Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh

Current Status: Sentenced

Photo of Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh

Other Names: Me Nam, Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh

Date of Birth: July 18, 1979

Gender: F

Religion: Christian (Catholic)

Ethnicity: Kinh

Occupation: Tour guide

Latest Prison: Prison No. 5, Thanh Hoa province

Areas of Activism:

  • Anti-corruption
  • Democracy
  • Environment
  • Human rights
  • Land rights
  • Maritime sovereignty
  • Police Brutality

Known Affiliations:

  • Network of Vietnamese Bloggers

Arrest History

Arrest 1

September 3, 2009
September 12, 2009

Arrest 2

October 10, 2016
June 29, 2017
10 years in prison
  • Art. 88
October, 2026
Defense Counsels: Ha Huy Son; Vo An Don; Nguyen Kha Thanh; Nguyen Ha Luan


September 2018:

On September 26, 2018, Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan, the mother of Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, visited her at Detention Centre 5, Yen Dinh District, Thanh Hoa province and updated Quynh's supporters that she has not recovered from her 16-day hunger strike, which ended on July 23. At the visit, Quynh was thin, with her hair was falling down and her complexion dull. On September 19, Quynh made a phone call to her mother and reported that her cellmate was still harassing her. However, in the meeting on September 26, she informed her mother that the female prisoner had gradually changed her behavior and was no longer harassing her as before. 

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh and her children, January 2016. Source: Facebook
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh and her children, January 2016. Source: Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh Facebook

Quynh is from Khanh Hoa province. She studied foreign languages in university and reportedly began engaging in more political conversations thereafter. She began blogging in 2006.

Quynh is a single mother of two young children. By the time of her arrest in 2016, her daughter was 10 years old and her son, 4 years old.

Quynh is a co-founder of the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers. She has written about politically-sensitive issues such as police brutality, corruption, and environmental degradation, and is also active in the offline human rights community. She is well-known for her coverage of the 2016 Formosa toxic spill and its subsequent fallout. Quynh was awarded the International Woman of Courage Award from the US State Department in 2017, which she was unable to accept in person. She was also Civil Rights Defender’s 2015 Civil Rights Defender of the Year.

First arrest:

In September 2009, Quynh was arrested for 10 days after posting on the Internet her opinion against the Bauxite mining project in the Central Highland and the state's policy towards China, being accused of "infringing upon national security." She was released as the police determined that her actions were not "serious enough" to press charge against her.

Second arrest:

Quynh was arrested in Khanh Hoa province on October 10, 2016, for spreading "propaganda against the state," and was in incommunicado pre-trial detention until her trial on June 29, 2017. Quynh was sentenced to ten years in prison in a one-day trial. The trial was brief, secretive and guarded, continuing a pattern of trials in recent years with few or no outside press, family, or community members allowed. Her mother was barred from attending the trial.

An appeal court in Khanh Hoa province upheld her ten-year prison sentence on November 30, 2017. Quynh admitted to her activities but defended her right to free speech and maintained her innocence. Following the usual pattern for trials of activists charged under "national security" provisions, the trial was secretive and short, lasting only three hours. Supporters were prohibited from entering the courtroom, and after protesting the decision outside of the courthouse, many supporters were violently dispersed by pro-government thugs. Quynh's mother had written to EU representatives earlier in the week, urging them to attend the trial, since Vietnamese trials of activists are frequently touted as being open. One of Quynh's defense lawyers, Vo An Don, was disbarred just days before the trial.

October 2017:

Authorities have made it extremely difficult for her mother to visit her in prison, and Quynh is suffering from a hand issue.

Quynh is in poor health overall, and her mother’s requests to send vitamin supplements to Quynh have been denied. According to her mother, in an October 2017 visit, Quynh looked pale and weak. She has not been able to sleep at night as she has cramps due to the cold weather. Her mother brought in a sealed bottle of Calcium and D3 for Quynh but the prison authorities refused, giving the reason that “there’s no doctor’s prescription.” Her request to send Quynh a Bible was also denied because, as the authorities explained, apart from “The People,” the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Vietnam, no other books or magazines are allowed in prison.

February 2018:

Mother Mushroom was transferred from Khanh Hoa in southern Vietnam the the northern province of Thanh Hoa. She was moved to Prison no. 5, which is notorious for its poor conditions. Her mother only found out about the transfer after attempting to visit Quynh. She had visited Quynh only a week prior as well, and the authorities made no mention of an upcoming transfer. This transfer puts a strain on Quynh's already difficult family situation. Her mother, who is the sole caretaker of Quynh's two young children and her grandmother, will find it exceedingly difficult to visit Quynh in this new, remote prison, and the prison itself will pose further health challenges to Quynh's already fragile state. The 88 Project considers this transfer a cruel emotional tactic, meant to isolate Quynh further from her family and support system.

June 2018:

A screening of a documentary in Thailand about Quynh's family was cancelled after local authorities received a request from the Vietnamese embassy to cancel the event. The film, titled "When Mother's Away," focuses in part on the struggles of Quynh's family.  

July 2018:

Imprisoned blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, Mother Mushroom, ended her hunger strike after sixteen days. From July 6-July 23, Quynh was striking against inhuman prison conditions. She ended her strike after a visit from a US embassy representative.

Prior to arrest: healthy

October 2017:

According to her mother, in an October 2017 visit, Quynh looked pale and weak. She has not been able to sleep at night as she has cramps due to the cold weather. Her fingers curled up on one hand. The authorities have denied some supplies from her family, including vitamin supplements and the Bible.

December 2017:

Quynh’s defense counsels, after meeting with her in preparation for the appeal trial, also reported that Quynh suffers from headaches and cannot sleep as a result.

February 2018:

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh's mother, Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan, visited her in prison briefly on February 5, 2018, and reported that Quynh is still in poor health, with curled up fingers and toes, and she had recently suffered from an allergic reaction to medication. The prison has denied Quynh medication from her mother. 

May 2018:

Quynh was on a hunger strike in prison. Her mother learned in a May 31 visit that Quynh was on strike from May 5-11, refusing to eat food she says is making her sick. She is one of many prisoners who have claimed that the food supplied to them is unsafe. She has been also denied letters from family and friends, as well as outgoing mail, and a Bible.

July 2018:

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh was on a hunger strike, despite the requests of her mother and some supporters. Quynh originally launched the hunger strike in an attempt to get prison authorities to transfer her to a new cell away from a verbally abusive cellmate. She was transferred, but her new location lacked privacy, and she was still being mistreated; thus, she decided to continue her strike. Her mother was able to send some new clothes and an English book, but the Bible she sent was returned.


June 2018:

Quynh was currently enduring extremely difficult conditions in prison, described as “mental torture,” enduring near-constant berating from a cellmate. She feared for her life, and prison authorities had denied her requests to meet with them.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh's mother and children, November 2017. Source: Nguyen Tuyet Lan Facebook
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh's mother and children, November 2017. Source: Nguyen Tuyet Lan Facebook

Quynh’s mother, Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan, is now caring for Quynh’s two young children. Lan has been followed and harassed by authorities since her daughter's arrest.

May 2018:

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh's letters to her family have been withheld without either of them knowing why and how. Her mother, Ms Nguyen Tuyet Lan, only knew about the letters when Quynh called and asked her whether she had received them. Ms Lan has received neither letters from Quynh nor greeting cards from international non-profit organizations. Quynh is serving her nine years imprisonment sentence in Prison No. 5, Thanh Hoa province, thousands of kilometers away from her family. The distance and her family situation - her elderly mother is the caretaker of her two young children - have made it difficult for her mother to visit her. Every month, Quynh is only allowed to make a five minutes phone call home, and her family relies on the letters to communicate with her.

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December 2016:

Quynhs’ mother, Ms. Nguyen Tuyet Lan, wrote a letter in December 2016 thanking Quynh's supporters.

February 2017:

Five UN Special Rapporteurs sent a letter to the Vietnamese government questioning Quynh's arrest and detention and seeking more details around the circumstances of both and their legal justifications. They wrote:

"While we do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of these allegations, we express
grave concern about the alleged arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention of Ms.
Quynh, as well as about her physical and mental integrity. We express equal concern that
the charges brought against her through repressive legislation represent a criminalisation
of her rights to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and
association. We furthermore express concern at the violations of her rights to due process,
in particular the incommunicado detention, the denial of her right to a legal counsel and
the prohibition to receive visits from her family. We are deeply concerned that Ms.
Quynh appears to have been a victim of repetitive and systematic harassment and assaults
by Government authorities for almost eight years, and she is now detained for a
prolonged period incommunicado. All the above mentioned violations of her rights seem
to be directly linked to her activities as an environmental human rights defender and the
legitimate exercise of her fundamental rights."

The government did not respond to the letter. 

June 2017:

Quynh's detention was deemed arbitrary by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Three UN Special Rapporteurs sent a letter to the Vietnamese government lamenting Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh's arbitrary detention and the physical attacks and interferences with her peaceful environmental work over the years preceding her arrest. They asked for more information justifying her detention and surrounding the allegations of her mistreatment and for additional information on protections provided for peaceful human rights defenders in the country. 

July 2017:

Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action for Quynh to call on the Vietnamese authorities to ensure that she has access to adequate medical care.

September 2017:

Quynh was one of the focus cases of the VOICE UPR campaign in late 2017.

October 2017:

Quynh's 11-year-old daughter wrote a letter to the First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump, asking for her assistance in releasing her mother from prison on the occasion of the first family’s trip to Vietnam for the APEC summit in November. “Please help unite my family since I know my Mom did not do anything wrong and furthermore, you were the one to give her the ‘International Women of Courage’ award,” she writes. Read the full translation of the letter here. The 11-year-old’s nickname, Nam, which means Mushroom, inspired Quynh to take the name Me Nam, or Mother Mushroom. 

A group of Western and Vietnamese scholars and experts on Vietnam issued a joint statement condemning the imprisonment of pro-democracy bloggers Quynh and Tran Thi Nga (serving nine years in prison). The statement’s signatories include scholars from leading universities in Australia, Canada, France, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The signatories focused on the two imprisoned Vietnamese women because of “their lengthy sentences,” their modest “offenses,” and the fact that their young children “desperately need them at home.”

Civil Rights Defenders also released a statement calling on Cambodia, Burma, and Vietnam to end their crimes against and repression of journalists in those countries, citing the lengthy prison sentences given to citizen journalists Tran Thi Nga, Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, and Nguyen Van Oai in 2017 in Vietnam. They also released a statement on the one-year anniversary of her arrest calling for her unconditional release.

Ted Osius, former US Ambassador to Vietnam, told Reuters that the administration has advocated for Quynh’s release, and the release of other prisoners of conscience, recently and on multiple occasions.

November 2017:

November 15 marked the Day of the Imprisoned Writer. PEN International highlighted Mother Mushroom’s case, believing “that Me Nam is being targeted for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression.” PEN also encouraged supporters to take action for Quynh, calling for her immediate release.

After her appeal was denied, several international human rights organizations and government officials, including the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires to Vietnam Caryn McClelland, condemned the decision. Ahead of the EU-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue on December 1, the Head of the Delegation of the EU to Vietnam spoke out against the upholding of Quynh's sentence.

February 2018:

On February 23, UN human rights experts called on the government of Vietnam to release individuals jailed for protesting the Formosa chemical spill. 
Amnesty International released a new Urgent Action for Quynh, demanding that Vietnam release her immediately, provide adequate medical care until her release, and stop transferring political prisoners to prisons far away from their homes.
June 2018:
On the ocassion of the first anniversary of her trial, Civil Rights Defenders again called for Quynh's immediate release from prison.
Quynh is one of the winners of the Committee to Protect Journalists’s International Press Freedom Awards. A professor in Canada has also nominated Quynh for the Nobel Peace Prize. Dr Marc Arnal nominated her for her resilient activism.
August 2018:
A Catholic church in Nghe An province screened a documentary about imprisoned blogger Quynh and her family. Vietnamese officials prohibited the film, called "When Mother's Away," from being shown at an event in Thailand recently. The event in Nghe An, however, drew a crowd of 1,000. 

Profile last updated: 2018-10-01 01:12:31