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Jailed Vietnamese activist is denied family visits for refusing to wear prison garb

Prisoner at Cement Mixer on Construction Site - Dien Bien Phu - Vietnam. (Adam Jones/Flickr)
November 27, 2020

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Jailed Vietnamese activist Hoang Duc Binh is being refused family visits by prison authorities angered by his insistence on his innocence and refusal to wear prison uniform, Binh’s brother told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Wednesday.

Binh’s brother Hoang Nguyen went on Tuesday to visit Binh at the An Diem Prison in central Vietnam’s Quang Nam province, where he is serving a 14-year sentence on charges connected with environmental protests four years ago, Nguyen said.

“Yesterday, I went to see my brother at the An Diem detention camp, but the prison guards would not let me in to see him, saying that he was refusing to wear his prison uniform,” Nguyen said, adding that he had been turned away for the same reason in October after last being able to see Binh in June.

Nguyen said authorities’ refusal to allow the visit was recorded in the prison’s visitors log by an officer named Huynh Quang Dai, who noted that Binh was refusing to wear a prison uniform in violation of “Article 6, Circular 14 promulgated on Feb. 10, 2020 by the Minister of Public Security.”

A longtime labor and environmental activist, Binh was arrested on May 15, 2017, by police officers who dragged him from his car more than a year after protests over the government’s response to a waste spill in Vietnam the year before by a Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics Group steel plant.

The spill killed an estimated 115 tons of fish and left fishermen jobless in four coastal provinces. Binh was later handed a 14-year prison term in February 2018 for “abusing democratic freedoms” and “obstructing officials in the performance of their duties” under Articles 257 and 258 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.

In July 2018, he was transferred without notice given to his family from his prison in his home province Nghe An to the An Diem Prison in Quang Nam province some 300 miles away. Citing ill health behind bars, he has since petitioned to be moved back to a detention facility closer to home.

Binh, a blogger on environmental issues, had also served as vice president of the Independent Viet Labor Movement and is a member of a soccer group that protests China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Vietnam has increasingly rounded up independent journalists, bloggers, and other dissident voices in recent months as authorities already intolerant of dissent seek to stifle critics in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party congress in January.