Hoang Thi Minh Hong is the latest environmentalist to be accused of tax evasion by Vietnam’s government
Hoang Thi Minh Hong, the founder of now-defunct NGO, CHANGE. (Photo: The 88 Project/ Facebook)
Vietnamese police have issued an arrest warrant for climate activist Hoang Thi Minh Hong on charges of tax evasion, according to an announcement posted hours after rights groups issued an open letter saying she was being held incommunicado.
Hong -- founder of now-defunct NGO, CHANGE, which focused on climate change and wildlife protection -- is the latest environmentalist accused of tax evasion by Vietnam's authoritarian government.
Hong, 50, had been widely recognized for her work: she joined the Obama Foundation Scholars program at Columbia University in New York in 2018 and was listed by Forbes among the 50 most influential Vietnamese women in 2019.
Ho Chi Minh City police said it had opened an investigation into Hong and issued an arrest warrant for her on June 5, according to an announcement posted on its website on Tuesday.
"The investigation has shown that Hoang Thi Minh Hong evaded over 5.2 billion dong ($227,000) in taxes," the report said.
"Hoang Thi Minh Hong has admitted her crime... Her family has made an advance payment of 200 million dong ($8,600) in compensation," it added.
Rights groups say Hong has been held incommunicado since June 1.
More than 60 organizations, including Amnesty International, Greenpeace UK and Friends of the Earth US published an open letter on Tuesday urging former US president Barack Obama to demand her release.
"She faces up to seven years behind bars and if found guilty, she may be subjected to a prison system that is known for torture and wilful neglect," it said.
No one has been able to speak to Hong since her arrest, they said.
The United Nations, the United States and Britain have expressed concerns over the arrest.
Hong founded CHANGE in 2013 to rally young people to take action against environmental issues including climate change, the illegal wildlife trade and pollution.
But she announced last year that CHANGE would close after Vietnam's communist government handed prison terms for tax evasion to four environmental human rights defenders, Nguy Thi Khanh, Mai Phan Loi, Bach Hung Duong and Dang Dinh Bach.
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