 cases of mysterious deaths in police custody before being imprisoned for her online writings criticizing the government.