A 70-year-old Australian democracy activist has “disappeared” inside Vietnam’s jail system: nobody from his household or the Australian authorities has been allowed to see or communicate with him for practically 4 months.
Human rights advocates, attorneys and Chau Van Kham’s family mentioned the fees towards him are baseless and politically motivated, his single-day multiple-defendant trial was grossly unfair, and his failing well being means his 12-year jail sentence is “successfully a loss of life sentence”.
Vietnamese-born Chau was arrested in January 2019 and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment on “financing terrorism” fees over his membership of pro-democracy group Viet Tan.
His sister was final capable of see him in February, giving him cash and important drugs for a sequence of probably life-threatening situations, together with hypertension and levels of cholesterol, glaucoma, and kidney stones.
Chau’s son Dennis instructed the Guardian his household feared his failing well being will probably be exacerbated by his isolation.
“My father is of previous age now with none types of communication to the surface world, I fear not just for his well being however his psychological state … it frightens me how he’s doing inside.
“He’s now on a protracted journey till his launch with no help from the Australian authorities in any respect, it looks as if they’ve forgotten about him.”
Chau’s sister, who lives in Vietnam, had beforehand been allowed to go to as soon as a month to provide her brother cash, medication and letters from house. However she has been refused entry and telephone calls to him since 10 February.
On her most up-to-date go to she was instructed her brother was not within the B34 Detention Centre in Ho Chi Minh Metropolis the place he’d been held, however officers wouldn’t inform her to the place he had been moved. Weeks later – after authorities and media inquiries into his whereabouts – Chau’s household was knowledgeable he’d been moved to a jail greater than three hours away. There has nonetheless been no contact with him.
Officers from Australia’s consulate have had no contact with Chau since 17 January. He has not been allowed to phone anybody or write any letters.
Consular visits scheduled for February, March, April and Could had been all cancelled out of considerations over the unfold of Covid-19. Permission for a go to in June is pending.
However Vietnam has efficiently suppressed the unfold of the virus – the nation has reported zero deaths – and lifted pandemic restrictions.
“He has actually disappeared,” Australian lawyer Dan Phuong Nguyen, who’s appearing professional bono for the Chau household, instructed the Guardian.
“He’s simply vanished. I maintain grave fears for his security. Vietnam has opened up now, there aren’t any extra coronavirus restrictions. There isn’t any cause why jail officers can’t enable us some form of contact to tell us he’s effectively and protected.
“His household is distraught.”
Chau, an Australian citizen, was born in Vietnam and served within the military of the Republic of Vietnam earlier than 1975. After the conflict, he was despatched to a re-education camp for 3 years earlier than he fled Vietnam by boat, arriving in Australia in 1983. In Sydney, he labored as a baker for many years, rising earlier than daybreak to work at a modest suburban bakery.
In 2010, he turned a member of the Viet Tan pro-democracy organisation, and have become a key Australian organiser of pro-reform rallies and an outspoken advocate for democratisation in Vietnam.
The United Nations describes Viet Tan as “a peaceable organisation advocating for democratic reform”, but it surely was formally proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the Vietnamese authorities in 2016, which mentioned it was “a reactionary and terrorist organisation, all the time silently finishing up actions towards Vietnam”.
Chau sought to return to Vietnam in 2019 to satisfy fellow pro-democracy advocates however was refused a visa.
He crossed into Vietnam by way of a land border with Cambodia in January, carrying a false id doc. He was arrested after assembly a democracy activist who, it’s believed, was below surveillance, together with Vietnamese nationals Nguyen Van Vien and Tran Van Quyen, who had been sentenced to 11 and 10 years jail respectively.
Chau was convicted and sentenced at his first look within the folks’s courtroom of Ho Chi Minh Metropolis after greater than 10 months in detention.
The only-day judge-only trial, held concurrently with 4 different folks, noticed him tried and convicted on fees of “financing terrorism”, and sentenced to 12 years in jail, all inside 4 hours.
The courtroom was successfully closed – open just for accredited folks, his household was excluded – for everything of the trial. Viet Tan condemned Chau’s listening to as a “sham trial” and mentioned it will “proceed to help human rights defenders on the bottom”.
Chau’s appeal was dismissed in March.
Dennis Chau instructed a human rights summit in Geneva this 12 months: “With a 12-year sentence, [my father will] be 82 when he’s launched … I don’t imagine I’ll ever see him alive, a free man. It’s successfully a loss of life sentence.”
He mentioned the household felt it was a “cat and mouse sport” with the jail officers.
“No communication of any type, and now to make issues even tougher for us, transferring him additional away.”
For Chau’s spouse, Trang, his imprisonment has introduced immense stress, and “a number of unhappiness”.
“My mom is dealing with as greatest she will [but] I do know she misses him and would love him again as quickly as doable.”
Elaine Pearson, Australia director of Human Rights Watch, mentioned it was extraordinarily regarding that within the midst of a pandemic, nobody from the Australian consulate or Chau’s household had been allowed to go to to test on his welfare; even to talk by telephone, if public well being measures meant visits weren’t doable.
“Particularly given his age and well being wants, he needs to be launched from jail as quickly as doable and the Australian authorities must press tougher for that. We’ve seen different examples of Vietnamese political prisoners launched into exile within the US, France and Germany so it may be performed.”
Pearson said Chau’s arrest was part of a broader crackdown on freedom of expression across Vietnam, and that repressive governments around the world had used the cover of Covid-19 to target perceived opponents.
“The Australian authorities is likely to be reluctant to criticise Vietnam as a result of it desires mates in Southeast Asia to counter China’s rising affect, but any friendship with these international locations needs to be accompanied by firmly standing up for human rights.”
The Guardian put a sequence of questions on Chau Van Kham’s imprisonment and wellbeing to the Vietnam embassy in Canberra. It has not acquired a response. Telephone calls weren’t returned.
Australia’s division of overseas affairs and commerce mentioned it continued to hunt entry to Chau.
“Vietnamese authorities perceive our robust curiosity in Mr Chau’s well being and welfare,” a spokesperson mentioned.
— to www.theguardian.com