One of Vietnams most influential political bloggers, given a courage award by Melania Trump, faces a decade behind bars for her reactionary work
Each person only has a life, but if I had the chance to choose again I would still choose my way.
They are the words of one of Vietnams most influential bloggers known by her online pseudonym, Mother Mushroom minutes before she was handed the shock sentence of a decade in prison. Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh directed her defiant remarks at her 61 -year-old mother, who was watching a live feed in a room next door as she was not allow into the courtroom.
The 37 -year-old was accused of maligning Vietnams communist regime in her blogs and interviews with foreign media.
I clapped my hands in the room, where 20 security officials looked at me with very angry eyes, but I was not afraid; I was OK, very proud of her, told Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan.
Arrested in October while attempting to visit another protester in prison, Quynh, 37, has already spent nine months behind bars, in what her lawyer said were desperate conditions.
She subsisted only on a diet of anchovies and spinach soup for the first seven months, and was denied both sanitary pads and underwear, Vo An Don said.
After Quynh was arrested on 10 October, her mother heard nothing about her whereabouts or wellbeing until a brief reunion in prison hours before her 29 June trial for crimes against the nation.
The months had taken their toll on her daughter, Lan told the Guardian in a phone interview from her home in the southern coastal city of Nha Trang. Quynh seemed sickly during their session, she said.
I told: My dear daughter , now I believe you are still alive. But she appeared weak with very pale scalp, she added.
Vietnam is infamous for its limits on freedom of expression, yet Mother Mushrooms detention and remarkably lengthy sentence created fresh alarm among the countrys blogging community, which avoids the censorship of state-control print media. The US state department speedily called for all prisoners of conscience to be released immediately.
While Quynh has been branded a reactionary by the country for her anti-government blogging, her friends and family defend her as a champion of free expression in a country where dissent against single-party rule is outlawed.
My daughter has done a normal thing in an abnormal society, so she has to pay the price of prison and being denounced, Lan said.
Quynh rose to fame in Vietnams blogosphere in the late 2000 s for her doggedly independent citizen journalism. A founding member of the underground Vietnamese Bloggers Network, she is especially passionate about environmentalism, police brutality and Vietnams dispute with China over control of the South China Sea.
Lan said her daughters political awakening began after studying foreign languages in university.
Upon discovering the pluralistic online world, Quynh came to her mother with difficult questions.
She asked me: Mum, do you know this or that[ about the governmental forces ]? I told I did, she questioned me, Why didnt you tell me? recollected Lan.
I told her I knew, but in this society we are living in, “its not” the society where you can speak out, and they will denounce you.
Quynh has since become a prominent figure outside Vietnam, and has championed efforts in Vietnamese other members of civil society to hold political deliberations on Facebook. The government has become so angered by the movement that it has called on all companies in Vietnam to stop advertising on YouTube and Facebook.
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