HANOI (Reuters) - A Vietnamese dissident jailed for criticising the country’s rulers has ended a hunger strike after five weeks when judicial authorities agreed to accept his complaint about poor treatment, his son said on Saturday.
Nguyen Van Hai, better known as Dieu Cay, resumed eating on July 27 after the Supreme People’s Procuracy, the prosecutor’s office, agreed to look into his claim of abusive treatment.
The hunger strike has focused attention on Vietnam’s harsh treatment of activists and bloggers, who face intimidation and long prison terms for what authorities call abuses of their constitutional right to free speech.
Hai, 61, refused food and water for 35 days in what was his second hunger strike over the prison’s failure to forward his petitions. He was jailed for 12 years for “anti-state propaganda” last September.
“It’s not about my father. His hunger strike was for all prisoners of conscience,” said Nguyen Tri Dung, his 27-year-old son, who said he saw Hai for just seven minutes on Friday.
Communist Vietnam has taken a tough line on dissent, with arrests and convictions on the rise in the past three years. Bloggers are increasingly targeted as the number of web users soars to a third of the one-party state’s 90 million population.
The United States wants closer trade and military ties with its former enemy as it seeks to strengthen allegiances in Asia and temper China’s influence, but Vietnam’s crackdown on critics is proving to be a major stumbling block.
Two weeks ago, U.S. President Barack Obama pressed visiting counterpart Truong Tan Sang on human rights but chose his words carefully, mentioning both “progress” and “challenges that remain”. Sang said the two “have differences on the issue”.
Vietnam’s state-controlled media ran video footage and photographs this week of Hai receiving medical care in an apparent effort to counter human rights groups concerned about his treatment. In several cases, media referred to the hunger strike as a “rumour” and reported Hai had been eating.
Dung last week told Reuters his father appeared gaunt, pale and dazed during his previous visit to the prison in Nghe An province on July 22, when he saw him for five minutes.
Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Ron Popeski