Vu Quang Thuan

Current Status: Sentenced to prison

Photo of Vu Quang Thuan

Other Names: Vũ Quang Thuận, Võ Phù Đổng

Date of Birth: December 5, 1966

Gender: M

Religion: Christian (Catholic)

Ethnicity: Kinh

Last Known Prison: Ba Sao prison, Nam Ha province

Areas of Activism:

  • Democracy
  • Human rights
  • Labor rights
  • Sovereignty

Known Affiliations:

Highlighted Human Rights Concerns:

  • Solitary Confinement
  • Denial of Adequate Medical Treatment or Supplies
  • Harsh Physical and Administrative Conditions
  • Denial of Family Visit/Punitive Prison Transfer

January 2024:

Nguyen Thi Nhien, the mother of political prisoner Vu Quang Thuan, told Project88 that Thuan is no longer in a critical health condition, although he still requires an operation for a lung condition. Prison officials told the family the operation would cost 300 million dong ($12,000), which the family doesn’t have. Since his arrest in 2017, Thuan has not been allowed to call home once a month in accordance with Vietnamese law. The family can only talk to him during their visits to Nam Ha Prison, hundreds of miles from his home. Thuan told his mother that he wishes to be sent abroad for medical care, and he asked his family to send him some pens and paper – the latter request has allegedly been repeatedly denied by prison officials.

October 2023:

According to former prisoner Nguyen Viet Dung, who completed his six year sentence at the end of September, democracy activist Vu Quang Thuan has lost more than 36 kilograms (80 pounds) and most of his lung capacity, and he has had several medical emergencies in recent months. Thuan is also suffering from severe asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Thuan’s mother shared with Project 88 that her son’s health has improved a little, and he no longer wobbles when he walks. Thuan said he would postpone getting medical procedures done until he gets out of prison in December 2024 (Thuan said that his two-year sentence has been shortened by three months). In the meantime, he will try to survive by only taking medications sent to him by his family.

Details - Background, History of Activism.

Thuan has previously lived in Malaysia, reportedly having fled there in 2009, but he was living in Hanoi at the time of his arrest. He has been targeted for allegedly helping start the pro-democracy Vietnam Progressive Democratic Movement, along with fellow activists who were arrested in 2009.

Together with Nguyen Van Dien, Vu Quang Thuan is a leading member of Phong Trào Dân Tộc Chấn Hưng Nước Việt (“National Movement to Revive Vietnam”), which has as its principle the motto “Democracy, Progress, Humanity, Peace.” After the arrest of a founding member of the Movement, former political prisoner Lê Thăng Long, in Vietnam in a major political crackdown in 2009, Thuận and Điển fled to Malaysia, but they were arrested, deported back to Vietnam, and detained at the Detention Center 34 in Hồ Chí Minh city. Điển was then released, but Thuận was coerced into an internment at a mental hospital in Đồng Nai. After Thuận’s discharge from the hospital (year unknown), Điển and Thuận has been continuing to work together in their advocating efforts.

The duo have been producing and running a YouTube video channel through which Vũ Quang Thuận discusses political issues, advocates for the respect of human rights and democracy. The last video series they uploaded two days ago is entitled “Guide to Lawful Protest,” which could be one of the reasons that triggered their arrests.

Arrested March 2, 2017. Sentenced to 8 years in prison under Art. 88 (1999 Code). Expected Release is March 2, 2025.

March 2, 2017
  • Art. 88 (1999 Code)
January 31, 2018
Dang Dinh Manh
8 years in prison
March 2, 2025

On March 2, 2017, Vietnamese state-owned media announced the arrests of two Hanoi-based dissidents, Mr. Vũ Quang Thuận and Mr. Nguyễn Văn Điển, for “making and distributing video clips with bad content on the Internet.” Official report did not clarify under charges they were arrested.

He was tried on January 31, 2018, by the People's Court of Hanoi together with Nguyen Van Dien and Tran Hoang Phuc. They are were under clause 1 of Art. 88 of the 1999 Criminal Code. Thuan received an eight-year sentence. According to the indictment, Vu Quang Thuan and Nguyen Van Dien were accused of posting 17 video clips on the Internet and possessing materials with anti-socialist state content; Tran Hoang Phuc was accused of helping them in storing the materials and posting 3 of the 17 clips. 

March 2018:

Vu Quang Thuan, Tran Hoang Phuc, and Nguyen Van Dien appealed their January 31, 2018, sentences. 
July 2018:
Thuan and his co-defendants' appeals were denied. Family members were not allowed to attend the appeal trial, and the court still refused to show the videos in question in the indictment; the videos were also blocked at the first trial in January. Defense lawyer Ha Huy Son said of the move: "This left both the convicted men and their lawyers with no way to debate the prosecutors. In other words, the court issued its ruling without considering the evidence, which is a violation of Vietnamese law."

August 2018:

Political prisoners Nguyen Van Dien and Vu Quang Thuan were transferred to new prison facilities. Dien was transferred to Prison no. 5 in Thanh Hoa province from Hanoi Police Detention Center No. 1, 400 km from his family, and Thuan was transferred from Hanoi Police Detention Center No. 1 to Ba Sao prison in Ha Nam province. The two and their co-defendant, Tran Hoang Phuc, planned to appeal to the Supreme Court after their sentences were upheld on appeal. 

July 2019:

On June 30, 2019, during a phone call to family, Nguyen Van Dien said he would begin a hunger strike starting July 1, 2019. Before he could tell his family the reason of the hunger strike, the call was abruptly ended. Meanwhile, Vu Quang Thuan also discussed with his family about his wish to hire a lawyer review his case and draft his will before starting a hunger strike to protest against cruelty in prison. Nguyen Van Dien and Vu Quang Thuan were arrested March 2017 and tried together in January 2018. 

December 2018:

On December 4, Nguyen Trung Quan, Vu Quang Thuan’s brother, visited him at Nam Ha Detention Center. Thuan was said to be in good spirits despite suffering from diseases. Quan brought him some medications but detention officials refused to give them to him. The officials said that they required a doctor’s prescription and also do not accept any items sent from outside to prisoners in general. Due to this, families are forced to buy everything at a higher cost through the detention center’s canteen. 

June 2023:

Project 88 has been informed by people close to the matter that Vu Quang Thuan has contracted tuberculosis in prison, and his aging mother is currently in a dire economic situation.

Thuan is reportedly in critical health condition. According to a former prisoner who knew him, Thuan is suffering from several ailments including lung infection, throat infection, nose infection, asthma, tuberculosis, and more. These conditions have been diagnosed and confirmed by doctors at Ha Nam Hospital. A medical doctor at Nam Ha Prison said that Thuan’s lungs are at only a third of normal capacity and are “beyond repair.”

The source said they witnessed Thuan calling for medical help many times, usually at night, sometimes three or four times a week. However, Thuan was taken to the hospital only once and was sent back to prison the same day. Thuan was put in solitary confinement several times, the longest period lasting 14 months, from March 2021 to May 2022; most of his health problems only appeared afterwards, allegedly as a result of having to sleep on a concrete slab in wet and cold conditions.

Thuan was allegedly punished for demanding better treatment for himself and fellow prisoners, although this has not yet been independently verified. What is known is that he has been allowed to call and talk to his family for only two minutes once a month instead of the standard five minutes allocated to other prisoners by law. Some months he was not allowed to call home at all.

Prior to arrest: Unknown

Authorities claimed a mental health condition as their reason for not bringing Thuan to trial after his 2011 arrest in Malaysia.

July 2018:

Amnesty International condemned the original sentences of Thuan and his co-defendants and called for their dismissal ahead of the appeal trial, with their Senior Director of Global Operations Minar Pimple saying: "These three men have committed no crime; they have merely used social media to express opinions that the authorities do not like – namely by supporting the protection of human rights and social justice in the country." The US Embassy in Vietnam released a statement following the appeal trial expressing disappointment in the outcome. 

Interviews with the family

Profile last updated: 2024-01-19 05:46:31

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter

© 2022 The 88 Project . The 88 Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization registered in the state of Illinois, United States.