Global Witness is increasingly concerned by the escalating criminalisation of environmental defenders in Vietnam, and is calling for the immediate release of climate activist Hoang Thi Hong.

This week, Hong was charged with evading more than 5.2 billion Dong in tax – around £173,285 – and is predicted to receive a sentence of up to seven years in prison.

Her arrest last month came after she was forced to close her organization, the Center of Hands-on Action and Networking for Growth and Environment (CHANGE), in late 2022. 

Hong’s detention is part of a concerning pattern of arrests of environmental defenders in Vietnam – she is the fifth environmental activist arrested in the country in the last two years.

Just yesterday, Global Witness signed a letter along with 64 other NGOs across the world to former US President Barack Obama, urging him to pressure Vietnam to release Hong – who has part of the inaugural Obama Foundation Scholars cohort.

Rachel Cox, Land & Environmental Defenders Campaign at Global Witness, said:

“We are shocked to hear about the charges that have been brought against Hoang Thi Hong.

“While criminalisation is a key issue facing defenders in all corners of the earth, the recent crackdown on defenders in Vietnam is truly alarming. Vietnam’s tax laws are being used as a weapon against those who stand up for the environment in the country. This has to stop.

“We urge countries across the world – particularly those who have pledged billions of dollars for climate action in Vietnam – to take urgent action. We cannot let the vital voices of climate activists be silenced.”

Global Witness is also calling for the immediate release of environmental lawyer Đặng Đình Bách, who was arrested on similar charges in Vietnam in June 2021. Bach is currently on a hunger strike in prison to the death or his release. Tomorrow Global Witness is striking with him in solidarity.