[Vietnam] Mother of detained blogger dies in self-immolation protest

On Monday 30 July, just days before blogger Ta Phong Tan was due to go on trial, her mother, Dang Thi Kim Lieng, died in a rare self-immolation protest. According to close relatives, prior to her death Mrs Lieng and her family had been subject to continual harassment at the hands of the Public Security Police. Most recently, the PSP had reportedly threatened to confiscate her property and deport her family to a remote offshore island. This tragic incident has led to widespread concerns about the kind of harassment faced by relatives of dissidents in Vietnam. 

Next Tuesday 7 August, Ta Phong Tan (aka Cong Ly Va Tu Su) will be among three writers of concern to PEN go on trial at Ho Chi Minh People’s Court. A popular blogger among dissidents, Ta Phong Tan will face trial alongside fellow bloggers and co-founders of the banned Vietnamese website, ‘Free Journalists Club’, Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay) and Phan Thanh Hai (aka Anh Ba Sai Gon).

The three writers are being held for posting hundreds of articles that ‘distorted and opposed’ the Vietnamese government. They are accused of ‘conducting propaganda against the state’ and could each face up to twenty years in prison if found guilty.

We firmly believe that the three writers have been detained in violation of their right to free expression, and are therefore calling for their immediate and unconditional release.

We are also deeply concerned about next week’s trial, particularly in light of a recent report by our colleagues at Reporters Without Borders (RSF) which states that “neither the defendants’ families nor observers [will] be allowed to attend.” We have written to the Vietnamese authorities urging them to ensure that the upcoming trial is free and fair, and in accordance with Articles 14 and 16 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and would urge all our members to do the same.

We at English PEN are saddened to hear of the death of Dang Thi Kim Lieng, and concerned for other family members of the detained bloggers who have also had to endure harassment from the state. We urge the Vietnamese government to release the bloggers and to take urgent steps to stop repression of free speech – Vietnam is the world’s third largest jailor of netizens, after China and Iran.

Kamila Shamsie, Co-Chair of our Writers at Risk Committee.

 

TAKE ACTION

Send a message of support  

Please take a few moments to write a message of support to the three bloggers and their families. Messages should be sent via the English PEN office, or emailed to cat@englishpen.org.

We know from our previous work on behalf of Vietnamese cases of concern, in particular our former Honorary Member editor Tran Khai Than Thuy that these messages really can make all the difference:

How can I convey what it is I felt when I received your letter… every word penetrating my heart like drops of honey carrying those most earnest and heartfelt thoughts from you and PEN.

(From a letter Tran wrote to English PEN following her early release from prison last year.)

Send a letter of appeal  

Write to the Vietnamese Embassy in London

–       Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Nguyen Van Hai, Phan Thanh Hai and Ta Phong Tan;

–       Urging the authorities to ensure that the upcoming trial is free and fair;

–       Calling for an end to the harassment of dissidents and their families.

(Please do let us know if you send a letter of appeal, and certainly if you receive a reply, by emailing cat@englishpen.org. Thank you.)

SAMPLE LETTER

(NB The following is just an example – please do write a more personal letter if you have time.)

His Excellency Mr Vu Quang Minh
Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
12-14 Victoria Road,
London
W8 5RD

Email: consular@vietnamembassy.org.uk

[DATE]

Your Excellency,

I am writing to you as a member of English PEN, the founding centre of the international association of writers, to express my concern for three Vietnamese bloggers.

Next Tuesday 7 August, three writers of concern to PEN – Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay), Phan Thanh Hai (aka Anh Ba Sai Gon), and Ta Phong Tan (aka Cong Ly Va Tu Su) – are scheduled to go on trial at Ho Chi Minh People’s Court. All three stand accused of ‘conducting propaganda against the state’ and face up to twenty years in prison if found guilty.

I believe that all three of these writers have been detained in violation of their right to free expression and am therefore calling for their immediate and unconditional release. I also urge the Vietnamese authorities to ensure that the upcoming trial is free and fair, and in accordance with Articles 14 and 16 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Furthermore, I was shocked and saddened to learn that on Monday 30 July, Ta Phong Tan’s mother Dang Thi Kim Lieng died in a rare self-immolation protest. According to close relatives, prior to her death she and her family had been subject to continual harassment at the hands of the Public Security Police. Most recently, the PSP had reportedly threatened to confiscate her property and deport her family to a remote offshore island. This tragic incident has further raised concerns about the kind of harassment faced by relatives of dissidents in Vietnam, and I hope that this is something that the authorities will seek to address. 

I would welcome your comments on my appeal.

Yours sincerely,

[NAME, ADDRESS]

 

About Cat Lucas

Cat Lucas is English PEN's Writers at Risk Programme Manager

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