Dissident Father Nguyễn Văn Lý is doing better after suffering a heart attack

After his last release from a Vietnamese jail, the priest has lived in Huế. He is one of many Vietnamese who believe that their government has not taken a firm stance in the controversy with Beijing over the South China Sea.

Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Nguyễn Văn Lý, the Vietnamese priest who was tried and imprisoned several times for criticising  Vietnam’s communist regime, is recovering from a heart attack.

According to his nephew Nguyễn Văn Việt, also a Catholic priest, Fr Lý had a heart attack on 26 February in Huế, where he has lived since his release from prison in 2016 in a goodwill gesture ahead of a state visit to Vietnam by then US President Barack Obama.

Although in poor health, Lý writes articles each week urging his fellow Vietnamese to resist the political and territorial encroachment by their powerful Chinese neighbour.

He is one of many Vietnamese who believe that their government has not taken a firm stance against China over the South China Sea.

Father Lý was imprisoned many times, starting with a year in jail in 1977-78, followed by another nine years in 1983-92 for what Vietnamese authorities deemed “opposing the revolution and destroying the people’s unity.”

In 2001, the Catholic clergyman was arrested at his church and accused of abusing conditions of his probation. This led to a 15-year prison sentence that was later commuted. In 2004 he was placed under house arrest at the Archdiocese of Huế city.

In April 2006, Lý joined a group of writers known as Bloc 8406 in signing a ‘Manifesto on Freedom and Democracy in Vietnam’. In 2007, he was convicted on charges of conducting “propaganda against the state” and sentenced to eight years in prison and five years on probation.

During his trial, which was attended by foreign media, Lý began shouting “Down with communism,” but was silenced by a security officer who covered his mouth with a hand (pictured) in a televised image that became an icon for advocates of free expression.