Vietnamese climate activist Hoang Thi Minh Hong has been sentenced to three years in prison and fined $4,100 for tax evasion. She is the fifth Vietnamese activist to face imprisonment on this charge, with human rights groups claiming that these cases are part of a state-sanctioned effort to silence critics of Vietnam’s climate policies.
The trials have drawn criticism for their brevity, with some lasting just a few hours. Activists detained on tax evasion charges have been treated more severely than others in similar situations, being denied access to lawyers.
Vietnam’s legal framework for NGOs often leaves them in a “grey zone” regarding tax requirements, but the state has interpreted these laws in a punitive manner when it comes to environmental activists.
The decision to prosecute climate activists contrasts with Vietnam’s commitments to reducing carbon emissions and transitioning to sustainable energy sources, as outlined in its participation in the Just Energy Transition Partnership. Critics question why donors, including the United States, continue to support this climate deal when civil society voices are being silenced.
Environmental groups in Vietnam now fear government crackdowns, and human rights advocates emphasize the importance of civil society in ensuring transparency and accountability in the country’s climate initiatives.