Hanoi releases Catholic dissident and blogger Mary Ta Phong Tan
Hanoi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Vietnamese Catholic dissident and blogger Mary Ta Phong Tan was released from prison a few days ago, and arrived yesterday in the United States. The US State Department confirmed that the woman "decided to travel to the United States shortly after being released from prison." An official source in Washington added that the government "welcomes the decision of the Vietnamese authorities to release Tan".
47-year old Tan served three of the 10 year prison term for activities against the state in connection with his 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."
Activists and human rights groups say that with these one-off releases of dissidents Vietnam "creates an aura of progress in human rights, when in fact it is stepping up political control".
Mary Ta Phong Tan 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 asn psychological terror she was subjected 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.
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.
Repression also affects individuals, guilty of claiming the right to religious freedom and respect for citizens' civil rights.
According to the international activist movement Human Rights Watch (HRW) currently there are between 150 and 200 bloggers and activists detained in Vietnamese prisons, guilty of having wanted to exercise (and defend) basic human rights.