HANOI, Vietnam – The mother of a prominent Vietnamese blogger has died after setting herself on fire ahead of her daughter's trial next week, police said Tuesday.
An officer in the southern province of Bac Lieu said 64-year-old Dang Thi Kim Lieng died Monday afternoon on the way to the hospital in Ho Chi Minh City after setting herself on fire that morning near her home.
The officer declined to give his name, saying he was not authorized to speak with the press. State media did not report the death Tuesday.
The death "points to some very, very serious concerns about the kind of harassment" that relatives of dissidents face in Vietnam, said Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director for Human Rights Watch.
Lieng's daughter, Ta Phong Tan, is a former police officer who wrote Cong ly va su that (Justice and Truth), a blog that addressed social justice issues. She was arrested last September on charges of conducting propaganda against the state.
Lawyer Ha Huy Son said Tuesday that Tan and two other bloggers are scheduled to be put on trial Aug. 7. All three belong to the outlawed Free Journalists Club and stand accused of posting and writing hundreds of articles that "distorted and opposed" the communist government.
If convicted, the three face up to 20 years in prison.
The other bloggers are Nguyen Van Hai, known as Dieu Cay, and Phan Thanh Hai, known as Anhbasg. They were arrested in 2008 and 2010, respectively, on the same charges as Tan, and in addition they stand accused of attending a nonviolence training course aimed at overthrowing the government.
Although Nguyen Van Hai finished serving a 30-month sentence for tax evasion in October 2010, he has not been released.
On a visit to Hanoi this month, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton mentioned the Free Journalists Club while saying she remains concerned about a lack of online freedom and the jailing of Vietnamese journalists, bloggers, lawyers and dissidents for peaceful expression.
Vietnam is a one-party state that does not tolerate challenges to its authority.