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US Congress to Examine Prisoner of Conscience Cases

VOA News
The mother of a jailed Vietnamese labor activist and the wife of a imprisoned Chinese human rights lawyer are expected to be among those testifying this week before a U.S. Congressional commission.

Thursday's hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission will address the plight of prisoners of conscience around the world, including Vietnam and China.

Tran Thi Ngoc Minh, mother of Do Thi Minh Hanh, will join activists and others testifying before the Lantos Commission, a caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives. Minh Hanh a 28-year-old labor rights activist was imprisoned in 2010 for a seven-year term for distributing leaflets supporting workers demanding better pay and conditions.

Her mother told VOA's Vietnamese Service her daughter had suffered badly in prison including being beaten because she refused to perform forced labor. She said her daughter's health has deteriorated significantly, but requests for medical care have been rejected by the prison staff.

Also scheduled to testify Thursday is Geng He, the wife of Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng.

Meanwhile, a Vietnamese-American human rights group, Boat People SOS (BPSOS), is starting a campaign against torture and seeking the release of prisoners of conscience in Vietnam.

BPSOS founder Nguyen Dinh Thang told VOA's Vietnamese service that he hopes the congressional hearing will explore possible strategies for gaining the release of Vietnamese prisoners of conscience like Minh Hanh.

He says his group will bring bring witnesses and reports on rights abuses from independent groups and individuals in Vietnam to the attention of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, the U.S. State Department, and international rights groups.

"Torture has become alarmingly popular in Vietnam which is a big concern to the US, UN, and many other democratic nations."

Founded in 1980, BPSOS is a U.S.-based international organization that has published a number of reports on human rights in Vietnam.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.

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