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China Rights Group Honors Prominent Jailed Vietnamese Writer

FILE - Six democracy activists stand at dock in Hai Phong City's People's Court in Hai Phong, about 100 kilometers east of Hanoi, Oct. 2009. From L-R: Nguyen Van Tuc, Nguyen Van Tinh, Nguyen Manh Son, Nguyen Kim Nhan, Nguyen Xuan Nghia (2nd R), Ngo Quynh.
A Chinese media rights group has granted an award to a prominent Vietnamese writer detained in Vietnam since 2008 on charges of subverting the ruling Communist Party.

The Sweden-based Independent Chinese PEN Center [ICPC] said it decided to honor Nguyen Xuan Nghia with its 2013 'Liu Xiaobo Courage to Write Award' which is named after Chinese Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

In a statement issued this week, ICPC also named a second honoree for the award, Chinese environmentalist and writer Tan Zuoren, detained in China since 2009.

Nguyen Xuan Nghia is a Vietnamese poet, journalist and novelist and a founding member of a banned democracy movement known as Bloc 8406. Vietnamese authorities arrested him in 2008 and later convicted him of violating laws against spreading anti-Communist propaganda and undermining national security.

Nguyen Xuan Nghia was sentenced to six years in prison in 2009.

Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang has defended his record on human rights, saying his government has made "sustained efforts to protect and promote" them. He made the comment in a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in July.

ICPC said Nguyen Xuan Nghia's family tried to visit him in Ha Dong province last year, but discovered that he had been moved to a prison more than 400 kilometers from his home, near the border with Laos. It said his wife Nguyen Thi Nga also learned that he was suffering health problems and had contemplated suicide.

Nguyen Thi Nga, wife of jailed Vietnamese writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia. Photo: Nguyen Thi Nga, date unknown
Nguyen Thi Nga, wife of jailed Vietnamese writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia. Photo: Nguyen Thi Nga, date unknown
Speaking to VOA by phone, Nguyen Thi Nga welcomed the Chinese media rights group's recognition of her husband. "We are very glad and proud to learn that Nghia is granted an international award named after Liu Xiaobo, a courageous writer recognized by the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. This has helped to confirm that the path my husband has been pursuing for a multi-party, democratic Vietnam is legitimate," she said.

Nguyen Thi Nga said Vietnamese authorities transferred her husband to the distant prison in central Vietnam in retaliation for him leaking news that a fellow inmate and blogger was on a hunger strike. ICPC said the blogger, Nguyen Van Hai, also known as Dieu Cay, went on a hunger strike to protest adverse prison conditions.

ICPC is an affiliate of International PEN, a global association of writers dedicated to freedom of expression and the defense of writers suffering governmental repression.

Last year, ICPC granted the Liu Xiaobo award to ethnic Tibetan writer Dolma Kyab and Chinese writer and rights activist Wu Yilong, both of whom have been jailed in China in recent years.

Liu was detained in 2008 when he co-authored Charter 08, a declaration calling for political reform, greater human rights and an end to one-party rule in China. A court sentenced him to 11 years in prison in 2009 for "subversion" of China's Communist leadership.

Liu has been unable to collect his Nobel Peace Prize because of his detention.

Tra Mi of VOA's Vietnamese service contributed to this report.