Vietnamese journalist Huynh Thuc Vy is serving a prison term for allegedly defacing Vietnam’s flag. She was first held under house arrest while she cared for her young daughter.
On November 30, 2018, she was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison on charges of defacing a national flag, a criminal anti-state offense under Article 276 of Vietnam’s penal code, according to VietnamPlus, a state-run news website.
The court ruled she would be held under house arrest until her youngest child reached three years of age, after which she would be required to serve her full term. Vy was the mother of a two-year-old child and was two months pregnant at the time of her conviction.
However, on December 1, 2021, authorities took Vy into custody after a Dak Lak province court revoked her house arrest for unclear reasons, according to her father, Huynh Ngoc Tuan, who communicated with CPJ via messaging app. Tuan said that Vy was transferred to Gia Trung Prison, over 200 kilometers from her home, in February 2022.
Before her conviction on the flag defacement charges, Dak Lak police had accused Vy of "linking with bad elements from outside the country; exchanging ideas, giving interviews, writing articles, making video clips, and distributing them on her blog and on social media with contents that distort and twist the truth of Vietnam, smear and malign our Party and State," Human Rights Watch reported.
Vy began blogging in 2008 and frequently wrote on political, social, environmental, and human rights issues, including the dire situation of the country’s many political prisoners, reports said. Her father Tuan served 10 years in prison between 1992 and 2002, on anti-state charges for his fictional writing critical of the government, according to Human Rights Watch.
In a 2017 interview with the BBC, Vy spoke about the harassment, intimidation, and discrimination her family faced due to her father’s status as an anti-state political prisoner. A clip of the interview is embedded in Vy’s personal Facebook page. In 2013, Vy helped to form a group known as Vietnamese Women for Human Rights.
On October 9, 2022, Vy told her daughter that guards had beaten and choked her at Gia Trung Prison, according to a post on her personal Facebook page maintained by her family, and Tuan’s communication with CPJ.
Tuan told CPJ that the circumstances surrounding Vy’s assault were unclear but said that guards had earlier warned that her monthly visitation rights would be suspended if she spoke about her prison conditions with family and if she continued to advocate for other women prisoners who had been denied family phone calls and visits.
On November 9, 2022, Vy’s younger brother, Huynh Trong Hieu, released a statement, which CPJ reviewed, saying Vy had been physically attacked and strangled by two other female prison inmates in October in the presence of prison guards, who allegedly failed to intervene.
The statement, issued after Hieu met with Vy and prison officials that day, said a third inmate threatened to kill Vy and that the three inmates had repeatedly threatened her life in October.
The statement said Vy’s “life security is in serious danger in prison via criminals who serve prison guards” and that the family planned to file a formal complaint against Gia Trung Prison officials with national authorities and also advocate for an independent United Nations investigation into the abuse.
In late 2022, Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, which oversees the country’s prison system, did not respond to CPJ’s request for comment on Vy’s health, detention, and allegations of abuse.