Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A Vietnamese activist convicted for plotting to overthrow the government has begun a hunger strike to protest prison conditions. Tran Minh Nhat, a Catholic activist, sentenced to four years in January for his affiliation with the banned Viet Tan opposition party, started to refuse food after he was denied reading material, including books about Catholic saints, and subjected to psychological and physical abuse.
Ngueyn Thi Chi, sister of activist Nguyen Dinh Cuong who was convicted and imprisoned with Nhat, said that the young man decided to go on a hunger strike "to protest prison conditions." The protest, which began on June 21, will continue to the bitter end.
Another prominent activist and dissident, Cu Huy Ha Vu, recently stopped a similar protest after refusing food for 25 days. He stopped his hunger strike after prison authorities agreed to investigate his complaints about abuses in prison. For him, this is already a "victory" for justice and democracy in a country under a one-party state.
Vu's case had an international impact. The US government, several others nations in the world and human rights groups issued appeals to the Vietnamese government for his immediate release.
The story of the young Catholic Tran Nhat Minh follows along similar lines. Convicted with 13 other Catholic activists, students and bloggers, he elicited the response of international organisations who saw in his case an illustration of the Asian nation's "political repression".
Minh's decision to refuse food is due to the terrible situation in the prison where temperatures can approach 40 degrees Celsius, which makes life in the facility "almost unbearable."
The dissident was also denied the right to have religious books, including some on prominent Church figures like Pope John Paul II and Card Nguyen Van Thuan.