(VNRN) – Political prisoners Vi Duc Hoi (Vi Đức Hồi) and Nguyen Tien Trung (Nguyễn Tiến Trung) were freed Apr 12 before completing their full sentences. Both of whom have been the subject of international campaigns for their release.
Hoi, 57 (pictured above, right), an ethnic Tay from northern Lang Son province, is a former Communist Party official who wrote a blog advocating for human rights and a multi-party democratic system. He was convicted in 2011 of “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic” under Article 88 of the Penal Code and sentenced to eight years in prison, later reduced to five years.
Trung, 31, is an engineer who founded the Assembly of Vietnamese Youth for Democracy while studying in France. Against advices that he may be arrested, Trung returned to Vietnam in 2007 and was conscripted in 2008. Trung joined the Army but, according to his mother, refused to take the Army’s oath as it demands loyalty to the Communist Party. Dismissed from the military in 2009, Trung was arrested the very next day and charged with “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic” under Article 88.
Hoi and Trung took very different paths to their activism. Hoi was a communist idealist early on, joining the Communist Party at 22 adn advanced to a high rank training other party leaders. In 2006, however, he began to advocate for democracy. The following year, he was stripped of his rank, fired from his job and expelled from the party.
Hoi later joined the pro-democracy Bloc 8406 network, writing commentaries about government land-grabs and corruption.
In 2008, Hoi published an ebook, a memoir entitled “Facing Reality, My Path to JOining the Democratic Movement.” In 2010, he published a book of fiction based on the death of Nguyen Van Khuong, a young man beaten to death by police after a traffic stop in the northern highland province of Bac Giang. He was arrested in October of that year.
Trung, on the other hand, has never joined the Communist party. He first gained fame in 2006 when he published an open letter to the Minister of Education seeking reform to the education system, asking that all indoctrination classes be taken out of it. There never was an official response to the letter.
In May of that year, Trung founded the Assembly of Vietnamese Youth for Democracy (Tập hợp Thanh niên Dân chủ, THTNDC in Vietnamese, also translated as “Movement of Democratic Youth” and “Democratic Youth of Vietnam”), calling for students to join the push for political reform in Vietnam.
On December 25, 2006, Trung formally joined the Vietnam Democratic Party, a political party not recognized by the government, and was appointed Deputy Secretary of the party, heading up Youth Affairs.
In 2008, Trung was conscripted into the Army, something unusual in Vietnam where almost all soldiers are conscripted in the early years of service age. In the Army, however, Trung was placed on practically perpetual discipline, as he continuously refused to take the part of the Army’s oath that requires loyalty to the Communist Party.
Trung was arrested the day after he was dismissed from the Army, and was tried together with three other activists, two of whom have already been freed, attorney Le Cong Dinh and engineer Le Thang Long, both founders of the Vietnam Path Movement.
The fourth defendant in that case, engineer and businessman Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, is still in prison. Earlier this year, Thuc’s father Tran Van Huynh joined other parents of prisoners of conscience and traveled to the U.S. and Europe, meeting with government officials and NGO’s and asking for help getting the release of the prisoners.