Hoang Thi Minh Hong
Current Status: Sentenced to prison
Other Names: Hoàng Thị Minh Hồng, Hong Hoang
Date of Birth: October 5, 1972
Occupation: NGO worker
Last Known Prison: T30 detention center, Cu Chi district, Ho Chi Minh City
Areas of Activism:
- Vietnam Sustainable Energy Alliance
- Center of Hands-on Action and Networking for Growth and Environment (CHANGE)
Highlighted Human Rights Concerns:
- Denial of Family Visit/Punitive Prison Transfer
Hoang Thi Minh Hong was tried on September 28, 2023, sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of 100 million VND.
The UN Special Rapporteurs published their Joint Allegation letter to Hanoi, penned in in July, raising concerns about her arrest. Hong is the sixth climate leader arrested in Vietnam since 2021. To learn more about her case, watch Now This News’s video: Why the Arrest of Activist Hoàng Thị Minh Hồng Highlights a Growing Problem in Vietnam and the same video done in Vietnamese by Project 88.
Hoang Thi Minh Hong had two visits from her lawyer last week, and she appeared to be well. The police seem to be giving her better treatment than before. She is now in a 25-person room. Her situation has improved, as there is more food to share and more things to do. The investigation report is finished, and the police stated that they will not prosecute the other individuals at CHANGE for now. They have forwarded the investigation’s conclusion to the Procuracy. The detention order has been extended to Sept 23. So far no other official paperwork has been sent to her family, but Hong’s lawyer has received a notice from the police saying the trial date has been set for Sept. 28.
As of mid June 2023, Hong had been transferred from Chi Hoa Detention Center to T30 Detention Center and had been allowed to see her lawyer.
Same video done in Vietnamese by Project 88.
Details - Background, History of Activism, Family Situation.
Profile photo: CHANGE via RFA
Hoang Thi Minh Hong is an environmental activist and leader of the climate change movement in Vietnam. Hong was motivated to become an environmental advocate after a 1997 trip to Antarctica; she was the first Vietnamese national to achieve the feat.
In 2013, Hong founded the Center of Hands-on Action and Networking for Growth and Environment (CHANGE), an organization that advocates for action on climate change, the environment, and wildlife protection. CHANGE is a member of the Vietnam Sustainable Energy Alliance, an advocacy coalition that was forcibly disbanded after four of its leaders were imprisoned on false charges of tax evasion between 2021-2022.
CHANGE took an activist approach to its work on climate change, educating the public about the harmful effects of coal and mobilizing communities to stop the construction and financing of new coal-fired power plants. In 2017, for example, the organization spearheaded a petition to stop the construction of a coal-fired power plant in Vietnam’s Long An province, which gained over 15,000 signatures and was widely shared on social media. Work on the petition, however, was forced to stop after the police intervened. Hong said that “the signatures were planned to be sent to South Korean owners and investors, and the Vietnamese government leaders, but due to police suppression during that time, we decided not to send the petition.” CHANGE’s activism made the organization an enemy of the coal industry. Hong made no secret of this and in an article published in Vietnamese state media, she is quoted as saying the “coal industry is immoral”.
Hong was also part of the inaugural Obama Foundation Scholars cohort in 2018 at Columbia University in New York City.
Hong is the fifth climate activist to be jailed on false charges of tax evasion in the past two years in Vietnam. A report published by Project 88 in April 2023 documents clear evidence that these prosecutions are politically-driven and designed to criminalize climate activism using false charges of tax evasion.
Before her arrest, Hong reported administrative harassment in the form of irregular audits of her organization, spurious inquiries about “money laundering” from her bank, and delays in the approval of CHANGE’s projects. After four of her colleagues were prosecuted and imprisoned for tax evasion between 2021-2, Hong (along with the rest of the NGO community in Vietnam) suddenly learned that local NGOs are, in certain circumstances, liable for paying corporate taxes, even on income that is used for non-profit development projects.
Concerned that she was next in line to be prosecuted, on March 7, 2022, Hong wrote to the tax office seeking guidance. The tax office responded on April 8 with an official interpretation of the law which stated that Hong’s organization was eligible for tax exemption. However, the office also noted that in the event that the organization uses grant money for incorrect purposes, then it would be liable for paying corporate tax. To avoid arrest, in 2022 Hong resigned as the director of CHANGE. After hearing rumors that “my resignation is not enough,” on August 23 she wrote to the state regulator, the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations (VUSTA), and asked for official permission to close CHANGE. VUSTA, however, denied Hong’s request, and she was unable to formally close CHANGE.
Project 88 interviews
Latest environmentalist arrest shocks Vietnam’s battered civil society, Mongabay, June 2, 2023
A Day in the Life: Hong Hoang, Obama Foundation
Arrested May 31, 2023. Sentenced to 3 years in prison under Art. 200 (2015 Code). Expected Release is May 31, 2026.
- Art. 200 (2015 Code)
- freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
- liberty and security of the person
- freedom of expression
- fair trial
- The 88 Project
- US government
- International government officials
- Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Hong was detained on orders from Ho Chi Minh City police in Ho Chi Minh City on May 31 and questioned by the Police Division for Economic Crimes. Her husband and 15 former and current colleagues were also detained but later released. Police searched her office as well. On June 1, Hong was forced to confess to tax evasion and was formally charged under Article 200 of the 2015 Criminal Code. She faces between 2-7 years in prison if convicted. While Hong's husband and colleagues were released, Hong remains in pre-trial incommunicado detention.
On June 20, Ho Chi Minh City police announced they are charging Hong with allegedly evading over 5 billion VND in taxes. To put this in perspective, Dang Dinh Bach was sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly evading 1.4 billing VND.
Several foreign governments and many international organizations have urged Vietnam to release Hong. Project 88 led a campaign that resulted in 65 international human rights, free expression, and environmental organizations in issuing an open letter calling on former U.S. President Barack Obama to pressure Vietnam to release her.
The UN OHCHR also released a video statement calling on Vietnam to review domestic laws to “ensure their full compliance with international human rights standards” and to “promptly release all those arbitrarily detained.” You can watch the video statement in English, paired with Vietnamese subtitles from Project 88, here.
Project 88 interviews
Foreign ministry's remarks on detainment of high-profile environmentalist, Viet Nam News, June 1, 2023
On the Detention of Leaders and Staff of Vietnamese Environmental Civil Society Organization CHANGE, U.S. Department of State, June 2, 2023
Viet Nam – Detention of environmental human rights defender Hoang Thi Minh Hong, UN Office of the High Comissioner for Human Rights, June 2, 2023
Công an TPHCM khởi tố bà Hoàng Thị Minh Hồng về tội "Trốn thuế", Cong An Online, June 20, 2023
Open Letter to former President Obama from 65 Organizations, June 20, 2023
Profile last updated: 2023-09-28 15:22:53