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Notes from GNA's event, Free Hong: A call to free all Vietnamese climate defenders 講座筆記【釋放 Hong 與所有受關押的越南環境人權鬥士 】

Notes from GNA's event, Free Hong: A call to free all Vietnamese climate defenders 講座筆記【釋放 Hong 與所有受關押的越南環境人權鬥士 】

Generation Now Asia invited an anonymous Vietnamese activist and 350.org’s Asia Managing Director, Liangyi Chang to speak about their campaign, Free Hong - Free Them All, and raise awareness of how Vietnam’s ruling communist party is targeting activists in the climate movement, not respecting their human rights and suppressing civil society’s participation in the country's energy transition.

Hoang Thi Minh Hong, a prominent Vietnamese climate activist and a role model among the younger generation in Vietnam, founded CHANGE in 2013 to encourage and promote environmental conservation through education, creative communications that encourage behavioural change and inspire the Vietnamese community to take actions. The organization focused on protecting endangered wildlife, raising awareness on climate change, and campaigning to reduce pollution. 

On September 28, 2023, Hong was sentenced to three years in prison for tax evasion and fined. Hong's conviction is part of a troubling trend of legal action against environmental campaigners in Vietnam, who have been bringing attention to the lack of progress being made by the government to meet its climate targets.

About the speakers:
Anonymous Vietnamese human rights activist.

Liangyi Chang is 350.org Asia Managing Director. His concerns about climate change are for future generations and believes that youth can change the world. Starting in 2009, he joined various international NGOs, including participating in UNFCCC's 15th Conference of the Parties. He has visited various countries to learn different perspectives - in 2010 he joined the Across The Ocean project in South pacific islands as a sea level raising witness and in 2013 he joined the 2041 project to Antarctica for an ice melting investigation tour.

About 350.org
350.org is dedicated to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-centred renewable energy for all. They work to dismantle the influence and infrastructure of the fossil fuel industry and call for a deeper transition, one which places energy justice at the beating heart of its values.

Notes from the talk:
The Free Hong campaign took to social media with the hashtag #FreeHong #FreeThemAll, gathering a global response from climate activists posting photos in support and solidarity including posts from Mitzi Jonelle Tan, a prominent Filipino,  anti-imperialist climate justice youth activist, that is committed to changing the system and building a world that prioritizes people and planet, not profit, through collective action. As well as, renowned, Greta Thunberg a Swedish environmental activist who is known for challenging world leaders to take immediate action for climate change mitigation and began the youth-led movement Fridays For Future.

Left, Mitzi Jonelle Tan. Right, Greta Thunberg

Participants taking action:
Liangyi asked the participants of our event if they’d like to show their support to Hong and write her and her family postcards, letting them know they are not alone in this fight and that there are people in Taiwan calling for her release and standing in solidarity with her and all climate defenders.

What is the current trend In Vietnam:
Since 2022, the Vietnamese government has stepped up its crackdown against civil society activists, using tax evasion as a means to charge and arrest them. At least five individuals have been imprisoned for tax evasion since 2022.

Why tax evasion:
The government uses this tactic of convicting activists and NGOs of tax evasion to shame them, it’s a method to create public distrust in the activist or organisation. As the general public will think, ‘how can someone be a good person if they are not paying their taxes’. It’s a way for the government to show that NGOs do not belong in Vietnam.

Another reason is the government needs money. Typically, for a tax evasion charge, the court will sentence you to some years in prison, and fine you - if you pay back the tax and fines, it is possible that the government will release you earlier. Some previous cases have shown that this is possible. But the goal of 350’s campaign, #FreeHongFreeThemAll, is not only for Hong; it's also for all activists who might be targeted by the government using charges of "tax evasion." 

How did they charge Hong:
There is a legal ambiguity of the non-profit nature of CHANGE because in the Vietnamese legal system the concept of non-profit organizations does not exist, causing NGOs in Vietnam to have long existed in a legal "grey zone". Although Hong ran CHANGE as a non-profit, Vietnam’s government can treat CHANGE as either a for-profit or non-profit entity, this decision decides whether its operations are liable for taxation. Disappointingly, the state interpreted their ambiguous laws in the most punitive way for the case of Hong and concluded that they should be paying taxes.

It poses a considerable challenge for non-governmental organizations to sustain their operations while being subject to taxation, particularly in the context of Vietnam where NGOs frequently rely on funding from foreign entities. Foreign funders and donors would typically refrain from allocating resources for tax obligations, meaning that organisations do not have a method of coming up with the money to go towards possibly having to pay them.

Do activists have access to a lawyer in Vietnam:
Hong had a lawyer for her trial, however the legal system in Vietnam does not work like in the other democratic countries. Vietnamese human rights lawyers do not have the power to help their client. Instead, they more facilitate a role as a messenger who can help bring messages from prison to the family and the supporters, keeping them updated on the person's condition and situation. There's no fair trial, and there's no working legal system that can save you in Vietnam. For this kind of case, their sentence is already pre-selected, usually it’s up to 5 years. The government usually just chooses a number, and decides how much they need to pay. 

The importance of international pressure:
Only international pressure and campaign advocacy can help these Vietnamese activists. We can see that releasing the activists has become a bargaining leverage, as was evident when independent journalist Mai Phan Loi was freed just ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit to Vietnam this year, because the U.S. embassy had campaigned on his behalf. We should all come together internationally to call for Hoang Thi Minh Hong’s release and stand in solidarity with all other climate defenders that have been detained. 

Join the action to free hong:
You can read more about 350.org’s campaign and send the minister in your region a letter asking them to urge the Vietnamese government to release Hoang Thi Minh Hong and all climate defenders: https://350asia.org/free-hong/ 

For further information in English regarding Hong’s tax evasion charges, we recommend  reading LIV’s website series: Exploring CHANGE’s Tax Evasion Charges

講座筆記【釋放 Hong 與所有受關押的越南環境人權鬥士 】

亞洲鬧世代邀請了一位匿名的越南行動者和350.org亞洲管理總監張良伊,就他們的活動Free Hong - Free Them All發表演講,提高人們對越南執政共產黨如何針對氣候運動行動者、不尊重他們的人權和壓制公民社會參與國家能源轉型的認識。

 Hoang Thi Minh Hong是越南著名的氣候行動者,也是越南年輕一代的榜樣,她於2013年成立了CHANGE,旨在透過教育和創造性溝通促進環境保護、鼓勵行為的改變並激勵越南社會採取行動。該組織的工作重點是保護瀕危野生動物,提高人們對氣候變化的認識,以及開展減少污染的運動。

 2023 年 9 月 28 日,Hong因逃稅罪被判處三年有期徒刑、並處罰金。在越南,針對環境運動人士的法律行動呈現出一種令人不安的趨勢,這些行動者一直在引起人們對政府在實現其氣候目標方面缺乏進展的關注。



張良伊是350.org亞洲管理總監。他為了子孫後代,開始關注氣候變遷,並相信年輕人可以改變世界。從 2009 年開始,他加入了多個國際非政府組織,包括參加「聯合國聯合國氣候變化綱要公約第 15次締約國會議(COP15)」。他曾訪問過多個國家瞭解不同的觀點-2010 年,他作為海平面上升見證人參加了在南太平洋島嶼開展的 Across The Ocean project;2013 年,他參加了 2041 project,前往南極洲進行冰雪融化調查之旅。

關於 350.org
350.org 致力於結束化石燃料時代,為所有人建立一個以社區為中心的可再生能源世界。他們致力於消除化石燃料產業的影響和基礎設施,呼籲更深入的轉型,將能源公正作為其價值觀的核心。


Free Hong運動在社交媒體上發佈了 #FreeHong #FreeThemAll 的標籤,得到了全球氣候行動者的回應,他們紛紛發佈照片表示支持和聲援,其中包括菲律賓著名的「反帝國主義氣候正義」青年行動者Mitzi Jonelle Tan的發文,她致力於通過集體行動改變制度,建立一個以人和地球、而非利益為重的世界。還有著名的瑞典環保活動家Greta Thunberg,她以挑戰世界各國領導人立即採取行動減緩氣候變化而聞名,並發起了由青年領導的Fridays For Future運動。







另一個原因是政府需要錢。通常情況下,對於逃稅的指控,法院會判你幾年徒刑,並處以罰款-如果你補交了稅款和罰款,政府就有可能提前釋放你。以前的一些案例表明這是可能的。但350.org運動的目標,#FreeHongFreeThemAll,不僅是為了Hong,也是為了所有可能被政府以 "逃稅 "為名而盯上的活動人士。

他們是如何向 Hong 收取費用的?

CHANGE的非營利性質在法律上存在模糊性,因為在越南的法律體系中不存在非營利組織的概念,這導致越南的非政府組織長期處於法律 "灰色地帶"。雖然Hong將 CHANGE 作為非營利組織營運,但越南政府可以將 CHANGE 視為營利或非營利實體,這決定了 CHANGE 的營運是否需要納稅。令人失望的是,越南政府以最具懲罰性的方式解釋了其模棱兩可的法律,並得出結論:Hong 應該納稅。



Hong 在受審時有一名律師,但越南的法律制度與其他民主國家不同。越南的人權律師沒有權力幫助他們的當事人。相反,他們更多的是充當信使的角色,將資訊從監獄傳遞給家人和支持者,讓他們瞭解當事人的最新情況和處境。在越南,沒有公平的審判,也沒有有效的法律體系可以拯救你。對於這類案件,他們的刑期已經預先確定,通常最長為 5 年。政府通常只是選擇一個數位,然後決定他們需要支付多少錢。


只有國際壓力和倡議運動才能幫助這些越南行動者。我們可以看到,釋放這些活動人士已經成為一個討價還價的籌碼,獨立記者Mai Phan Loi在美國總統Joe Biden今年訪問越南之前獲釋就是明證,因為美國大使館曾為他發聲。我們應該在國際上聯合起來,呼籲釋放Hoang Thi Minh Hong,並聲援所有其他被拘留的氣候行動者。

加入釋放Hoang Thi Minh Hong的行動:

您可以閱讀有關 350.org運動的更多資訊,並給您所在地區的部長寫信,要求他們敦促越南政府釋放Hoang Thi Minh Hong和所有氣候行動者:https://350asia.org/free-hong/

有關 Hong 逃稅指控的更多英文信息,我們建議閱讀LIV的網站:Exploring CHANGE’s Tax Evasion Charges