Profile

Nguyen Thuy Hanh

Current Status: Pre-trial detention

Photo of Nguyen Thuy Hanh

Other Names: Nguyễn Thúy Hạnh (Liberty)

Date of Birth: May 25, 1963

Gender: F

Religion: Buddhist

Last Known Prison: Prison No. 2, Thuong Tin district, Hanoi

Areas of Activism:

  • Environment
  • Land rights
  • Sovereignty

Known Affiliations:

Highlighted Human Rights Concerns:

  • Denial of Adequate Medical Treatment or Supplies
  • Prolonged Incommunicado Detention
  • Harsh Physical and Administrative Conditions
  • Denial of Family Visit/Punitive Prison Transfer
  • Infliction of Physical and Psychological Pain

March 2024:

Late March:

Huynh Ngoc Chenh, Hanh's husband, told Project88 that on March 10 he was called to the police station to file paperwork that would allow him to bring Hanh home for cancer treatment, provided that she remain at the residence where she was living at the time of her arrest. However, that apartment had since been leased to another tenant, and the lease would not expire until March 18. Chenh told the police he would try to negotiate with the tenant to end the lease early so his wife could move back to that residence; however, that effort failed. Then on March 17, he called the authorities to let them know that he could take Hanh home on March 18, but received no response from them. Then on March 22, after Hanh’s radiation therapy, the authorities went to K Hospital and read an order to continue Hanh’s “temporary detention” for another three months. She was then taken back to the jail on 2 Thuong Tin St. It is not clear why Hanh’s family was given such false hopes.

***

An update on Nguyen Thuy Hanh’s medical treatment from her husband, Huynh Ngoc Chenh:

Hanh has been getting five sessions of radiation therapy and one session of chemotherapy a week, which restarted on Feb. 19 after the Tet holiday. Every weekday afternoon, Hanh is transported by ambulance from the Central Psychiatric Center in Hanoi, where she’s being held in pretrial detention, to Hospital K for radiation therapy. On days that she also has chemotherapy, the session starts in the morning. Chenh, who lives in Quang Nam Province in Central Vietnam, is renting a room near the hospital so he can come see her when she gets to the hospital and after the session finishes. This allows them to have brief conversations as he walks with her to and from the ambulance.

Hanh has gone through 10 radiation and two chemo sessions, which have caused her extreme pain and discomfort when she gets back to the detention center, where she often throws up her food. Several family members of imprisoned activists have also traveled to Hanoi to see her at the hospital. Hanh said she was aware that many people and organizations are following her case and that this has given her the motivation and energy to fight on.

A petition signed by dozens of prominent citizens and organizations has been sent to President Vo Van Thuong, asking for Nguyen Thuy Hanh to be released from pre-trial detention so that her family can be with her and take better care of her during these excruciating therapy sessions. See the full text of the petition in the "Take Action" section of the profile. 

February 2024:

Nguyen Thuy Hanh’s husband, Huynh Ngoc Chenh, told Project88 that as of Feb. 4 Hanh has had five sessions of radiotherapy and one session of chemotherapy at Tan Trieu’s K Hospital to treat her cervical cancer. She will now go back to the Central Psychiatry Hospital in Hanoi and be kept there until after Tet. Starting on the 10th day of the Lunar New Year, she will undergo 20 more radiotherapy and four more chemotherapy sessions over three months. In the resources section is the first public photo of Hanh since her arrest in 2021. 

January 2024:

Nguyen Thuy Hanh is believed to have been diagnosed with stage 2 cervical cancer, according to a Facebook post by her husband, Huynh Ngoc Chenh. Since April 2022, Hanh has been kept at the Central Psychiatric Hospital in Hanoi, where she is being treated for clinical depression. He believes the lack of sanitation and clean water might be a contributing factor to her illness. At the time of his initial post, Chenh said that Hanh had not been given any radiation therapy due to the long waiting list. 

Update:

Huynh Ngoc Chenh, along with Hanh’s lawyers, has filed a petition asking the government to allow Hanh to be released from temporary detention to be treated for cancer. At the beginning of this year, Hanh started to have unusual symptoms and was taken to Hospital K in Tan Trieu, in Hanoi, for further examinations. On Jan. 25, a team of doctors at the hospital confirmed that she has “middle stage” cervical cancer, according to Chenh. Doctors have recommended a treatment plan for Hanh that includes both chemotherapy and radiotherapy; she has begun treatment.

December 2023:

Human rights activist Nguyen Thuy Hanh’s family told Project88 after their latest visit that Hanh was transferred from the Van Hoa temporary detention center to the Central Psychiatric Hospital, both in Hanoi on April 27, 2022, and has been kept there since. She’s given medication twice a day. Any patient who refuses to take the medication is allegedly tied up and forced to do so, as they did with Hanh.

In October of this year, her condition worsened and she could not sleep and suffered from prolonged periods of stress. Since being prescribed a new medication, she has been able to sleep better. Each room is about 15 square meters and holds seven patients, most of whom have committed serious crimes, such as killing a spouse or child. The family is allowed one visit a month. They are separated by a glass window and must talk by phone. A bit of bittersweet news: Hanh has become a grandmother; her daughter-in-law delivered twin boys three weeks ago.

Details

Immediate Concerns

March 2024:

Late March:

Huynh Ngoc Chenh, Hanh's husband, told Project88 that on March 10 he was called to the police station to file paperwork that would allow him to bring Hanh home for cancer treatment, provided that she remain at the residence where she was living at the time of her arrest. However, that apartment had since been leased to another tenant, and the lease would not expire until March 18. Chenh told the police he would try to negotiate with the tenant to end the lease early so his wife could move back to that residence; however, that effort failed. Then on March 17, he called the authorities to let them know that he could take Hanh home on March 18, but received no response from them. Then on March 22, after Hanh’s radiation therapy, the authorities went to K Hospital and read an order to continue Hanh’s “temporary detention” for another three months. She was then taken back to the jail on 2 Thuong Tin St. It is not clear why Hanh’s family was given such false hopes.

***

An update on Nguyen Thuy Hanh’s medical treatment from her husband, Huynh Ngoc Chenh:

Hanh has been getting five sessions of radiation therapy and one session of chemotherapy a week, which restarted on Feb. 19 after the Tet holiday. Every weekday afternoon, Hanh is transported by ambulance from the Central Psychiatric Center in Hanoi, where she’s being held in pretrial detention, to Hospital K for radiation therapy. On days that she also has chemotherapy, the session starts in the morning. Chenh, who lives in Quang Nam Province in Central Vietnam, is renting a room near the hospital so he can come see her when she gets to the hospital and after the session finishes. This allows them to have brief conversations as he walks with her to and from the ambulance.

Hanh has gone through 10 radiation and two chemo sessions, which have caused her extreme pain and discomfort when she gets back to the detention center, where she often throws up her food. Several family members of imprisoned activists have also traveled to Hanoi to see her at the hospital. Hanh said she was aware that many people and organizations are following her case and that this has given her the motivation and energy to fight on.

A petition signed by dozens of prominent citizens and organizations has been sent to President Vo Van Thuong, asking for Nguyen Thuy Hanh to be released from pre-trial detention so that her family can be with her and take better care of her during these excruciating therapy sessions. See the full text of the petition in the "Take Action" section of the profile. 

February 2024:

Nguyen Thuy Hanh’s husband, Huynh Ngoc Chenh, told Project88 that as of Feb. 4 Hanh has had five sessions of radiotherapy and one session of chemotherapy at Tan Trieu’s K Hospital to treat her cervical cancer. She will now go back to the Central Psychiatry Hospital in Hanoi and be kept there until after Tet. Starting on the 10th day of the Lunar New Year, she will undergo 20 more radiotherapy and four more chemotherapy sessions over three months. In the resources section is the first public photo of Hanh since her arrest in 2021. 

January 2024:

Nguyen Thuy Hanh is believed to have been diagnosed with stage 2 cervical cancer, according to a Facebook post by her husband, Huynh Ngoc Chenh. Since April 2022, Hanh has been kept at the Central Psychiatric Hospital in Hanoi, where she is being treated for clinical depression. He believes the lack of sanitation and clean water might be a contributing factor to her illness. At the time of his initial post, Chenh said that Hanh had not been given any radiation therapy due to the long waiting list. 

Update:

Huynh Ngoc Chenh, along with Hanh’s lawyers, has filed a petition asking the government to allow Hanh to be released from temporary detention to be treated for cancer. At the beginning of this year, Hanh started to have unusual symptoms and was taken to Hospital K in Tan Trieu, in Hanoi, for further examinations. On Jan. 25, a team of doctors at the hospital confirmed that she has “middle stage” cervical cancer, according to Chenh. Doctors have recommended a treatment plan for Hanh that includes both chemotherapy and radiotherapy; she has begun treatment.

December 2023:

Human rights activist Nguyen Thuy Hanh’s family told Project88 after their latest visit that Hanh was transferred from the Van Hoa temporary detention center to the Central Psychiatric Hospital, both in Hanoi on April 27, 2022, and has been kept there since. She’s given medication twice a day. Any patient who refuses to take the medication is allegedly tied up and forced to do so, as they did with Hanh.

In October of this year, her condition worsened and she could not sleep and suffered from prolonged periods of stress. Since being prescribed a new medication, she has been able to sleep better. Each room is about 15 square meters and holds seven patients, most of whom have committed serious crimes, such as killing a spouse or child. The family is allowed one visit a month. They are separated by a glass window and must talk by phone. A bit of bittersweet news: Hanh has become a grandmother; her daughter-in-law delivered twin boys three weeks ago.

Background

Nguyen Thuy Hanh lives in Hanoi. In 2016, Hanh self-nominated herself in an election of the National Assembly.

Profile photo source: Facebook Nguyễn Thúy Hạnh

History of Activism

Hanh has been an activist since 2011, but it wasn’t until she founded the 50K Fund that the authorities began to follow her movements in earnest. She later opened an account to raise money for the family of slain Dong Tam Commune leader Le Dinh Kinh, at the request of land rights activist Trinh Ba Phuong. The authorities decided to arrest Hanh after they arrested Phuong, his brother Trinh Ba Tu, and their mother Can Thi Theu. Read Hanh’s husband, Huynh Ngoc Chenh’s, letter about her activism here.

Hanh is an active activist, who often participates in demonstrations against China’s claim of Nine-Dash-Lines on the South China Sea. She also joins campaigns calling for environmental protection and honors soldiers of the former South Vietnam who died in battles to protect the maritime sovereignty of Vietnam.

Hanh created “Quy 50k” (or 50k Fund) to collect money from supporters and distribute it to families of prisoners of conscience. All donations have been publicized on her Facebook Nguyễn Thúy Hạnh.

October 2019:

An Ninh ("Security") TV (antv.gov.vn), a state-owned channel dedicated to security-related news, was airing a series of programs to defame well-known political activists. On October 27, 2019, An Ninh TV aired a program in which it identified several activists as “subversives,” among them: Le Trung Khoa, Le Dung Vova, Nguyen Thuy Hanh, Pham Doan Trang, and Dung Truong. The program also provided ways to recognize those activists on social media. On October 31, 2019, Le Dung Vova and his CHTV channel were publicly-accused of igniting some people to question the government.

December 2019:

Pro-democracy group Viet Tan awarded Nguyen Thuy Hanh the Le Dinh Luong Human Rights Award for her establishment of the 50k Fund, which supports political prisoners and their families through monetary donations. It is unclear if Hanh will be able to accept her award in person in London, as travel restrictions are a common tactic used by the authorities to restrict activism efforts. 

January 19, 2019: harassed after honoring soldiers who died in the Hoang Sa battle in 1974

January 19, 2019
Le Thai To King Monument, No 16, Le Thai To Street, Hoan Kiem District, Ha Noi (map)

On January 19, 2019, Nguyen Thuy Hanh, Truong Van Dung, and Nguyen Van Phuong went to Ly Thai To Statue to honor soldiers of the former South Vietnam (Republic of Vietnam) who died in the Hoang Sa battle on January 19, 1974. When they were on the way back from the trip, the public security of Hoan Kiem District blocked them and beat Truong Dung. They only stopped beating him when Hanh shouted loudly. Finally, the police of Thanh Xuan District escorted all of them to Hanh’s house in Hanoi.

July 12, 2019: beaten by thugs when visiting prison No. 6

July 12, 2019
Hanh Lam ward, Thanh Chuong district, Nghe An province (map)

On July 12, 2019, Nguyen Thuy Hanh and 19 family members and supporters of political prisoners were physically attacked by thugs who they believed to be plain-clothes prison officers and public security officers. Activist Trinh Ba Phuong, son of former political prisoner Can Thi Theu, told VOA Vietnamese that the group was on its way to Prison No. 6 with some posters solely to visit and support prisoners such as Truong Minh Duc, who were on hunger strike at the time. When the visitors group tried to approach Camp 6 by car, a truck seemed to purposely park to block the road, so they decided to walk the rest of the way. This is where the attack took place. Activists Trinh Ba Khiem, Nguyen Thuy Hanh and Huynh Ngoc Chenh were not only physically assaulted, but their belongings, including money, phones, and personal documents were taken by the attackers.

After the attack, the group was forced to go back to the main road and was escorted to Vinh city, unable to complete the visit.

January, 2020: surveiled in the aftermath of the Dong Tam raid

January, 2020
Ha Noi (map)

On January 9, 2020, a massive police force stormed into Dong Tam commune and violently assaulted and detained citizens, as well as killed community leader Le Dinh Kinh. The area is home to a longstanding land conflict. In the aftermath of the raid, authorities targeted local activists who reported on the incident and advocated for affected locals. 

Hanh and her husband Huynn Ngoc Chenh have been under surveillance and were also prohibited from leaving their home to attend Le Dinh Kinh’s funeral.

January 20, 2020: detained and questioned about charitable donations for victim of police brutality

January 20, 2020
Hanoi (map)

Following the raid in Dong Tam village on January 9, around 700 people in Vietnam have sent “condolence money” to the bank account of activist Nguyen Thuy Hanh so that she could send it to the family of Le Dinh Kinh, a local leader who was killed in the raid. It is a tradition after the death of a loved one to send the family a small amount of money to show support. However, Vietcombank, the largest commercial bank in Vietnam, had frozen Hanh’s account, saying that the authorities ordered them to do so since the money collection was alleged to be in violation of the law on financing terrorism. On January 20, when Hanh was on her way back home after meeting with the representative of Vietcombank, she was detained by the forces of the Ministry of Public Security and temporarily held at the office of the Security Investigating Agency. They interrogated her for several hours about any connection she had to Le Dinh Kinh or those who donated to his family before releasing her at 6:00 pm on the same day. They asked her to sign a document before release, but she refused.

December 2, 2020: summoned and harassed by public security forces

December 02-31, 2020
Hanh’s private home (map)

On December 2, 2020, the Public security of Ha Noi City sent a summons to Nguyen Thuy Hanh requesting her presence at their office.  The problem was, however, such a letter provided no legal justification or reason for summoning Hanh. They simply told her that the invitation was from the Cyber Security and High-tech Crime Prevention Department under the Ministry of Public Security, even when Hanh pressed for further information. These types of vague and suspicious summons are unlawful under Vietnamese laws. 

It is a classic tactic of the security force to lure the activists to meet them “voluntarily," then deny any responsibility when facing accusations. The local authorities have repeatedly harassed and “invited” Hanh to work with them. It is reported that they asked for her presence again on December 31, 2020.

Charged under Art. 117 (2015 Code).

  • Art. 117 (2015 Code)
Hanoi city public security, Hanoi
Hanoi (map)
unknown
Le Van Luan

Details of Imprisonment

On April 7, around 30 public security officers arrested Nguyen Thuy Hanh at her home. She is charged under Article 117 of the 2015 Criminal Code for "conducting propaganda against the state." Her arrest came soon after Vietnam's National Party Congress and right before its National Assmebly elections. Hanh self-nominated for the 2016 National Assembly elections but had not announced a run this year. She is a well-known activist, working to raise funds for families of political prisoners and other charitable causes. 

May 2022:

According to Huynh Ngoc Chenh, husband of Nguyen Thuy Hanh, Hanh was transferred from pre-trial detention to the Central Mental Health Hospital in Hanoi after two medical examinations determined she was suffering from severe depression. Chenh said when he went to the detention center on May 6, he was told that Hanh had been admitted near the end of April. They also told him that Hanh was now under the hospital’s jurisdiction, which means she can receive visits and supplies from family members just like other patients. On May 7, Chenh and Hanh’s brother were able to visit her at the hospital. Chenh reported that Hanh looked thinner but was in a good mood. This was the first time Hanh saw any family member since her arrest.

The 88 Project has released an update on her situation, which you can read here.

March 2023:

Nguyen Thuy Hanh’s health has taken a turn for the worse, according to her husband, Huynh Ngoc Chenh. Chenh told Project88 that Hanh, who is still being held in a psychiatric treatment facility, has lost her appetite, has not been eating well, and her mental health has declined. Doctors have tried different medications but none seems to help.

Mental Health History

Before her arrest, we sat down with Hanh to discuss the challenges of organizing and administering the 50K fund.  Pressure from the authorities, and the deep sense of responsibility she feels towards the families of those in prison, has had a significant impact on her mental health. In this interview, Hanh talks to us about her struggle with depression, her relationship with the police, and the joy that the fund brings to her life.

January 2022:

Huynh Ngoc Chenh, husband of Nguyen Thuy Hanh, posted that he finally heard some news about her after nine months. Hanh was taken from her prison cell to a hospital to be examined and monitored for depression, a condition for which she had been taking medication before she was jailed. Chenh’s previous attempts to bring Hanh her medication were always rejected by prison officials. Several patients at the hospital recognized Hanh and were able to talk to her and relayed her messages to Chenh. Hanh was said to have lost some weight but otherwise looks healthy and in good spirits. She was taken back to the detention center.

Actions Taken

Statement of Defend the Defenders Regarding Arrest of Human Rights Defender Nguyen Thuy Hanh, April 7, 2021

Viet Nam: Prominent human rights defender Nguyen Thuy Hanh arrested and charged, Amnesty International, April 8, 2021

Urgent Appeal: Vietnam: Arbitrary detention of Nguyen Thuy Hanh, FIDH, April 14, 2021

Vietnam: Human Rights Defender Arbitrarily Detained: Nguyen Thuy Hanh, Amnesty International, June 18, 2021

Steel Pursues Justice for Vietnamese Victims of Human Rights Abuses. Congresswoman Michelle Steel; 2024-07-10. 

PETITION FOR THE RELEASE OF MRS. NGUYỄN THUÝ HẠNH FOR CANCER TREATMENT

To: Mr. Võ Văn Thưởng, President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Mrs. Nguyễn Thuý Hạnh, born on May 25, 1963, is a human rights activist and the initiator of the 50K Fund, supporting prisoners of conscience and their families. On April 7, 2021, she was detained by Hanoi police for “producing, storing, distributing, or disseminating information, documents, and items against the State,” as per Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code.

Despite the investigation period expiring in late April 2022, Mrs. Nguyễn Thúy Hạnh was transferred to the compulsory treatment department of the Central Institute of Forensic Psychiatry.

Nearly three years post-arrest, including more than 22 months in hospital, Mrs. Nguyễn Thúy Hạnh has not been sentenced, indicating she is not officially a convict.

Mrs Nguyễn Thuý Hạnh was diagnosed with mid-stage cervical cancer on January 15, 2024. Continuing to detain Mrs. Hạnh post-investigation, especially given her severe illness at over 60 years of age, is both illegal and inhumane.

We, the organizations and individuals listed below, urgently request you direct the relevant authorities to immediately free Mrs. Nguyễn Thuý Hạnh for proper medical treatment.

 

ORGANIZATIONS

Civil Society Forum. Representative: Dr. Nguyễn Quang A

Bauxite Vietnam Forum. Representative: Professor Nguyễn Huệ Chi

Lê Hiếu Đằng Club. Representative: Artist Nguyễn Thị Kim Chi

 

INDIVIDUALS

Nguyễn Quang A, PhD in Computer Science, Hanoi

Hoàng Hưng, poet and book translator, Saigon

Nguyễn Huệ Chi, Professor of Literature, Hanoi

Nguyễn Đình Nguyên, PhD in Medicine, Australia

Phan Hoàng Oanh, PhD in Chemistry, Saigon

Nguyễn Mai Oanh, Master of Development Economics, Saigon

Hoàng Dũng, Associate Professor, PhD in Literature, HCMC

André Menras Hồ Cương Quyết, former educator, Paris, France

Hà Sĩ Phu, PhD in Biology, Đà Lạt, Lâm Đồng

Nguyễn Nguyên Bình, writer, Hanoi

Nguyễn Thị Kim Chi, artist, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Mạc Văn Trang, Associate Professor, PhD in Psychology, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Lê Thân, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club, Đà Nẵng

Phan Đắc Lữ, poet, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Lê Phú Khải, journalist, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Đỗ Như Ly, engineer, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Võ Văn Thôn, former Director of the Department of Justice of HCMC, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Daniel Thiều Thị Tân, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Vũ Trọng Khải, Associate Professor, PhD in Agricultural Policy

Bùi Nghệ, engineer, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Lại Thị Ánh Hồng, artist, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Kha Lương Ngãi, former deputy editor-in-chief of SGGP Newspaper, Lê Hiếu Đằng Club

Bùi Minh Quốc, poet, journalist, Đà Lạt, Lâm Đồng

Nguyễn Khắc Mai, cultural researcher, Hanoi

Nguyễn Thị Khánh Trâm, retired, HCMC

Ngô Kim Hoa, HCMC

Vũ Huy Linh, medical doctor, USA

Đào Tiến Thi, Hanoi

Hà Dương Tường, educator, France

Nguyên Ngọc, writer, Hội An, Quảng Nam

Trần Minh Thảo, writer, Phan Tây Hồ Club, Lâm Đồng

Nguyễn Viện, writer, HCMC

Phạm Nguyên Trường, engineer, Vũng Tàu

Hoàng Thị Hà, Thanh Xuân, Hanoi

Đặng Bích Phượng, Hanoi

Đinh Hoàng Thắng, former Ambassador of Vietnam to Netherland, Hanoi

Nguyễn Ngọc Giao, educator, France

 

Resources

Prominent HRD Nguyen Thuy Hanh Arrested after Vietnam’s Leadership for Next Five Years Forms, Defend the Defenders, April 7, 2021

Vietnamese Activist Who Aids Jailed Dissidents' Families Arrested For 'Anti-State Documents,' Radio Free Asia, April 7, 2021

Update on Hanh from her husband, January 2022

Jailed Vietnamese rights activist marks one year in pre-trial detention, Radio Free Asia, April 7, 2022

Huynh Ngoc Chenh Facebook updates (1 and 2) on Hanh's treatment at a psychiatric hospital, May 2022

Nguyen Thuy Hanh, a Champion of the Families of Political Prisoners, Faces Mental Health Issues and Indefinite Detention a Year After Her Arrest, The 88 Project, May 24, 2022

Vietnamese political prisoner Nguyen Thuy Hanh diagnosed with cancer, RFA Vietnamese, Jan. 25, 2024

Interviews with the family, Jan., Feb. 2024

Profile last updated: 2024-07-15 16:08:39

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