At the end of the 2020 Lunar Year, the world is still raging by the COVID-19 pandemic and Vietnam is inevitable. Coronavirus has paralyzed many social activities, in Vietnam as well as everywhere. As for the people fighting for democracy and human rights, protest activities against the one-party government are even more paralyzed by the harsh repression.
On the threshold of the Lunar New Year festival or Tet, what are their wishes?
From Kontum, a former prisoner of conscience Protestant pastor A Dao, who was released last September, continues to work for the freedom of practice of Protestant Christians, said that near Tet, also near the time of the 13th Party Congress, Protestant followers were constantly harassed. Therefore, this religious leader’s wish for 2021 is simply that the government will leave them alone to worship according to their beliefs.
“In Phu Yen, the brothers said that the authorities came to their homes, collected Bibles, and even asked villagers to give up their faith. But some of the brothers have refused so the local authorities spread false claims that the followers are under FULRO. Since I was born, I don’t know what FULRO is. They made up for themselves. We don’t have a problem.
For a long time, they kept saying we were following this and that. But in fact, they have no evidence to say that we are following FULRO or against anything. I did not buy guns and shot each other with the government, why they said we were fighting?
I also wished that, like all the brothers in the congregation, the local authorities are reducing their persecution against us so that our brothers could worship freely and equally according to the Constitution and the Religious Law.”
New year hopes of Pham Thi Lan, wife of a prisoner of conscience Nguyen Tuong Thuy – blogger of Radio for Free Asia (RFA), are just seeing her husband back home, which is even more difficult when it is recently reported that he tore the appeal letter.
“Of course, my most desirable thing is that he is released, I don’t want anything more.”
Ms. Lan said that Mr. Thuy is now 70 years old and in poor health, so she is very concerned because there is not enough information about his failure to appeal:
“I think that he did not appeal, possibly due to the influence of his attorney. Now I have not seen him so I do not have proof. When Mr. Thuy was outside, he was very knowledgeable about the political cases, he must appeal no matter what. Not understanding why his case, he did not appeal. Until the expiration of the deadline, he would write an application, then when he was difficult, he left, and the appeal time limit expires. Before the first-instance hearing, Pham Chi Dung’s mother said, the authorities said that they only accepted the application for reduced crime, not an appeal, so I don’t know how.”
On January 5, 2021, blogger Nguyen Tuong Thuy was sentenced to 11 years in prison on charges of conducting propaganda against the state.
The COVID-19 epidemic broke out again in Vietnam, so Ms. Lan said that she did not know if she would be permitted to visit her husband in February.
The dream of relatives who are imprisoned is simple, like being only once again hugging loved ones. But sometimes the dream is also very difficult to fulfill, as Do Thi Thu’s wish to return to a country with no political prisoners. Ms. Thu is the wife of land rights activist Trinh Ba Phuong. His mother former prisoner of conscience Can Thi Theu and younger brother Trinh Ba Tu were also arrested on the same day on June 24 last year for their human rights advocacy.
Ms. Thu shared: “For Tet, I also hope that all three members of my family will be freed soon. And I also wish that this country of Vietnam no longer has prisoners of conscience and victims of legal miscarriage.”
All three activists Can Thi Theu, Trinh Ba Tu, and Trinh Ba Phuong was detained for more than half a year, but Ms. Thu said that the family had a little joy near Tet. On January 15, we received letters from Mrs. Theu and Mr. Tu.
In it, Mrs. Theu wrote: “I have no fear of the despicable oppression of the communist dictator. The suppression only makes me more determined in the struggle for democracy and human rights.”
And Mr. Trinh Ba Tu wrote to his father: “I and my mother keep the right to be silent and will not accept the allegations.”
Mrs. Thu said, “Since my family received this letter, my family is very excited and very happy because the letter was very difficult, but my mother and Tu were in there, their roommates were very caring and kind, they treated my mother and Tu well.”
She added that her family’s pomelo garden before the Lunar New Year had been in difficulty because there were only 5-6 people in the family and half of them were jailed. But thanks to the support of the community, the family sold all. Many people bought grapefruit in support of this family of struggles. Mrs. Thu said:
“My three family members were arrested, so my family meets difficulties, many times there was a delay in the delivery and order, and at that time everyone joined hands to support, so my family also sold all the pomelo gardens. Within a month that I sold them all, probably 7,800,000 grapefruit. Very happy.”
The COVID-19 pandemic also slowed the activities of overseas activists. In Germany, Dr. Hoang Thi My Lam, President of the Association of Vietnamese Communist Refugees in Germany, said that all political and cultural activities in Germany have been completely canceled for one year. But in the face of increasing repression by the Vietnamese government, such as the Dong Tam case of arrests of activists and journalists like Pham Chi Dung, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, Le Huu Minh Tuan, Pham Doan Trang, and many others. Another person, she said by email, was eagerly awaiting the progress of the community’s immunity so that it could directly advocate for the political parties for human rights issues in Vietnam.
From the US, Ms. Nancy Bui, Vice President of Foreign Affairs of the Association for Justice of Formosa’s Victims, said recently that there is good news that the Supreme Court of Taiwan has accepted the appeal of the victims of an environmental disaster caused by Taiwan’s Formosa company in 2016. Therefore, the Association will strive to represent the Vietnamese victims in court in Taiwan in 2021, and take advantage of public opinion and the Taiwanese people’s understanding of the need to sue the Formosa company.
In order to help promote the fight for the rights of the Vietnamese people, Nancy Bui expressed her wish as follows:
“The matter of struggle, we look forward to the solidarity as well as cooperation to make the fight more effective. People in the country face many difficulties, the fierce repression in 2020 has shown us that it is too much because the first is that the 13th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam causes them to increase repression and when they suppress like that they won’t stop there. The support of the overseas community is also essential. I hope we ignore the differences, especially through the recent election (in the US) so that we can hold hands to help people in the country.”