Released from prison, Vietnamese activist vows to fight on

‘If we want our country to have democracy, we should demand it,’ Huynh Truong Ca said.
By RFA Vietnamese
2024.03.05
Released from prison, Vietnamese activist vows to fight on Activist Huynh Truong Ca was released from prison on March 4, 2024.
Facebook: Van Cuong Ho

Political activist Huynh Truong Ca says he will continue to demand democracy in Vietnam, following his recent release from a five-and-a-half-year prison term.

Ca, 53, still has to serve three years of probation following Monday’s release, but he told Radio Free Asia Tuesday that wouldn’t silence him.

He was arrested on Sept. 4, 2018 on charges of “propaganda against the state” under Article 117 of the criminal law. His detention came after he took part  in a protest against bills on Special Economic Zones and cyber ​​security in Ho Chi Minh City. 

The SEZ bill angered Vietnamese who said it would give valuable business concessions to foreign, not local, companies. The cyber security bill raised concerns the government would use the law to suppress freedom of expression.

“I just want to demand human rights and want the country to have democracy,” Ca told RFA Vietnamese.

“When I livestream, I call on everyone to protest the Special Economic Zone law.”

Ca is a member of the Constitution group, which promotes civil and human rights, supposedly guaranteed in Vietnam’s 2013 constitution.

In addition to the 2018 protest, he frequently made live broadcasts on the issues.

His indictment states that from March 23 to August 19, 2018, Ca conducted 40 livestreams on his Countryside Guy Facebook page. Prosecutors said nearly half the broadcasts contained content “that distorts and defames the government, and is against the state.”

Ca called his prison conditions harsh with a cramped cell, food “not fit for cats or dogs” and a lack of fresh water.

He didn’t hire a lawyer for his initial trial and refused to defend himself, saying he’d lost faith in Vietnamese justice.

“I considered hiring a lawyer but I saw that in Vietnam there were many political cases that lawyers could not solve,” Ca said.

“It doesn't do anything. It's just for decoration. That’s why I didn’t hire a lawyer. I wanted to send the message that I do not believe in their judiciary.”

He was sent to Dong Nai province’s Xuan Loc Prison where he shared a block with other political prisoners.

Many times, the group fought for their rights, and held two short hunger strikes demanding to receive books from their families and improve conditions.

Before being arrested, Ca had a traffic accident and said he didn’t receive adequate and timely treatment in prison.

He still has leg pain and blurred vision but said his personal health is not important.

“I am most concerned about the health of this country and its people,” he told RFA.

“If we want our country to have democracy and civilization, we should demand it. If many people demand it, the government will surely listen,” he added.

Ca was one of nine members of the Constitution group arrested in 2018.

State media reported that he confessed to the charges filed against him, but Ca said he only admitted the acts he had committed, saying they complied with the constitution.

The remaining eight members were convicted of “disturbing security” under Article 118, with sentences ranging from 30 months to eight years in prison. 

Two members are still serving prison sentences: Hoang Thi Thu Vang and Nguyen Thi Ngoc Hanh.

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang.

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