Son, a medical doctor, was arrested after he posted an essay online about democracy. Authorities also searched his home and confiscated his computer and several documents, according to the Democracy Club for Vietnam, an organization based in both California and Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital.
Prior to his arrest, Son translated into Vietnamese and posted online an essay titled “What Is Democracy?” The article first appeared on the U.S. State Department’s Web site. Son had previously written several essays promoting democracy and human rights, all of which appeared on Vietnamese-language online forums.
After Son’s arrest, the government issued a statement claiming that his work was “antistate,” according to international press reports.
On June 18, 2003, the Hanoi People’s Court sentenced Son to 13 years in prison, plus an additional three years of administrative detention, or house arrest. The trial was closed to foreign diplomats and correspondents. Son’s wife, Vu Thuy Ha, was also barred from the courtroom, except when she was called to testify. On appeal in 2003, the Hanoi Supreme Court reduced Son’s prison sentence to five years.
In August 2004, Son’s wife, Vu Thuy Ha, told the U.S.-government funded Radio Free Asia that her husband was in very poor health and suffered from a hernia.
By July 2005, a U.S.-based Vietnamese dissident group, the People’s Democracy Party (PDP), reported that Son had been coughing up blood. Son remained incarcerated in 2005 despite several amnesties of political prisoners by the Vietnamese government during the past year.