As news is confirmed that renowned climate leader, Hoàng Thi Minh Hồng (known as Hong), has been charged with tax evasion, Hong’s colleagues and friends at 350.org express their deep shock and concern, and call for her to be freed.
“Hong has dedicated her life to the pursuit of justice, and creating a better world for us all,” said May Boeve, 350.org Executive Director. “She is a dear colleague and incredible changemaker whose tireless work has inspired climate action across Vietnam and the world. We cannot accept her unjust incarceration, or the silencing of her critical work on climate justice. We urge her immediate release and that of climate defenders across Vietnam.”
Hong was arrested on May 31, 2023, and reportedly denied access to a lawyer, healthcare and other basic needs. She faces up to seven years imprisonment on supposedly spurious charges of tax evasion, a tactic commonly used against climate activists in the country.
Hong worked with 350.org from the organisation’s beginnings and in 2013 set up 350 affiliate organisation the Centre of Hands-on Action and Networking for Growth and Environment (CHANGE). Among its many achievements, CHANGE was instrumental in stopping the construction and financing of coal-fired power plants in Vietnam.
Observers believe that her arrest comes at a critical moment in the climate fight. Vietnam, one of five countries most at risk from climate change, has pledged net zero carbon emissions by 2050, despite getting more than 50% of its energy from coal. In December 2022, Vietnam entered a $15.5 billion Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) deal, with the G7 countries, the EU, Norway and Denmark to support the country’s rapid transition away from coal.
“Vietnam’s bold climate ambitions are the result of the hard work of climate defenders such as Hong,” said Norly Mercado, 350.org Asia Regional Director. “Their detentions endanger climate action in Vietnam. As a heavily climate-impacted country and emerging economy, Vietnam has a valuable role to play in ensuring a just, equitable response to climate change. But this is only possible when civil society is able to meaningfully participate in the design and monitoring of any deals, without fear of persecution.”
Hong is the fifth high-profile environmental activist in Vietnam arrested in the past two years on tax evasion charges. This includes Dang Dinh Bach, currently in the middle of a hunger strike, who was arrested last year on the same charge, and is currently serving a five-year prison sentence.
350.org says it recognises that what has happened to Hong is part of a broader pattern of repression against climate defenders in Vietnam.
“As we call for Hong’s release, we stand in solidarity with them all, and with climate defenders worldwide,” said the group.