(Reuters) - The 10-year-old daughter of a jailed Vietnamese blogger, “Mother Mushroom”, has appealed to U.S. First Lady Melania Trump to help win her mother’s release ahead of President Donald Trump’s visit to Vietnam next month.
The handwritten letter, posted on Facebook on Thursday, drew attention to Vietnam’s biggest crackdown on dissidents in years before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November.
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, 37, known as “Me Nam” (Mother Mushroom), is one of Vietnam’s most prominent activists. She was jailed for 10 years in June for publishing anti-state reports, including one about deaths in police custody.
Her daughter Nguyen Bao Nguyen, nicknamed “Mushroom”, referred to Trump’s upcoming visit to Vietnam and the “International Women of Courage Award” awarded by the First Lady to Quynh in March, which drew an angry response from Hanoi.
“Please help my family re-unite because I know my mother did nothing wrong,” Nguyen wrote in the letter, published on Quynh’s mother’s Facebook Page.
“We love our mother so much and just want her to come back to us,” said Nguyen, who turns 11 on Saturday.
Vietnam’s government did not immediately respond to a request to comment.
“The United States has advocated for Ms. Quynh’s release, and the release of all prisoners of conscience, multiple times with high-level Vietnamese officials in the run-up to the President’s visit to Vietnam – including in recent days and weeks,” U.S. Ambassador Ted Osius told Reuters.
Despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness to social change, media censorship remains tight in Vietnam and criticism of the Communist state is not tolerated.
At least 17 dissidents have been arrested this year in a crackdown that followed changes within the ruling party hierarchy and a growing number of environmental protests. Vietnam has carried out a simultaneous crackdown on corruption.
Trump is set to attend the APEC forum in the seaside resort of Danang, besides making an official visit to Vietnam.
“International donors and trade partners need to step up pressure on the country’s leaders to improve its abysmal rights record, and the APEC summit is a good moment to start,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch.
Quynh’s mother, Nguyen Tuyet Lan, is now looking after Nguyen and her four-year-old brother “Bear”. She told Reuters: “My daughter did nothing wrong; just consider what she did as constructive criticism for society.”
Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore