The daughter of jailed Vietnamese blogger Mother Mushroom has appealed in a letter to Melania Trump, wife of U.S. President Donald Trump, for help in winning her mother’s release from prison, where she is serving a ten-year term for publishing politically sensitive writings online.
“Please help my family reunite,” ten-year-old Nguyen Bao Quyen wrote in a handwritten letter posted on her mother’s Facebook page. “[My mom] hasn’t done anything wrong.”
“This is the fourth letter I have written to you to ask you to help my family reunite,” Nguyen, also called Nam, or Mushroom, wrote to the first lady, who is expected to travel with the U.S. president to Vietnam next month for meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group.
“I have asked my grandmother if you received the other three letters, but she said that all we can do is hope.”
“There are only a few days left before my younger brother’s birthday and my own, but it’s going to be a birthday without our mom beside us,” Nguyen wrote.
“We love her so much, and just want her to come home.”
Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Friday, Nguyen confirmed she had written the letter, saying, “I wrote this so that Mrs. Melania Trump will intervene to help my mom come back to me.”
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh—also known by her blogger handle Me Nam, or Mother Mushroom—was arrested Oct. 10, 2016 while on her way to visit a fellow rights campaigner in prison and was sentenced on June 29 to 10 years in jail on charges of spreading “propaganda against the state” under Article 88 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.
Quynh had blogged about human rights abuses and corruption for more than a decade, and more recently voiced criticism over Vietnam’s policy toward China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. She has also criticized the government’s response to a 2016 toxic waste spill by a Taiwanese firm that destroyed the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Vietnamese living in four coastal provinces.
Writing in a separate open letter to Trump on Oct. 25, Thuy-Linh Pham, president of the Texas-based Federation of Vietnamese Au Co Women, noted the U.S. first lady’s role earlier this year in presenting an award in absentia to the jailed blogger.
“On March 29, 2017, you presented the International Women of Courage Award to 13 extraordinary women at the U.S. State Department for their exceptional courage in advocating for peace, justice and human rights,” Pham wrote.
“Mrs. Nguyen was one of these award recipients, [but] unfortunately she was not present at the ceremony to receive this award mainly because of her incarceration by the Vietnamese Communist Government.”
“Our federation and the Vietnamese people, both inside and outside of Vietnam, would be eternally grateful if you could intervene on her behalf so that she could be released and re-join her family which includes an elderly mother and 2 young children who suffer immensely in her absence.”
Speaking to Reuters, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius said the U.S. has pressed many times for the jailed blogger’s release.
“The United States has advocated for Ms. Quynh’s release, and the release of all prisoners of conscience, multiple times with high-level Vietnamese officials in the run-up to the President’s visit to Vietnam—including in recent days and weeks,” Osius said.
Communist Vietnam, where all media are state-controlled, does not tolerate dissent, and rights groups identify Article 88 as among a set of vague provisions that authorities have used to detain dozens of writers and bloggers.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Richard Finney.