Đặng Xuân Diệu is an engineer, blogger, and social activist. Prior to his arbitrary detainment in 2011, Diệu volunteered as a youth leader in the Catholic community and blogged for the Vietnam Redemptorist News, an independent online Catholic publication that reports on social issues in Vietnam. He would work with others in his congregation on initiatives like helping typhoon victims rebuild their life and poor students access education.
Treatment in Prison
Đặng Xuân Diệu is one of two that received the longest prison sentences out of the 14 youth activists. He is sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment and 5 subsequent years’ house arrest. He plead not guilty to all charges against him.
At the end of 2014, the international community learned of the dire prison conditions Đặng Xuân Diệu was subjected to. Trương Minh Tam, a former political prisoner confined to a cell next to Diệu, explained to Radio Free Asia that life for Diệu was like “hell”. Tam recalls prison guards allowing other prisoners to beat up Diệu and force him to be their slave. Most humiliating was when prison authorities forced him to “model” for other prisoners to paint him as “half-human/half-beast figure.”
In terms of basic living conditions, Diệu is also denied clean drinking water, showers, and toilet paper. In the summer months he is not allowed a fan, and in the winter months he is not allowed a heater, leaving him vulnerable to the elements.
Despite these inhumane conditions, Diệu remains resilient. To protest the mistreatment in prison, Diệu has written letters to prison authorities and gone on long-term hunger strikes. According to an interview with SBTN, Diệu’s brother Dặng Xuân Hà explains that after a hunger strike that lasted over 30 days, family and friends protested to see Diệu to make sure he was alive. Prison guards didn’t allow the family to visit Diệu. Instead, two guards had Diệu by the arm and brought him out 100 meters away from where family and friends were standing. In over 4 years in prison, Hà explains that Diệu has been denied family visits.
Tam’s and Ha’s testimony reveal that Diệu’s prison conditions remain desperate and dire.