The wife of a jailed dissident blogger undergoing treatment in hospital for cancer says his life can now be “counted in days and hours,” calling for renewed pressure on the Vietnamese government to release him so that he can die among friends and family.
Dinh Dang Dinh, a democracy activist, is suffering from advanced stages of stomach cancer while serving a six-year sentence for “anti-state propaganda,” according to his wife Dang Thi Dinh, who is helping to care for him at the Oncology Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.
Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Tuesday, Dang said her husband’s health had seriously deteriorated over the last month and that the family’s many petitions to authorities on his behalf had been ignored.
“Now that his life is counted by days and hours—not by months or years because he is so ill … we would like to ask individuals inside and outside Vietnam, as well as international organizations to interfere, urging the government of Vietnam to release him before he dies,” she said.
“He is very ill now and we want him to live out his last days with the family, not in prison. We ask that he be released to go home with us so that when he dies he will be surrounded by our love like a normal person, not a prisoner.”
Dang said that her husband’s doctors were refusing to acknowledge that he had reached the last stage of cancer and were reluctant to recommend he be released to his family.
“We have asked [the doctors] several times and they keep saying that he is [only] in the third stage, so he can’t go home,” she said.
“They will send him home when he gets to the fourth stage—that is when they suspend treatment. So we have to wait now. The doctors keep saying that they don’t have any results which show that he is in the fourth stage.”
Dinh hasn’t eaten anything for a month and has lost a dangerous amount of weight, Dang said.
Dang said that despite her husband’s life threatening condition, authorities have maintained a strict guard over him since he was admitted to hospital last month, with policemen posted outside his room and a camera installed to monitor both him and his visitors.
“They are still guarding him. There are three or four people guarding 24 hours a day and they have a camera inside his room near his bed,” she said.
“Now that he is in critical condition, they let his family members come in. We have to show them our ID. But they won’t let his friends in.”
She said that requests to allow the family to take a picture with Dinh before he dies had been denied.
“We asked them to let us take his picture because he is very weak now,” she said.
“We want to have a keepsake picture of him before he dies but they did not let us. They said no.”
Dang said the family has also been made to pay for all of her husband’s expenses, including 250,000 (U.S. $12) per day for his bed in a room with three other patients.
Dinh was sentenced in August 2012 to a six-year prison term for “conducting propaganda against the state” in his blog posts on charges rights groups say Hanoi routinely uses to silence dissent.
A former high school chemistry teacher and army officer, Dinh, 50, had published online articles on government corruption and on social and environmental issues, including an environmentally sensitive bauxite mining project given to a Chinese developer in central Vietnam.
Dinh’s family has called repeatedly for his release, saying he had been denied access to proper treatment while serving his sentence at the An Phuoc Prison in southern Vietnam’s Binh Duong province.
Dinh was admitted to the hospital in Ho Chi Minh City last month after the ambassadors of the U.S., EU, and other foreign missions in Vietnam urged the foreign minister to free Dinh on humanitarian grounds so that he could spend his remaining time at home or in a hospital.
Reported by An Nhien for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.