65 International Organizations Urge Former US President Barack Obama to Advocate for the Release of Jailed Climate Activist Hoang Thi Minh Hong

65 International Organizations Urge Former US President Barack Obama to Advocate for the Release of Jailed Climate Activist Hoang Thi Minh Hong

On June 20, 2023, 65 International human rights organizations released an open letter calling on former United States President, Barack Obama, to demand the immediate and unconditional release of recently jailed Vietnamese climate activist Hoang Thi Minh Hong.

She was taken into custody by Vietnamese authorities for alleged “tax evasion” charges on June 1, 2023, and is currently being held incommunicado and has been denied access to a lawyer. If found guilty, she may face up to seven years in a prison system notorious for its use of torture and its disregard for basic and fundamental human rights.

In their open letter, the alliance of 65 human rights organizations emphasizes that Hong was one of the 12 first cohorts of the Obama Foundation and brings attention to the continued use of her name and image on their website. They strongly urge the former US president to align with the United Nations and the US State Department by issuing his own public statement, demanding the Vietnamese government intervene and expedite her release.

Before her arrest, Hoang Thi Minh Hong was the founder of the Center of Hands-on-Action and Networking for Growth and Environment (CHANGE), a Vietnamese NGO that advocated against climate change, fought for the preservation of the environment, and worked for the protection of wildlife. Before they were forced to cease operations due to government harassment in October 2022, CHANGE had been a leading organization that actively campaigned to halt the construction of new coal-fired power plants in Vietnam.

The open letter also highlights that Hong is the fifth climate activist to be arrested on tax evasion charges in Vietnam in the span of five years. It also cites a human rights investigation published in April, which presents clear evidence of the politically-driven nature of the country’s criminalization of climate activism.  

The Vietnamese government has recently been targeting environmental activists and weaponizing the law to control and suppress their activities. This makes Hong the latest high-profile victim of Vietnam’s oppressive crackdown on dissent and environmental advocacy. By arresting and detaining her under dubious “tax evasion” charges, the government seeks to silence her voice and intimidate others who challenge their environmental policies. The actions of the Vietnamese government underscore the urgent need for international attention and support to protect the rights of activists like Hong and uphold the principles of freedom of expression and environmental justice.

The open letter can be accessed here.

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