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Jailed Vietnamese Catholic activist ends hunger strike

Blogger 'Mother Mushroom' stopped her protest after US officials visited her in prison

Jailed Vietnamese Catholic activist ends hunger strike

Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known as "Mother Mushroom", attends her appeal trial at a people's court in the central coastal city of Nha Trang on Nov. 30, 2017. Quynh is serving a 10-year jail sentence for publishing anti-government writings. (Photo by AFP)

Published: July 27, 2018 06:36 AM GMT

Updated: July 27, 2018 06:40 AM GMT

A prominent Catholic blogger and activist ended a fortnight's hunger strike in a Vietnamese prison after she met with visiting U.S. diplomats, according to a network of local bloggers.

"Blogger 'Mother Mushroom' Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh stopped her hunger strike after officials from United States Embassy visited her in the prison on July 23," the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers said in a statement on July 25.

The network said Quynh, who is known by her pen name "Me Nam" or "Mother Mushroom,"  appeared "very tired but was of sound mind after she was on hunger strike for 16 days."

Quynh, 39, is serving a 10-year jail sentence for publishing anti-government writings and fighting for prisoners of conscience. She began her hunger strike on July 6 out of protest at being mistreated at Prison Camp No. 5 in the northern province of Thanh Hoa, some 1,200 kilometers from her home in Khanh Hoa province.

The mother of two has gone on hunger strikes three times to protest mistreatment including food poisoning since she was moved to the camp in January from Nha Trang, her home town.

The network said it called on foreign embassies in Vietnam and international human rights organizations to visit Quynh in the prison as a way of pressuring the state.

The bloggers said European Union representatives have already asked the government if they can visit Quynh. It is understood the government has yet to reply to the request.

Quynh had criticized the government's human rights abuses and corruption. She investigated and published widely on environmental protection, public health, correctional reform and anti-torture efforts. She was also critical of Vietnam's foreign policy toward China over disputed islands in the South China Sea.

The Swedish-based Civil Rights Defenders last year described her arrest and ongoing detention "as nothing more than persecution against her courageous defense of human rights."

Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the Vietnamese government's rights record in a recent submission to the U.N.'s Human Rights Council.  

"Vietnam seems to be contending for the title of one of Asia's most repressive governments," said Phil Robertson, HRW deputy Asia director.

During the first seven months of 2018, the government convicted and imprisoned at least 27 rights bloggers and activists under various abusive laws.


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