Monday, February 13, 2017

Bùi Thị Minh Hằng, a Vietnamese activist for human rights and religious freedom, has been released

http://www.asianews.it/files/img/VIETNAM_-_rilascio_attivista.jpgCommunist authorities have released Bùi Thi Minh Hằng, a blogger and activist held for three years at the Gia Trung prison, Pleiku, the capital of Gia Lai province, in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
 
The release order arrived on Saturday to coincide with the celebrations of the Lantern Festival, an event that marks the end of Lunar New Year festivities.

Since 2011 Hằng has been considered one of the leading activists in the struggle for human rights and democracy in Vietnam.

Participation in marches and street demonstrations against Beijing's "imperialist" policy in the South China Sea has made her one of the "usual targets" of attacks and accusations by Vietnam’s Communist authorities.

Over the years the activist – who has also played a leading role in defending religious freedom in the country – has been subject of attacks, harassment, and arbitrary arrests by the government and the judiciary, including doctoring the evidence to put her in jail.

On 2 November 2013, Hằng, along with 20 other bloggers and activists fighting for freedom of worship for Hoa Hao Buddhists, visited a prisoner of conscience, Nguyễn Bá Truyen, who had just been released from prison.

In response, local authorities issued an arrest warrant against her for "obstructing traffic" and "disturbing the peace".

A few months later, in August 2014, a court in Đồng Tháp province sentenced her to three years in prison under Article 245 of the Penal Code.

In 2016, the US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, in the context of FreeThe20 campaign, recognised the Vietnamese activist as one of 20 (jailed) women political dissidents in the world fighting for religious freedom and human rights.

According to activist and dissident Vietnamese Nguyễn Bắc Truyen, "Bùi Minh Hằng is a human rights icon in Vietnam. She has attended several meetings on the invasion of East China Sea (actually the South China Sea).”

During her stay in prison, the activist repeatedly refused to go into exile in the United States, stating that she would rather stay to prison and serve out her entire sentence than leave the country.

She also said that she would continue to fight for democracy and human rights in Vietnam until the last day of her life.

Last Saturday evening, after her release, she went to the Redemptorist Centre in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), with more than a hundred "political activists" waiting for her with flowers and songs.

Fr Vincent Pham Trung Thàn, former provincial superior, welcomed Hằng, who is "in good health", and wished her "success" in her “future work".

In her response, Bùi Thị Minh Hằng thanked all those who came to greet her, individuals and representatives of organisations "that always supported and accompanied. me [. . .] I am back among the loving arms of all of you," she said.

Finally, the activist thanked Vietnam’s Communist government that gave her even more "courage" to continue the fight. "Prison,” she said, “helps activists grow in the peaceful struggle."

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