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Jailed Pro-democracy Activist Huynh Truong Ca on Hunger Strike to Demand for Proper Medical Treatment
Defend the Defenders, October 12, 2019
Pro-democracy activist Huynh Truong Ca, who is serving his 5.5-year imprisonment in Xuan Loc Prison camp in Vietnam’s southern province of Dong Nai, is carrying out a hunger strike from October 4 to demand for proper medical treatment for his serious diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol level in blood and lymph nodes.
According to his daughter who met him during a monthly visit to the prison on October 12, he and some other fellows started fasting after the prison’s authorities denied his request for medical check-up and treatment for his diseases.
Mr. Ca, a 48-year-old member of the unregistered group Hien Phap (Constitution) which aims to educate the public about the human rights they are entitled to under Vietnam’s 2013 Constitution, was arrested in early September 2018 and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of the country’s 2015 Penal Code. In late 2018, he was convicted and sentenced to five years and six months in prison and four years of probation.
During his detention in the temporary detention facility under the authority of the Dong Thap province’s Police Department, he was tortured as he was locked up in a dark cell with prisoners on criminal offences. These prisoners, backed by the police, abuse him as they continuously beat him. He was not given enough food, at times he was left hungry. During weekends, he was only given plain rice soup.
These maltreatments happened when the police tried to force him to confess and implicate others after his arrest in Sept 2018, but he refused to do so.
His family had also been harassed and closely monitored by Dong Thap police who banned them from contacting or receiving support from others. Police in Dong Thap summoned his wife and daughter to a police station to interrogate them for hours. The police also told them they would be jailed if they continued to use Facebook to post information about him. They grabbed their cell phones to delete their information and requested the daughter not to make friends with others. The prison’s authorities also refused to accept the medicine his family sent in for him.
Mr. Ca is one of nine members of the Hien Phap group being arrested in early September last year due to their participation in the peaceful demonstration in Ho Chi Minh City on June 10 to protest two bills on Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security.
Five of them named Ngo Van Dung, Doan Thi Hong, Hoang Thi Thu Vang, Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hanh and Ho Dinh Cuong were charged with “disruption of security” under Article 118 while Le Minh The, who was detained on October 10, 2018, was alleged with “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the 2015 Penal Code. The remaining three named Do The Hoa, Tran Thanh Phuong and Hung Hung are also held without charge. All of them had been held incommunicado by the police of Ho Chi Minh City for many months until recent months.
According to the information Defend the Defenders has obtained, authorities in HCM City have no sufficient evidence to prosecute them so they continue to hold them in detention.
Several members of the group were forced to flee to Thailand to seek political asylum.
Vietnam is holding at least 233 prisoners of conscience under severe living conditions. Along with physical and mental torture, low-quality food and water, and small cells, prisoners of conscience have no access to proper medical treatment. Many of them are suffering new serious diseases while old diseases become more problematic without receiving drug supplies and being sent to specialized clinics for their health problems. In some cases, prisons’ authorities deny medicines supplied by prisoners’ families.
Dozens of prisoners of conscience have conducted long-lasting hunger strikes in recent months to protest inhumane treatment in prisons across the nation as they have no other choices although their moves are not supported internationally. It is likely prisoner of conscience Nguyen Van Dien is fasting while serving his 8-year imprisonment in Ba Sao Prison camp.