Ho Duc Hoa

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Vietnamese journalist Ho Duc Hoa is serving 13 years in prison, to be followed by five years’ house arrest, on anti-state charges for his contributions to a Catholic church-run news outlet. He has suffered from health problems, including liver disease, while in detention.

Hoa, a religious activist and frequent contributor to the news website Vietnam Redemptorist News, was arrested at Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam Redemptorist News, which is run by the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, a Catholic church in Ho Chi Minh City, reports on the plight of the country’s persecuted Catholic minority, land disputes between the government and grassroots communities, and other social issues.

Hoa was first detained on unspecified charges under Article 79 of the penal code, which outlines penalties for activities aimed at overthrowing the government. He was also accused of being a member of the pro-democracy Viet Tan, an outlawed political party the government considers a terrorist group

In a two-day trial that concluded on January 9, 2013, a court in the northern city of Vinh convicted and sentenced the journalist to 13 years in prison and five years’ house arrest on charges of participating in "activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration," "undermining of national unity," and disseminating "propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam," news reports said.

An appellate court upheld Hoa’s prison sentence on May 23, 2013. Hoa was being held at Nam Ha detention center in the Kim Beng district of Ha Nam province as of late 2021, according to The 88 Project, an advocacy group that monitors the status of Vietnamese political prisoners. 

A devout Catholic, Hoa has been denied access to religious materials while in prison, according to U.S. Congressional testimony in June 2015 by his international defense lawyer, Allen Weiner.

Hoa suffers from hemorrhoids, intestinal diseases that cause severe stomachaches, and lower abdominal pain, according to a June 2017 letter he wrote to his family that was quoted in media reports.

Hoa was refused medical care by prison authorities in 2019, according to a report by the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia that quoted his sister Ho Thi Luy after a prison visit. Luy said the journalist had developed new health problems, including liver and spinal pain.  

Hoa’s brother, Ho Van Luc, told Radio Free Asia after a December 7, 2019, prison visit that Hoa was suffering from liver disease and that medical examinations conducted by doctors and in prison indicated possible symptoms of cancer. He said that Hoa tired easily and had trouble moving.

In December 2020, Hoa went on a hunger strike that caused a decline in his health, according to The 88 Project. The rights group said Hoa had previously gone on hunger strikes because he was barred from practicing his Catholic faith in prison.   

Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, which oversees the country’s prison system, did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment on Hoa’s health and status in prison in late 2021.