Jailed Vietnamese democracy activist Huynh Truong Ca has gone on hunger strike to call for urgent medical treatment and to protest the harsh conditions in the prison where he is being held, family members say.
Fellow prisoners of conscience held at the Xuan Loc prison in Dong Nai province have meanwhile joined him in his strike in support.
News of Ca’s strike was revealed by two of his children, who went to Xuan Loc on Oct. 12 to check on his condition, Ca’s wife Pham Thanh Tam told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Monday.
“It was supposed to be a monthly visit, but they were impatient and worried about their father’s health, and so they went a bit earlier, and they learned that he has been on a hunger strike since Oct. 4,” Tam said.
Prison authorities allowed the visit, but Ca declined his family’s gifts of food, Tam said, adding that on a previous visit in September, family members had found that he was ill.
“He had lymph nodes on his neck, had a fever, and could not eat or sleep,” she said.
“At that time, some of the other prisoners of conscience jailed there begged prison authorities to let Ca have tests and treatment, but the prison director said that they would have to ask his superiors for permission, and that they had never before been allowed to transfer anyone out of prison to be treated.”
“And so, they all went on hunger strike on Oct. 4,” she said.
“Ca is very weak now, and though his children have urged him to protect his health, he says he is not afraid of death,” Tam said, adding that Ca’s family wants him to be treated and is looking forward to his next phone call on the 26th, 27th, or 28th of October.
Criticized the government in online postings
Convicted on Dec. 28, 2018 by a court in southern Vietnam’s Dong Thap province, Ca was handed a five-year, six-month prison term for criticizing the country’s communist government in a series of online postings.
A member of the Hien Phap Group, a network of activists calling for rights to freedom of speech and assembly guaranteed by Vietnam’s constitution, Ca was arrested in September after calling on social media for public protests, sources said.
Hien Phap played a major role in calling for widespread protests that rocked Vietnamese cities in June that year in opposition to a proposed cyber security law and a law granting concessions of land to Chinese businesses.
Vietnam, with a population of 92 million people, of which 55 million are estimated to be users of Facebook, has been consistently rated “not free” in the areas of internet and press freedom by Freedom House, a U.S.-based watchdog group.
Dissent is not tolerated in the communist nation, and authorities routinely use a set of vague provisions in the penal code to detain dozens of writers and bloggers.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Channhu Hoang. Written in English by Richard Finney.