Jailed activist Ho Duc Hoa is suffering from a myriad of health problems and has been refused medical care by prison authorities over the past three months, his family members said Monday.
Hoa was sentenced to 13 years in prison, followed by five years of probation, by the Nghe An Provincial People’s Court in January 2013 under Article 79 of the Vietnamese Penal Code for “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration,” and is currently interned at the Nam Ha Prison in Ha Nam province.
On Monday, his sister Ho Thi Luy, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that she visited him over the weekend and found him in poor health.
“He seemed cheerful, but he said little and never laughed—I can see his health had seriously declined,” she said.
Luy said she had also read a letter Hoa sent to the family, dated July 25, in which he said that he had been suffering from a variety of illnesses—including stomach and abdominal pain, high blood pressure, numbness, and hemorrhoids—for the past eight years, but had hidden it from them.
Additionally, the letter said, he had developed symptoms that included liver and spinal pain, weakness in his right arm, and general fatigue since the beginning of the year.
“I also read the letter he wrote to the family, and I could see that his health problems are getting worse and worse,” she said.
Hoa said in his letter that while a prison doctor had given him a preliminary examination, he had yet to receive a diagnosis, and had been refused any medical treatment for the past three months, despite repeated requests.
He also said that Nam Ha Prison supervisor Vu Hao Hiep had ordered the families of political prisoners to refrain from sending food to their loved ones, who were instead forced to buy expensive food of questionable quality from the prison canteen.
Hoa was arrested in August 2011 as part of a crackdown on activists with ties to religious organizations, anti-China protests, environmental advocacy and citizen journalism, and had been held at a detention center in Hanoi.
In June, family members and friends had gone to see him and six other prisoners of conscience at Nam Ha serving prison sentences ranging from four to 20 years following their conviction on charges of spreading “propaganda against the state” or carrying out activities “aimed at overthrowing the people’s government” under vaguely worded laws aimed at silencing dissent in the one-party communist state.
Following the June visit, police assaulted a 70-year-old land-rights victim—one of those who had joined in the visit with the prisoners—leaving him with bruises and a broken rib.
Vietnam now holds an estimated 128 prisoners of conscience, according to a May 13, 2019 report by rights group Amnesty International.
Nguyen Kim Binh of Vietnam Human Rights Network said in December that the one-party communist state is currently detaining more than 200 political prisoners.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Channhu Hoang. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.