Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

Rights groups condemn sentence against prominent campaigner on issues of climate change and environmental degradation.

Vietnam has sentenced prominent environmental activist Hoang Thi Minh Hong to three years in prison on tax fraud charges.

The state-run Thanh Nien newspaper said Hong, the founder of CHANGE, a now-defunct environmental campaign group, was convicted after a one-day trial in southern Ho Chi Minh City.

She was found guilty of dodging nearly $275,000 in taxes related to CHANGE, her lawyer Nguyen Van Tu told the AFP news agency.

“This conviction is a total fraud, nobody should be fooled by it,” said Ben Swanton, co-director of The 88 Project charity.

“This is yet another example of the law being weaponised to persecute climate activists who are fighting to save the planet.”

The United States and a number of human rights groups had expressed their concerns about Hong and the crackdown on CHANGE when she was arrested in June.

In advance of the trial, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the Vietnamese government to drop all charges against Hong.

“The Vietnamese authorities are using the vaguely worded tax code as a weapon to punish environmental leaders whom the ruling Communist party deems a threat to their power,” Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director, said in a statement.

“The government should stop punishing activists for peacefully advocating action on climate change and for green policies and drop the case against Hoang Thi Minh Hong.”

Hong, 51, founded CHANGE in 2013 to tackle problems related to climate change, pollution and endangered wildlife.

She secured international recognition for her campaigning but abruptly shut the organisation down in October 2022.

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By Joy

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