Radio Free Asia, June 15, 2017: Vietnamese authorities have extended the detention of activist and blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, often known as blogger Mother Mushroom, and kept her incommunicado, her mother told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Thursday.
Quynh, who was honored this year with the U.S. State Department’s International Woman of Courage Award for her work highlighting rights abuses and promoting peaceful dissent in the one-party communist state, has been held incommunicado since her arrest by Vietnamese authorities last October.
Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan, Quynh’s mother, told RFA she was told on June 4 by court clerk Trinh Thi Bien that her daughter’s detention in Khanh Hoa province would be extended by two months and 15 days.
“I immediately applied for a visit, and on June 5 I went to the detention center, but couldn’t see Quynh despite the regulation that I can meet her when the investigation expires. They still refused,” Lan said.
“On Monday (June12), I asked the court again about who is in charge of my visit. They gave me a document saying it was the detention center,” she told RFA.
“Next Monday, June 19, I am going to the detention center again to ask for a visit, but I do not know what excuse they will give me this time,” Lan added.
Lan also said that since her daughter was arrested she has been followed constantly and blocked while walking by authorities as well as men in plainclothes.
Authorities have said Quynh is being detained on charges of “propaganda against the state” under article 88 of the Vietnam Penal Code.
Also on Thursday, citizen journalist Nguyen Van Hoa, an activist known for filming protests against a polluting steel plant, had his charges formally changed from “taking advantage of democratic freedoms and rights to violate the interests of the state” to the potentially more severe “propaganda against the state” under Article 88 of the Vietnam Penal Code, his lawyer told RFA.
“All I know right now is that his charge has been changed into Article 88. I still have not been granted legal documents to be able to defend him, nor have I been able to approach him,” said lawyer Ha Huy Son.
“Now that his charge has been changed, I don’t know if his family still wants me to defend him. I don’t know if Hoa has asked for a lawyer, either,” added Son.
Hoa, 22, who is also a digital security trainer and regular contributor to RFA, was the first person to broadcast live footage of protests outside Taiwan-owned Formosa’s steel plant located at the deep-water port in Ha Tinh province using a flycam drone. Last October, his footage of more than 10,000 peaceful protesters went viral.
Formosa has acknowledged that its steel plant caused a toxic waste spill last year that killed an estimated 115 tons of fish and left fishermen jobless in four coastal provinces.
The company pledged U.S. $500 million to clean up and compensate people affected by the spill, but the government has faced protests over the amount of the settlement and the slow pace of payouts.
Police arrested Hoa on Jan. 11 amid detentions of several activists in advance of the Tet holiday later that month.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Paul Eckert.