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Exiled Vietnamese blogger: I’m not alone advocating freedom

BANGKOK (AP) – A prominent Vietnamese blogger sent into exile in the United States says her reunion with her family after two years in prison is proof she is not alone in speaking for freedom.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh was smiling when she emerged from the George Bush International Airport in Houston on Wednesday night and was greeted by people, many of them Vietnamese-Americans. Her two young children and her mother also travelled with her.

Quynh blogged as “Mother Mushroom” about human rights and industrial pollution. She was arrested in 2016 and sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of defaming the Communist government, a conviction that drew criticism from some governments and human rights groups.

Speaking to reporters live upon her arrival, Quynh said even though she had prepared herself for seeing her family again, “I was shocked when my son and my daughter hugged me on the plane. We had to wait (for this moment) for two years.”

“The reunion right on the plane today will be the answer for those who arrested me that I’m not alone and the voices for freedom will never be dissonant,” she said.

Her release was on the condition that she leave for the United States. The embassy welcomed Quynh’s release and said it would continue to press for the release of other “prisoners of conscience.”

“We will continue to call on the government of Vietnam to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience and allow all Vietnamese citizens to express their political views without fear of retribution,” U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Karen Tang said in a statement Thursday.

Quynh was released as U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis visited Vietnam, aiming to boost military cooperation between the two former foes amid growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea.

Vietnam has stepped up a crackdown on dissent over the past two years with scores of activists and bloggers jailed for national security-related offenses.

There are more than 100 “prisoners of conscience” in Vietnam, according to Amnesty International.

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