Prominent Human Rights Defender Mother Mushroom Released, Forced to Live in Exile in US  

Released HRD Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh met with her kids in an airplane on their way to the US, the first meeting since her arrest in October 2016

Defend the Defenders, October 17, 2018


Vietnam’s communist regime has forced prominent human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, dissident blogger popularly known asMother Mushroom, to go to live in exile in the US after releasing her eight years before her prison term ends.

On October 17, Quynh was brought directly from the Prison camp No. 5 in the central province of Thanh Hoa to Not Bai International Airport. She was permitted to meet with an US’s diplomat for five minutes before being dragged in an airplane which later headed to Taiwan.

In the airplane, Quynh met with her elderly mother Nguyen Thi Tuyen Lan and two kids who were allowed to go with her to the US where she has to stay and not to come back to the home country. This was their first meeting since she was arrested on October 2016.

Ms. Quynh, 39, is an activist who bravely spoke out about police’s torture, environmental pollution, China’s violations of the country’s sovereignty in the South China Sea. She was arrested two years ago for her criticism against the communist regime which has monopolistically controls the country’s political life for decades. She was charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code.

In June 2017, she was convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison by a court considered as kangaroo by international human rights organizations.

After losing her appeal, Quynh was transferred to the Prison camp No. 5 in Yen Dinh district, Thanh Hoa province where she was a subject of torture and inhumane treatment which led to her two hunger strikes in mid-2018.

Quynh, a co-founder of the unsanctioned organization Vietnam Blogger Network,has been honored with the 2010 Hellman/Hammett award by New York-based Human Rights Watch, the 2015 Civil Rights Defender of the Yearawardby the Stockholm-based CivilRights Defenders, the United States Department of State International Women of Courage Award in 2017,and 2018 International Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

After her arrest and conviction, many international human rights groups and professional organizations as well as foreign democratic government urged Vietnam to release her immediately and unconditionally.

Responding to Quynh’s release, Phil Roberson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, wrote in his Facebook account “While we are pleased that Mother Mushroom and her family are free, this release makes Vietnam’s new political repression strategy clear: arrests activists on bogus, rights abusing charges, prosecute them in kangaroo courts, and sentence them to ridiculously long prison terms. The hope fades in the face of years in horrific conditions behind bars, offer a freedom for exile deal and claims credit for the release. Hanoi is aiming to disrupt and dissolve the internal human rights and democracy movement one prominent activist at a time. But no one should forget that Vietnam is still one of the most repressive states in South Asia, with more than 100 political prisoners behind bars for speaking their minds, organizing associations outside of the government control, and holding peaceful protests.

Quynh is among a number of prisoners of conscience whom the communist regime in Hanoi released before their jail terms end and forced to live in exile in the past few years. Other include legal expert Cu Huy Ha Vu, independent blogger Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay), prominent human rights attorney Nguyen Van Dai, human rights defender and pro-democracy campaigner Dang Xuan Dieu.

According to Now!Campaign, a coalition of 14 domestic and international NGOs such as BPSOS, Defend the Defenders, Civil Rights Defenders and Front Line Defenders, Vietnam is holding at least 250 prisoners of conscience.