Acupuncture leads to exculpation of men jailed for rape

Vietnam Heritage, November-December 2011 -- Physician Pham Thi Hong’s reading of a duong minh [acupuncture] point at the bottom of the ear, by which she may tell whether or not a man has had sex with a woman, has led to the release from prison of three men from Hanoi’s Ha Dong District concicted of rape.
I met Dr Hong at Ha Dong General Hospital, where she worked. Pulling a lot of pieces of paper from a drawer, she said, ‘Thousands of letters have been sent to me to ask me to prove their children or relatives not guilty of rape. I want to help them if they are really not guilty but I can’t help thousands of people like that by myself.’
Dr Hong said she had been very interested in books, especially books about traditional eastern medicine. She had been crazy about acupuncture spots and the yin and yang law of the human body.

She had been treating a prisoner with half of his body paralysed, Mr Nguyen Dinh Loi, from Yen Nghia Commune, in Hanoi’s Ha Dong District, when she found out he had been sent to prison for rape and served nine years. After looking at the acupoint on his ear, Dr Hong believed he was not guilty.
She didn’t know what to do, so she went to see Professor Nguyen Tai Thu, an  acupuncture expert, to ask for advice. The professor talked about legal issues’ not being a game. Only experts in traditional eastern medicine knew this particular acupuncture point. Conventional science had not proven it. How could acupuncturists be believed?
Mr Loi was charged along with two other young men from Yen Nghia Commune. Dr Hong went to see their families and to the People’s Procuracy, to read the evidence, where she found lots of inconsistencies.
Any unjust verdict had unreasonable things in documents, she thought; that during her investigation she found no one who knew about acupuncture did not matter.
Dr Hong wrote hundreds of letters to 36 government agencies. Most received no reply and others supported the verdict. Dr Hong received what she called the prisoners’ dubious confessions.
She sometimes received threatening phone calls at night, and lost four motorcycles while running around to ask for vindication for the prisoners.
She was so disappointed at times that she thought of self-immolation to demonstrate her belief. She thought that after her death someone would review all the documents.
Fortunately, however, her story eventually reached the then President of Vietnam Mr Nguyen Minh Triet, who asked that the Supreme People’s Procuracy review the documents. And, finally, Mr Loi and the two other young men were released, on the 2nd of March, 2010, after Dr Hong had spent more than three years on the case.
Also in 2010 she helped vindicate seven young men in the central province of Phu Yen and six others in Tu Ky District of the northern province of Hai Duong.
I visited Dr Hong at her house in Alley 16A, Phung Hung Street. in the Ha Dong District of Hanoi, and found out more. When she was seven days old, her parents left her in the care of other people and joined the Vietnam War, in which they were killed. After 19 years, a comrade of her parents gave her a letter her father had written to her before he died. She went to Vo Lang Pagoda to ask to be a nun, but senior monk Thich Thanh Vien, chairman of Ha Tay Buddhist Association, judged that she could be very helpful to many people in society and it would be better if she returned home and lived a secular life. She began to study very hard and became a physician. She felt guided by her father’s letter, which referred to the need for benevolence, righteousness and being true to one’s heart.

Text and photo by Quang Thanh
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