Mother Mushroom: how Vietnam locked up its maximum famous blogger

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One of Vietnam’s maximum influential political bloggers, given a courage award by using Melania Trump, faces a decade at the back of bars for her ‘reactionary’ paintings
Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known as Mother Mushroom, on trial in the town of Nha Trang.
Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known as Mother Mushroom, on trial in the city of Nha Trang. Photograph: Vietnam News Agency/EPA
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Bennett Murray in Hanoi
Sunday 9 July 2017 01.57 BST
“Each individual simplest has a lifestyle, but if I had the danger to choose once more I would still choose my manner.”

They are the words of one in every of Vietnam’s most influential bloggers — acknowledged through her online pseudonym, Mother Mushroom — minutes before she was exceeded the surprise sentence of a decade in jail. Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh directed her defiant comments at her sixty one-12 months-vintage mother, who became looking a stay feed in a room round the corner as she became no longer allow into the courtroom.

 

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The 37-12 months-vintage was accused of defaming Vietnam’s communist regime in her blogs and interviews with foreign media.

 

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“I clapped my palms within the room, in which 20 safety officers looked at me with very irritated eyes, but I become now not afraid; I become OK, very proud of her,” stated Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan.

Arrested in October at the same time as attempting to go to some other dissident in jail, Quynh, 37, has already spent nine months behind bars, in what her lawyer stated have been determined situations.

She subsisted handiest on a weight loss plan of anchovies and spinach soup for the primary seven months and became denied both sanitary pads and underwear, Vo An Don stated.

After Quynh become arrested on 10 October, her mother heard nothing approximately her whereabouts or health till a quick reunion in jail hours before her 29 June trial for crimes towards the nation.

The months had taken their toll on her daughter, Lan advised the Guardian in a cellphone interview from her home within the southern coastal metropolis of Nha Trang. Quynh regarded sickly for the duration of their assembly, she said.

“I said: ‘My pricey daughter, now I agree with you’re nonetheless alive.’ But she looked weak with very light skin,” she delivered.

 

Vietnam is notorious for its limits on freedom of expression, but Mother Mushroom’s detention and surprisingly prolonged sentence raised fresh alarm some of the blogging community, which avoids the censorship of nation-manage print media. The US nation branch quick referred to as for all prisoners of a sense of right and wrong to be launched at once.

While Quynh has been branded a “reactionary” via the nation for her anti-authorities running a blog, her pals and own family protect her as a champion of unfastened expression in a country in which dissent towards unmarried-birthday party rule is outlawed.

“My daughter has performed an ordinary factor in an unusual society, so she has to pay the price of prison and being denounced,” Lan stated.

Quynh rose to fame in Vietnam’s blogosphere in the overdue 2000s for her doggedly independent citizen journalism. A founding member of the underground Vietnamese Bloggers Network, she is specifically captivated with environmentalism, police brutality and Vietnam’s dispute with China over manager of the South China Sea.

Lan said her daughter’s political awakening started after reading foreign languages in university.

Upon discovering the pluralistic online global, Quynh got here to her mother with hard questions.

“She requested me: ‘Mum, do you understand this or that [about the government]?’ I stated I did, she puzzled me, ‘Why didn’t you inform me?’” recalled Lan.

“I advised her I knew, however on this society we’re dwelling in, it isn’t always the society where you may talk out, and they will denounce you.”

Quynh has when you consider that emerge as a prominent determine outdoor Vietnam, and has championed efforts in Vietnamese civil society to maintain political discussions on Facebook. The authorities have grown to be so angered with the aid of the movement that it has called on all corporations in Vietnam to forestall marketing on YouTube and Facebook.

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Quynh championed efforts in Vietnamese civil society to keep political discussions on Facebook. Photograph: Tracey Nearmy/AAP
In March the USA first lady, Melania Trump, offered Quynh the International Women of Courage Award, which Vietnam said: “changed into no longer appropriate and of no gain to the improvement of the relations between the two countries”.

Quynh’s pals defined her as frank and hot-tempered however genuine to her word.

“She always spoke out what she become thinking, in order that’s why it’s now not suitable for her while she triggered hassle with this sort of character, but she changed into a person who continually does what she says she will be able to,” said Trinh Kim Tien, a 27-12 months-vintage Ho Chi Minh City-based totally activist.

Quynh’s ultimate posts on Facebook, her favored blogging medium before her detention, were a combination of repostings of articles by different activists and brief, poetic, biting attacks at the kingdom.

“What kind of a society is it where people liable for their [high] positions, wherein the officers remember the citizens more silly than pigs?” she wrote on 29 September.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for the New York-based totally Human Rights Watch, said her involvement in protests towards the Taiwanese-owned Formosa Ha Tinh Steel plant in north-crucial Vietnam, which became related to a catastrophic fish die-off in 2016, became the last straw for the authorities.

“Mother Mushroom’s prominent ties to the anti-Formosa motion, which the government is increasingly more viewing as a safety challenge to its authority, manner she became the right candidate for a heavy sentence designed to sideline her and intimidate others,” Robertson said.

Environmentalist protesters demand that the Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa go away Vietnam.
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Environmentalist protesters call for that the Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa go away Vietnam. Photograph: Bennett Murray for the Guardian
Human Rights Watch says there are approximately one hundred ten acknowledged political prisoners in Vietnam, even though u . S . Denies maintaining any. Speaking at a press convention on the day of the trial, overseas affairs ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang stated: “all violations of laws have to be extraordinarily punished in accordance with the laws of Vietnam”.

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Pham Than Nghien, a chum of Quynh whose very own running a blog brought about her being imprisoned from 2008 to 2012, stated she cried when the verdict became delivered.

“While I wasn’t astonished due to the fact she had devoted many crimes in step with the regime … I may want to feel my palms and legs shiver,” she stated.

“We’re buddies, we’re adding each ladies, and I feel sympathy for her children, her family.”

Quynh’s mother, Lan, is now tasked with elevating her two grandchildren even as their mom stays in prison. Unless the country grants Quynh clemency the kids will develop up parentless.

“I experience empty now,” Lan stated.