“Whatever my father got his hands on, he would beat me with it, Nguyen Huu Hung, 9, who lives in the northern Hung Yen Province, says.
“They would mostly be his bamboo smoking pipe, belts or umbrellas. There were times when he forced me to take off my clothes and stand in the sun, make me lie in the sewer in the dark, cut my fingers, or make me eat raw lolot leaves.”
“During those times, I could see that he was not completely sober. It was as if he was on drugs.”
Hung has lived with the violence perpetrated by Nguyen Huu Long, 35, for nearly three years now.
On Thursday he returned to school after recovering from several injuries, but he is understandably still fearful. He withdraws from strangers, and he is haunted by dreams of being taken away by his father for more beatings.
9-year-old Nguyen Huu Hung in the arms of his maternal grandmother, Nguyen Thi Hanh, 73, in Hung Yen Province in northern Vietnam, September 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Du.
Hung lived with his maternal grandmother since he was three months old. Once he turned six, his father took him to live with his girlfriend and her child in Ham Tu Commune, Khoai Chau District, just a kilometer away from his grandmother’s.
Hung says he was always afraid of his father and only wanted to live with his grandmother.
Long also often forced Hung to do an adult’s work like cooking, cleaning the house, doing laundry, and taking care of the family’s shop.
He would frequently beat the child for no reason and then threaten him not to tell anyone.
Long’s girlfriend and child left the house in early August, and the beatings and abuse became more severe.
The grandmother, Nguyen Thi Hanh, 73, says Hung’s parents often got into trouble with the law for drug trafficking. Both have been to jail, and Hung’s mother had two children with another man.
Long came out of prison in 2017 and took Hung back from Hanh.
She knew about the physical abuse Long inflicted on her grandson and tried to take custody of Hung, but he refused. She was even forbidden from visiting her grandson or giving him food.
One day in August she realized Hung was suffering from more and more severe beatings, and informed authorities. But Long only received a slap on the wrist and was warned not to repeat his offense.
On September 12 Hung showed up in school with bruises all over his body and face, and his teacher informed Hanh about it and told her to report the matter to the police.
From that day the beatings became more frequent and Hung was even forbidden from going to school. Long received repeated warnings from the authorities.
Hanh tried to intervene, but Long threatened to kill her. When Hung’s teacher called his home, Long threw his son’s books out.
A representative of Ham Tu Commune said: “We summoned Long and made him sign papers promising to no longer abuse his son. The beatings resumed a few days later, and so we forwarded the complaint to the district police department.”
An investigation found that through the night of September 16, Long beat his son to the point where his head and entire body became swollen and bruised.
Long was arrested, and he confessed to assaulting the child.
Nguyen Huu Long, 35, who has been violently abusing his son Nguyen Huu Hung, now 9, since 2017, is arrested by the Hung Yen Province police on September 23. Photo courtesy of the police.
Hung has since been placed in his grandmother’s custody. Hanh lives in a dilapidated house in Xuan Dinh village and is in a difficult financial situation, but promises she will never part with her grandson again.
Le Thi Thu, deputy headmistress of the Ham Tu Primary School, where Hung studies, says the boy is only 1.2 m tall and weighs only 18 kg.
During his four years in the school, teachers only contacted his grandmother for matters concerning him. They knew about Hung’s family situation but failed to take actions early.
“Many times, after we saw bruises on Hung’s body, we informed his grandmother. But after his injuries worsened recently the school decided to report directly to the police,” Thu said.
She is remorseful she was not able to stop the abuse earlier.
More than 8,700 children were abused between 2015 and 2019 in Vietnam, with over 850 subjected to physical violence, according to a National Assembly report in May.
Most of it happened at the hands of family members, neighbors or acquaintances, it said.