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Latest Environmentalist Arrest Shocks Vietnam’s Battered Civil Society

Jul 03, 2023

Mongabay seeks to raise interest in and appreciation of nature and wildlife, while examining the impact of emerging trends in climate, technology, economics, and finance on conservation and development.

The Vietnamese government has a track record of charging critics of the government's environmental policies of tax evasion.

Police in Vietnam have detained prominent environmentalist Hoang Thi Minh Hong, known as Hong Hoang, on tax evasion charges frequently used against critics of the government's environmental policies.

Hong, who was taken into custody on May 31, is an Obama Foundation Scholar and founded the Center of Hands-on Action and Networking for Growth and Environment (CHANGE). The environmental NGO closed last year amid intense pressure on civil society groups across Vietnam.

In 1997, Hong became the first Vietnamese national to visit Antarctica, a trip that inspired her move into conservation.

At a government press conference on June 1, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ deputy spokesperson said Hong faces charges of tax evasion. Her husband and two former CHANGE employees were also detained, though they have since been released.

The same charge was previously used against Goldman Environmental Prize winner Nguy Thi Khanh, who was released from prison five months early on May 13.

"We were shocked to learn about the arrests of Hong, her husband, and two other staff," said A.P., an environmentalist who requested anonymity to discuss the topic. "It is unbelievable because CHANGE was forced to close down almost a year ago."

Over the years, CHANGE organized numerous efforts to raise awareness of climate and environmental issues, including a graffiti campaign to educate people on rhino conservation, and the "Be Their Bodhisattva" campaign highlighting the graphic nature of the wildlife trade.

"There was a sign of hope after Khanh was released early," A.P. added. "But in less than two weeks, they arrested Hong for the same reason. She is the fifth climate activist to be arrested for tax evasion."

Dang Dinh Bach, one of those activists, plans to begin a hunger strike "to the death" on June 24 to protest his five-year sentence.

"It is ironic that we are working toward a sustainable planet, to make the world a safer place for all living things," the anonymous environmentalist said. "But in order to do that, our lives are put in danger."

The News Lens has been authorized to publish this article from Mongabay, an environmental science and conservation news and information site. The original article can be found here.

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou (@thenewslensintl)

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