Vietnamese authorities have remanded a prominent environmental activist in pre-trial detention on charges of tax evasion, her husband told AFP on Friday, another "disturbing" example of the crackdown on environmental defenders.
Hoang Thi Minh Hong founded the now-defunct NGO Change in 2013 to mobilize younger generations on Vietnam's environmental challenges, such as climate change, wildlife trafficking and pollution. "I can confirm that Hoang has been in pre-trial detention since (Wednesday) May 31 on charges of tax evasion," said her husband Hoang Vinh Nam. The 50-year-old activist is imprisoned in Ho Chi Minh City (South), the economic capital of the country of 100 million people.
Wave of repression
Vietnam is regularly accused by human rights groups of cracking down on dissenting voices, including those denouncing environmental abuse. Hoang Thi Minh Hong shut down Foreign Exchange operations in 2022 after the communist authoritarian regime jailed four other activists for tax evasion. Among them, Nguy Thi Khanh spent nearly a year in prison before being released in May.
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Winner in 2018 of the Goldman Prize for the Environment, the "Green Nobel", the latter is one of the few to criticize the government on the ever-increasing use of coal-fired power plants. "The selective use of vague and flawed tax laws to target environmental activists with politically motivated prosecutions is a new and extremely troubling development," said Phil Robertson, Asia representative at Human Rights Watch.
This wave of repression undermines the country's efforts to combat the effects of climate change, to which it is particularly vulnerable, several NGOs denounced in October. "Vietnam has always affirmed its strong commitment to protect the environment and deal with climate change, for sustainable and green development," Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Nguyen Duc Thang told AFP after Hong Thi Minh Hong's arrest.