Authorities in Vietnam have shown no signs they plan to release any political prisoners during the country's annual amnesty marking the nation’s independence day.
Several political and non-political prisoners are traditionally pardoned on or around September 2. But unlike previous years, Vietnamese state media has yet to announce the official number of detainees set to be released nationwide this year.
Political prisoners typically make up a small percentage of those who receive amnesty. The majority are Vietnamese who were jailed for ordinary criminal offenses like theft.
Many activists had hoped prominent blogger Dieu Cay would be freed amid Vietnam’s efforts to join the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and its desire to be removed from the United States' lethal arms embargo list.
Vietnam is regularly criticized by human rights groups and Western governments for its suppression of political dissent and treatment of religious groups.
Dieu Cay's wife, Duong Thi Tan, told VOA's Vietnamese service that during a short monthly phone call last week, the blogger told his son that he'd dismissed authorities’ request that he write a petition seeking a pardon.
"He rejected the request to write the petition for pardon because he did not violate laws," she said. "He said he was innocent so he did not ask for pardon. He said if he had to write, he would write a letter requesting to be released since he did not commit any wrongdoings."
Doan Viet Hoat, Vietnam’s best-known dissident who was released in the 1998 amnesty, shared his own experiences and denounced Hanoi for using "tricks" to force political prisoners to "admit wrongdoings for pardon."
"Since [my release], the Vietnamese government continues to use prisoners of conscience for trading in international relations," he said. "We totally protest the way Hanoi considers political prisoners as hostages to exchange for their own benefits.”
The U.S. government has called on Vietnam to improve its human rights record as the two sides discuss Vietnam's efforts to join the TPP. Officials in Washington have said they are considering a move to lift the weapons ban on Hanoi.