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    » 09/22/2015, 00.00

    VIETNAM-UNITED STATES

    Vietnamese Catholic: In communist prison, faith in God conquerd abuses and suffering

    Thanh Thuy

    Maria Ta Phong Tan, a blogger and activist, speaks of her three years in Thanh Hoa prison. From prayer the strength to overcome the "pain and sadness" of her mother’s death by self-immolation. Freedom through a "temporary suspension" of the sentence and the trip to the US. From the US, she will continue the battle for human rights and democracy in Vietnam.

    Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - "In the communist prison, I always kept my faith. I prayed and God blessed me. I was treated cruelly in prison, but I never cried in front of them. My heart was full of pain and sorrow on hearing my mother's self-immolation because of my judgment": These were the first words spoken by the Vietnamese Catholic dissident and blogger Maria Tạ Phong Tần, after having landed last Sept. 20 at Los Angeles airport after the flight from Vietnam who has led in the United States.

    The 47-year old Tan has spent three of the 10 years in prison for "propaganda against the state" (Article 88 of the Criminal Code), in relation to her blog Cong Ly v On That (Justice and Truth). The space was dedicated to "human rights abuses and corruption among the police and the justice system."

    Maria Tạ Phong Tần Tan - former policewoman, converted to Catholicism as an adult - is a member of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (Ijavn) and promoted online campaigns in defense of the territorial integrity of Vietnam in the South China Sea. The activist also launched initiatives in defense of human rights and democracy in the country.

    She was arrested along with the founder of Ijavn, journalist Nguyen Van Hai (released about a year ago and also moved in the US), better known as Dieu Cay, and other activists and bloggers. In the past, her family had denounced the intimidation and psychological terror she was subjected to in prison from cellmates. The other prisoners also insulted her mother, Dang Thi Kim Lieng, who died from self-immolation itself three years ago to protest against the charges against her daughter.

    Her early release seems to be the result of diplomatic pressure exerted by Washington. As stated by the activist, it was not a real release, but rather a "temporary suspension" of the judgment, that on 19 September allowed the woman to leave the Thanh Hoa prison (in north).

    "This is not about expulsion" from Vietnam, adds the Catholic activist, who promises to "continue to fight for democracy and human rights" in the country. In these first days as a free woman, Maria also wants to thank those who worked for her release: The US Embassy in Hanoi, the Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, all NGOs, Reporters without Borders), RSF) and the Redemptorist Fathers in the former Saigon. "All these people - she says - have helped me in communist prison in order today I can go to here. I will continue to struggle for justice, truth and democracy in Vietnam. I wish that Vietnam government will have changes to help people have freedom of speech, real democracy accordingly with the democracy trend of the world today. Vietnamese people have lived in fear for so long (70 years). The communist government has not respected the basic human rights of the people. So, they would not let the people have other rights. If the communist regime has no democracy changes, someday the people will stand up to replace for the regime."

    For several years, Vietnam has seen a harsh campaign by the government against dissidents, bloggers, religious leaders (including Buddhists), Catholic activists or entire communities.

    Last year for example, media and government carried out a smear campaign in the Diocese of Vinh against the local bishop and faithful.

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    See also

    21/09/2015 VIETNAM-UNITED STATES
    Hanoi releases Catholic dissident and blogger Mary Ta Phong Tan
    The 47 year old was released a few days ago and arrived yesterday in the United States. She spent three of the 10 years in prison on charges of activities against the state. She used her blog to denounce human rights violations and corruption. Toughening of political control in Vietnam.

    11/03/2013 VIETNAM - UNITED STATES
    Washington awards Catholic blogger and dissident Maria Tạ Phong Tần
    For the State Department she is among the 10 "most courageous" women in the world for her pro-freedom fight. She must serve 10 years in prison for "subversive" activities and "slanderous" writing against the government and the Party. In reality, she denounced rampant corruption and the distortions of the Vietnamese legal system. Hanoi and on-line repression.

    19/06/2007 VIETNAM – UNITED STATES
    President Triết’s visit to US begins
    Vietnamese president is on a six-day visit to his country’s erstwhile enemy with a top-level delegation. He is scheduled to meet US political and business leaders to talk about economic matters. He is also expected to talk to US President Bush about human rights and Agent Orange.

    16/05/2006 VIETNAM – UNITED STATES
    US agrees to Vietnam's quick entry in WTO
    Approval of trade deal is expected by June. Vietnam is to join WTO by the end of the year, but it will have to wrestle with its own red tape and widespread graft and corruption. Human rights remain an issue.

    05/08/2015 VIETNAM
    Two Christians arrested for "anti-government activities" released after 4 years in prison
    They are Catholic blogger Paulus Le Van Son, and of the Protestant leader Nguyen Van Oai. The pair were arrested without a warrant, and during the trial their legal assistance was restricted. In recent months they were pressured by the authorities to extort a confession. Other dissidents still in prison.



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