Prominent Anti-China Activist Completes 3-year Imprisonment, Cheered by Thousands

Ms. Bui Thi Minh Hang (middle) was welcomed by former prisoner of conscience Nguyen Bac Truyen and his wife

By Defend the Defenders, February 11, 2017

Vietnamese activist Bui Thi Minh Hang, the most well-known protestor against China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea), was released on February 11 after three years in prison.

She was welcomed by a group of 20 activists who came to Gia Trung Prison in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai to escort her to Saigon.

Ms. Hang, one of the leading figures in eleven consecutive anti-China protests in Hanoi in 2011 and other similar events in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in the following years, was arrested in early 2014 when she and other activists visited former political prisoner Nguyen Bac Truyen in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap.

Security forces arrested her and two other religious activists, namely Nguyen Van Minh and Nguyen Thi Thuy Quynh, and charged them with “causing public disorder”. Following trials that failed to meet international fair trial standards, she was sentenced to three years in jail on bogus traffic offenses, while Quynh and Minh were given two years sentences each.

Hang, who is also a land rights activist, had been harassed by the Communist government in the past. She was detained many times after participating in peaceful anti-China protests in Hanoi and Saigon, and was sent to a re-habilitation facility by authorities in the capital city of Hanoi for months in an attempt to silence her.

Since her arrest, many legislators and officials from the U.S. and EU countries, as well as international human rights bodies, have urged Vietnam to release her immediately and unconditionally. She is among 82 prisoners of conscience whom Amnesty International has called on Vietnam’s government to release.

Ms. Hang’s health has deteriorated due to inhuman treatment by the prison’s authorities. In 2015, she conducted a long hunger strike to protest degrading treatment inflicted to her and other prisoners, especially prisoners of conscience, by the prison’s authorities.

While serving her term, Vietnam’s government offered her to live in exile in the U.S. However, she turned down the proposal, saying she would remain in the country to fight for the nation’s integrity and improved human rights.

While claiming sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracels) and Truong Sa (Spratlys) in the East Sea and verbally protesting China’s violations of its sovereignty in the sea, Vietnam’s Communist government has suppressed, persecuted and imprisoned a number of activists who actively participated in peaceful demonstrations against China.

According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Vietnam is holding at least 112 bloggers and activists who are serving prison sentences simply for exercising their rights to basic freedoms such as freedom of expression, assembly, association, and religion. Hanoi has consistently rejected this accusation and insisted that it detained only persons who violated the law.