Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh
Current Status: Sentenced
Other Names: Me Nam, Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh
Date of Birth: July 18, 1979
Religion: Christian (Catholic)
Occupation: Tour guide
Latest Prison: Prison No. 5, Thanh Hoa province
Areas of Activism:
- Human rights
- Land rights
- Maritime sovereignty
- Police Brutality
- Network of Vietnamese Bloggers
- Art. 88
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Prior to arrest: healthy
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Contact us if you can assist.
Quynhs’ mother, Ms. Nguyen Tuyet Lan, wrote a letter in December 2016 thanking Quynh's supporters.
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.
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.
Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action for Quynh to call on the Vietnamese authorities to ensure that she has access to adequate medical care.
Quynh was one of the focus cases of the VOICE UPR campaign in late 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 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.
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh’s Facebook page
The 88 Project’s archives
Defend the Defenders’s archives
Frontline Defenders’s profile
Mother Mushroom: how Vietnam locked up its most famous blogger, The Guardian, July 8, 2017
Vietnam Arrests Mother Mushroom, a Top Blogger, for Criticizing Government, The New York Times, October 11, 2016
Urgent Action: Ten years in prison for human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, Amnesty International, July 12, 2017
Viet Nam: Further Information: Health fears for relocated jailed activist: Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, Amnesty International, February 28, 2018
Vietnam Blogger 'Mother Mushroom' Fears Death in Prison, Radio Free Asia, June 27, 2018
Jailed Vietnamese Blogger Mother Mushroom Said to Have Ended Hunger Strike, Radio Free Asia, July 27, 2018
Profile last updated: 2018-08-13 00:08:36