Nguyen Van Hoa
Current Status: Released - at risk
Other Names: Nguyễn Văn Hóa
Date of Birth: April 15, 1995
Religion: Christian (Catholic)
Last Known Prison: An Diem prison, Dai Loc district, Quang Nam province
Areas of Activism:
Highlighted Human Rights Concerns:
- Solitary Confinement
- Former Political Prisoner
- Denial of Legal Representation
- Denial of Adequate Medical Treatment or Supplies
- Harsh Physical and Administrative Conditions
- Denial of Family Visit/Punitive Prison Transfer
- Infliction of Physical and Psychological Pain
Nguyen Van Hoa was released from An Diem Prison on Jan. 11 after serving seven years for “anti-state propaganda.” He must still serve three years of supervised release at his home in Ky Anh County, Ha Tinh Province. Upon his release, Hoa requested to take with him the log book that documents all the money and items he received from his family during his imprisonment, but only a copy of the log was provided. He refused to take 158,000 dong ($6.50) that was given as “money for re-integration into society,” which also included his “earnings” for good behavior.
In an initial interview with Project88, Hoa said he was physically beaten twice while in pre-trial detention. The first incident was in February 2017, during an investigation shortly after his arrest. The alleged perpetrator was Captain Trần Anh Đức. The second incident occurred in October 2017, about a month before his trial. At about 2 a.m., an official named Đức (also a captain), came into his cell and started beating him, leaving him nearly unconscious. The next afternoon he was taken to the prison clinic where he was diagnosed as having a nerve injury. He was treated for about a month before he was sent back to his cell. Before his trial, Hoa reported that an investigative officer named Nguyễn Anh Tuấn came into his cell and “made subtle hints” that he should not say anything about the beatings if he wanted to get a lighter sentence. Hoa asked for a pen and paper to make a request for lawyers, but he was not given any. No lawyers represented Hoa at his trial on Nov. 11, 2007, even though his family had retained two attorneys – Ha Huy Son and Ngo Anh Tuan – to defend him. We continue to investigate these allegations and will report more on Hoa’s time in prison soon.
Details - Background, History of Activism.
Born in 1995, Hoa is a young Catholic activist from Ky Anh, Ha Tinh province, one of the areas that was most affected by the environmental disaster caused by Formosa dumping industrial waste into the sea.
After the Formosa environmental disaster occurred in April 2016, Nguyen Van Hoa became active in assisting fishermens' families in demanding compensation and justice. A digital security trainer and regular contributor to Radio Free Asia, Hoa’s live broadcast of footage of peaceful protests in October 2016 outside Taiwanese-owned Formosa’s steel plant in Ha Tinh province, using a flycam drone, went viral.
Footage by Nguyen Van Hoa’s flycam recording the protest in front of Formosa’s steel plant in Ha Tinh province.
Nhathothaiha.net, Nguyễn Văn Hóa – người đầu tiên trong năm 2017 bị bắt theo điều 258
BBC Vietnamese, Ông Nguyễn Văn Hóa bị tạm giam vì vi phạm điều 258 BLHS
Vietnamese videographer beaten and harassed in prison, The Committee to Protect Journalists, August 20, 2018
Letter: Jailed Vietnamese Activist Nguyen Van Hoa Suffers Abuse in Prison, Radio Free Asia, October 24, 2018
Jailed Vietnamese Activist Goes on Hunger Strike Over Beatings by Police, Radio Free Asia, February 28, 2019
BBC Vietnamese, Báo VN nói Nguyễn Văn Hóa nhận ‘ngàn đô’ để kích động
Defend the Defender's archives
Arrested January 11, 2017. Sentenced to 7 years in prison under Art. 88 (1999 Code). Released January 11, 2024.
- Art. 88 (1999 Code)
- freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
- liberty and security of the person
- freedom of expression
- fair trial
- The 88 Project
- UN Special Rapporteurs
- Vietnamese civil society groups
- US government
- Amnesty International
- One Free Press Coalition
- Reporters Without Borders
- Frontline Defenders
Ha Tinh police arrested Nguyen Van Hoa on January 11, 2017, on the streets, accusing him of “motorbike theft and drug dealership.” His family only received the temporary detention notice from the authorities on January 23, in which Ha Tinh police informed them that he was being detained under Article 258 of the 1999 Penal Code for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State and the rights and legitimate interests of organizations and citizens.”
The authorities did not officially announce Hoa’s arrest until April 6, 2017. He was held in pre-trial detention at Cau Dong prison, Ha Tinh province.
On June 15, 2017, the authorities formally changed his charges from Art. 258 to Art. 88 (“propaganda against the socialist state”). In the same month, his family was informed that Hoa refused to have a defense lawyer.
On November 27, 2017, in a secret trial, Hoa was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment and three years of probation. Neither a defense lawyer nor his family was present at the trial. State-owned media, citing the indictment against Nguyen Van Hoa, stated the accusation as follow: “Since 2013, Nguyen Van Hoa has created the Facebook page Nguyễn Văn Hóa (Maria Luygonjaga) in order to share and distribute articles, videos, and images with content that incites, distorts the truth, and propagates reactionary arguments against the directives and policies of the Party and the State. The goal was to incite people to gather and protest the enviromental issue at sea and the flooding in Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh.”
Nguyen Van Hoa was transferred to An Diem prison, located in Dai Loc district of the central province of Quang Nam, approximately 500 km away from his native Ha Tinh Province. It is becoming increasingly common for Vietnamese authorities to transfer prisoners to facilities far from their families, making it difficult for them to visit the detainees.
Nguyen Van Hoa was beaten and forced into giving testimony used against environmental activist Le Dinh Luong in court, The Committee to Protect Journalists reported. Hoa later recanted on the witness stand, saying the statements were made under duress of the assault. Luong, however, was still sentenced to 20 years in prison. Both activists had been involved with activism after the Formosa environmental disaster. There is also a report that imprisoned founder of the Vietnam Republic Party, Nguyen Viet Dung, was coerced into giving false testimony as well, which he also later recanted, separately from Hoa. Luong's lawyers were not allowed to meet with either witness. After Dung recanted, his family was denied a visit with him in prison.
Nguyen Van Hoa sent a letter to his family on October 19, 2018, detailing systemic abuse by multiple parties during his investigation and time sentenced in prison. For example, the supervisor of the detention center in Nghe An province beat Hoa in the isolation room at court during the first instance court hearing of Le Dinh Luong in Nghe An Province on August 16, 2018. In this trial, the authorities wanted to use Hoa (and Nguyen Viet Dung) to oppose Le Dinh Luong and build a case against him. However, both of them advocated for Luong. Therefore, Hoa was pulled into the isolation room and beaten for not cooperating. The court then prohibited him from being a witness, saying that the “witness got a stomach ache."
In addition, Hoa’s leg had a tumor but the detention center only checked it without providing any treatment. He submitted an application, asking for treatment, but it was not accepted. Moreover, he alleged that two investigators from Ha Tinh Province took illegal actions when interrogating and investigating him about incidents he wasn't involved with, and they threatened he would be prosecuted in other cases if he did not cooperate with the questioning. Also, the Investigation Agency of Ha Tinh province did not deactivate his Facebook account during their investigation of him but instead used it to carry out illegal actions.
On November 24, Nguyen Van Hoa's family received a letter written from Hoa at An Diem Detention Center on November 1. In the letter, Hoa said that he would continue to denounce the Deputy Supervisor of the detention center for beating him harshly when Hoa, along with Nguyen Viet Dung, was forced to act as a witness in the trial of Le Dinh Luong on August 16, 2018. At the time of the writing, Hoa did not know that the Deputy Supervisor of the detention center had recently passed away because of an accident. He also encouraged his family to not worry about him because seven years in prison will be nothing to him. He wrote that he can overcome anything because freedom is not free and he is willing to accept sacrifices in exchange for freedom.
Nguyen Van Hoa was on a hunger strike, as reported by Hoa's sister. Hoa is held at An Diem Detention Center and wanted to meet with a priest. He began the strike on February 22. Hoa's sister released a letter, which elaborated on the reasons for the hunger strike, including authorities' refusal to send Hoa's complaint letter regarding the abuse he suffered while being detained. The letter, written February 11, 2019, denounced eight officers who kidnapped Hoa on January 11, 2017 and detained him in Hong Linh Town for nine days. During that time, Hoa was beaten and confessed under duress. In the trial against Le Dinh Luong in August 2018, Hoa was summoned as a witness and was again tortured after refusing to testify against Luong.
Nguyen Van Hoa stopped his hunger strike in March, after 12 days on strike. He originally started the strike to protest abuses against him in custody. It is unknown if the authorities have acted to remedy his grievances. In a letter home, Hoa revealed that other political prisoners helped him through the strike, and he was supported by a US diplomat based in Hanoi.
On May 13, 2019, political prisoner Hoang Duc Binh, held in An Diem Detention Center, the same place as Nguyen Van Hoa, called his family and revealed that detention officers gripped Hoa’s neck and beat him harshly. On May 14, Hoa’s family went to visit Hoa. However, the detention center just informed them that Hoa had been punished and was not allowed to meet with them. Hoa was reported to be in solitary confinement.
On May 23, Hoang Duc Binh’s family went to visit him at An Diem Detention Center, Quang Nam province. Binh was in very poor health due to being on hunger strike. Binh, political prisoner Nguyen Bac Truyen, and other prisoners started a hunger strike on May 12 to protest against the detention center torturing fellow prisoner Nguyen Van Hoa. On May 12, 2019, a detention center officer at An Diem forced Hoa to sign a report with many blank spaces. Hoa revealed to other prisoners that he refused to sign because the authorities could later fill those blank spaces with false content to punish him. After that, public security forces and detention officers beat him harshly, causing bruises, and took him away without an official punishment decision.
Late May 2019:
According to an update from Nguyen Van Hoa’s sister, who went to visit him at An Diem Detention Center on May 28, 2019, Hoa’s health was fine in spite of being beaten and held in solitary confinement for ten days. He was released but would still have to be isolated in one room at camp K1 for the next six months. Authorities isolated Hoa due to his complaints against them for not sending home letters on prison conditions and treatment. As of May 27, there was one prisoner who stopped his hunger strike, while political prisoners Hoang Duc Binh and Nguyen Bac Truyen, as well as one other, kept striking in solidarity with Hoa, Hoa said. Those striking were said to be unaware of Hoa's condition.
On September 14, 2019, Hoang Nguyen, brother of political prisoner Hoang Duc Binh, visited Binh in prison. According to Nguyen’s post on Facebook, Binh’s health had been stable, and they were happy to hear about Nguyen Van Hoa, who was in the same prison as Binh and was returned to the main prison after spending four months in solitary confinement. Hoa completed his punishment of solitary confinement on September 14, 2019.
On May 13, 2019, Binh had called his family and revealed that detention officers had gripped Hoa’s neck and beat him harshly. On May 14, Hoa’s family went to visit him. However, the detention center informed them that Hoa had been punished and was not allowed to meet with them.
On September 20, 2019, Nguyen Thi Hue, Nguyen Van Hoa's sister, reported that prison authorities threatened Hoa that they would cut the tendons in his legs back in July 2019 while he was in solitary confinement. Hue also reported that during his four months of confinement, he wasn’t allowed to go outside and was also put under camera surveillance. Hoa asked embassies and international organizations to visit political prisoners to understand more about their lives in prison.
Nguyen Van Hoa’s sister went to An Diem Prison to see Hoa and give him some items. She was told that she couldn't see him or give him anything because Hoa had been refusing to wear prison clothes. He also recently wrote a petition asking to be transferred to a prison camp that is closer to his home.
Nguyen Van Hoa ended his hunger strike after eight days. Truyen and Diep also ended their hunger strike. The three reportedly resumed eating after their demands were approved by the prison administration, though it is unclear exactly what those demands were.
The three political prisoners were on a hunger strike at An Diem Prison since at least November 20. On November 26, Hoa’s sister visited him and reported that her brother looked pale and weak and had been on a hunger strike for seven days. They were protesting violations of their human rights, such as not being allowed to send or receive letters, not being given adequate healthcare, and being transferred to prisons far from their hometowns, causing hardship for their families. All their requests had been ignored by the authorities, even Truyen’s 2019 petition for a medical examination.
Nguyen Van Hoa’s sister said her brother was shackled and put in solitary confinement from June 26 until July 1. Hoa had gone on a hunger strike for five days to protest. She alleged that prison authorities wanted to punish Hoa for the 11 petitions that he sent out to complain about ill-treatment and violations by prison staff.
On March 2, 2022, Hoa's sister received his letter saying that he is doing fine. Nguyen Van Hoa could not write more in details because as if he did so, the letter would not be sent out. There had not been any visitation yet due to the Covid concerns.
Nguyen Van Hoa’s health was stable, his older sister Nguyen Thi Hue reported to Project88 on March 12. She said that since the pandemic, Hoa has only been allowed to call home once every 2-3 months, instead of once a month as before. Police have “reminded” her a few times not to post too much information about Hoa’s incarceration on Facebook.
Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action, calling on Vietnam to release Hoa and two other human rights defenders, Tran Thi Nga and Nguyen Van Oai, unconditionally and immediately.
On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, human rights and digital security organizations issued a joint letter, calling on Vietnam to free young citizen journalist Nguyễn Văn Hóa, who was arrested in January under Art. 88. “With mounting social and environmental challenges, the government of Vietnam should welcome transparency and peaceful dialogue. Repressing citizen journalists is not only a violation of human rights but also a major impediment to Vietnam’s aspirations to become a tech and innovation hub,” the statement said.
Front Line Defenders released an Urgent Appeal for Nguyen Van Hoa, calling on authorities to immediately release him from prison. Download the pdf appeal, here.
Twenty-five members of the US Congress sent a letter to the US Secretary of State urging the US to press for better protections for freedom of expression in Vietnam, citing Vietnam's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The letter highlighted the cases of imprisoned journalists Nguyen Van Hoa and Le Anh Hung and blogger Truong Duy Nhat, who was kidnapped from Thailand while attempting to seek asylum and imprisoned back in Vietnam.
Under Defending Freedoms Project of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, US Congressman Alan Lowenthal has adopted Nguyen Van Hoa. The congressman said of Hoa: “He is a man of conviction, who has been wrongly abused, detained, and imprisoned for trying to cover issues important to the Vietnamese people, but which are uncomfortable for the Vietnamese government to hear.”
Hoa’s family urged US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to press for Hoa’s release during Pompeo’s visit to Vietnam. In October, the family was denied a visit with Hoa because he refused to wear a prison uniform. “Our family wants the European Union and the United States to speak out about my brother’s case,” Nguyen’s sister, Nguyen Thi Hue, told Radio Free Asia.
In a special virtual ceremony, the US-based Vietnam Human Rights Network (VHRN) awarded its 2020 prizes to the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam, imprisoned music teacher Nguyen Nang Tinh, Nguyen Van Hoa. According to VHRN, the annual awards are given to “ individuals and organizations who have made outstanding contributions to and have demonstrated influence on the promotion of justice and human rights movements in Vietnam.” Family representatives and colleagues of the three recipients were present to accept the awards on behalf of the recipients.
The 88 Project featured actions to take in support of Hoa on our website.
This month marked four years since Nguyen Van Hoa was arrested after reporting on the 2016 Formosa environmental disaster. See a list of actions you can take to support him and call for his release here.
Take action this week by sharing the One Free Press Coalition’s list of “10 Most Urgent” cases of injustice against journalists, which includes Nguyen Van Hoa.
Freedom House started an initiative called “Free Them All” that aims to “document and study the cases of the thousands of activists who have been imprisoned or otherwise deprived of their liberty, and to advocate for their immediate release.” One of the people on the list is Nguyen Van Hoa. Read about the initiative here.
Vietnamese Political Prisoners Endure Medical Difficulties, Radio Free Asia, March 6, 2019
Jailed Vietnamese Activist Nguyen Van Hoa Ends Hunger Strike, Radio Free Asia, March 26, 2019
Amnesty International Condemns ‘Torture’ of Jailed RFA Blogger in Vietnam, Radio Free Asia, May 24, 2019
URGENT ACTION: PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE TORTURED TO CONFESS (VIET NAM: UA 72.19), Amnesty International, May 24, 2019
US Lawmakers Urge Greater Push For Vietnam Press Freedoms, Radio Free Asia, May 29, 2019
Detained Vietnamese Activist Comes out of Solitary Confinement after Four Months, Radio Free Asia, September 16, 2019
Vietnam Court Rejects Bloggers’ Appeals, Sends Them Back to Prison, Radio Free Asia, September 23, 2019
US Lawmaker ‘Adopts’ Jailed Vietnamese Journalist as Prisoner of Conscience, Radio Free Asia, September 25, 2020
Vietnam Human Rights Award 2020 Winners Announced, Vietnam Human Rights Network, November 21, 2020
Support Imprisoned Blogger Nguyen Van Hoa: Press for his release from prison, The 88 Project, November 29, 2020
Vietnamese prisoners of conscience on hunger strike, CSW, November 27, 2020
Vietnamese Former RFA Videographer Ends Hunger Strike in Prison, Radio Free Asia, December 7, 2020
Cases of injustice against journalists, One Free Press Coalition, February 2022
March 2022 Update, Facebook of Thu Hue
Interviews with the family and with Nguyen Van Hoa after his release
Profile last updated: 2024-01-19 05:50:04