Prominent Vietnamese Blogger Freed But Forced Into Exile

Prominent Vietnamese blogger Dieu Cay has been released after years in prison. But the Vietnamese authorities effectively forced him into exile. On 21 October, Dieu Cay, whose real name is Nguyen Van Hai, left Hanoi and arrived in Los Angeles, where he was welcomed by a crowd of supporters. Dieu Cay is a human rights defenders and vocal pro-democracy activist.   

“The news of Dieu Cay’s release is warmly welcomed.  And it serves as a reminder to keep pressing for the release of all other human rights defenders in prison in Vietnam,” said Brittis Edman, Southeast Asia Programme Director, Civil Rights Defenders.

The Vietnamese authorities have held Dieu Cay behind bars since 2008. During his six years in prison, he protested at repeated ill-treatment, including through hunger strikes. For long periods, family were unable to visit him, and there were several reports about his deteriorating health.

He was first sentenced to 30 months in prison in for alleged tax evasion, but was not released after completing his sentence. Instead, he was immediately charged, in 2012, under national security legislation for “inciting propaganda” against the state, and was sentenced to another 12 years in prison.

Dieu Cay was an early vocal critic against the government’s relations with China, criticism that recently has become more widespread and less controversial amid deteriorating relations between the two countries due to territorial disputes. He gained international recognition for his courageous advocacy for human rights, despite intimidation and risk of arrest. Human rights groups, including Civil Rights Defenders, world leaders and the U.N. have continuously campaigned for his release.

The international pressure for Dieu Cay’s release appears to have gained momentum by ongoing negotiations regarding Vietnam’s entry into a wide-reaching U.S.-led trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Family members received no prior notice of his upcoming release, but according to media reports, Dieu Cay himself called them en route to the airport in Hanoi.

Vietnam still has one of the highest numbers of imprisoned netizens in the world. The authorities should ensure that Dieu Cay’s release is followed by the release of all 26 other bloggers and activists in prison for exercising their right to freedom of expression.