A Vietnamese literary critic who won an award from a group of her peers refused to accept it publicly due to what she said were threats from the authorities.
Vietnam’s communist government has stepped up widespread repression of those it considers its opponents, including independent journalists, bloggers and writers. The country was ranked 174th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 World Press Freedom Index.
Nguyen Thi Thinh Thy’s book “Dare to Look Back” won the award in the research-criticism category at the 7th Van Viet Literature Awards. Van Viet is a forum created by authors who support free literature and the Vietnam Independent Writers Association (VIWA).
Van Viet published a letter from Thy, in which she refused to accept the award.
“How much longer are we going to suffer?” Ton wrote. “Is there anyone on earth, throughout ancient and modern times, in Eastern and Western literature, who had to write a letter like this? The one asking the prize organizer to PLEASE KEEP THE PRIZE FOR ME? »
She wrote that she was honored to have won but could not accept the honor due to harassment from security guards. She said they told her, “You shouldn’t go and receive the award to avoid endangering public safety.”
“If you want to receive the award, there should be no awards ceremony, filming or posting on social media so you can avoid unnecessary trouble,” she told authorities. .
RFA’s Vietnamese service requested an interview with Thy but she said she had written everything she wanted to say in the letter published on Van Viet.
It was not the first time authorities had threatened or assaulted writers for literary prizes, Van Viet jury member Hoang Dung told RFA.
“Creating pressure to force that person or person to withdraw their item or refuse to accept an award, or even physical attacks, is nothing new,” Dung said.
Another recipient of the Van Viet Literature Awards, Thai Hao, was beaten by plainclothes security guards in March on his way to another award ceremony organized by the VIWA campaign committee.
Dung said the government’s efforts to ban independent literature show weakness within the political system.
“Please note that the Ms. Tinh Thy incident is part of a series of government reactions to Van Viet in particular and non-mainstream literature in general. They are still scared,” Hoang Dung said. “They see enemies everywhere.”
The Communist Party has long sought to control what is written, but intellectuals and writers will persevere despite these efforts, he said.
“I want to let our compatriots know that there are still intellectuals with a conscience who have the courage to face government repression. And I wish that one day our country will be more open in terms of ideological issues,” Hoang Dung said.
“The most important thing right now is to make people see how things really are, to raise their voices and join hands to make our country a better place.”
The International Association of Vietnamese Writers was established in 2014 by more than 60 prominent Vietnamese writers who support literary freedom.
Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Eugene Whong.