A Vietnamese Lutheran pastor who was imprisoned for fighting for religious freedom was recently kept in isolation and was not allowed to contact his family after he demanded equal rights with other prisoners.
Authorities accused pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh of inciting prisoners at Phuoc Prison in Binh Duong to go on hunger strike to demand that they be allowed five minutes of phone call with their families each month, which other prisoners were allowed to do.
Chinh was transferred to another prison camp where he was placed in isolation for allegedly leading the protest.
His family was not made aware of the transfer, and his wife Tran Thi Hong only found out when she visited him on Dec. 12. Prison authorities told her Chinh was moved to Xuan Loc Prison in Dong Nai province.
"I arrived at Xuan Loc Prison the following day, and prison officials told me 'Chinh was not allowed to call his family or inform them that he had been relocated because he refused to accept his crimes,'" Hong told UCA News.
"I told them that my husband did not do anything wrong and that they treated him in an inhumane way," she added.
In October, Hong revealed that when her husband and the other prisoners asked that they be allowed their monthly phone call, prison authorities gave them food mixed with broken glass and lead. Sometimes they were given food with dead flies. Their drinking water also smelled like it was mixed with insecticide.
Upon Chin’s transfer to Xuan Loc Prison, all his belongings were confiscated, including his Bible.
"Prison officers have taken away all his belongings including a copy of the Bible. They also didn't allow him to get food, medicine and clothes from me," she said. "He is kept in a cell that is away from others, and given food through a small window two times a day.”
Hong said her 50-year-old husband is not being treated fairly in prison and she constantly worried about his health.
"He is in poor health, he suffers high blood pressure and has severe sinusitis," she said. "I fear that he is too weak to complete the rest of his sentence."
She was finally allowed to see him through a glass confinement after some time, and they talked on the phone for 45 minutes.
Chinh was imprisoned in 2011 for defending the religious freedom of Christians in the central highlands. He was charged with violating Article 87 of the Vietnam penal code for “undermining national solidarity.”
He had been transferred to three camps since his incarceration and had not been permitted to contact his family. He is presently serving an 11-year term.
Vietnam is listed in Open Doors’ World Watch List as the 20th country in the world where Christian persecution is severe. Most of the persecution stems from the ruling communist party.