June 20, 2023

CRI Joins Open Letter on the Arrest of Obama Foundation Scholar in Vietnam

June 20, 2023

Mr. Barack Obama

c/o Obama Foundation

Chicago, Illinois

Re: Arrest of Obama Foundation Scholar in Vietnam

Dear Mr. Obama,

We write to request your assistance in calling for the unconditional release from jail of Obama Foundation scholar Hoang Thi Minh Hong. Hong is one of 12 members of the very first cohort of your foundation. She is also the founder of the Center of Hands-on Action and Networking for Growth and Environment (CHANGE), an organization that advocates for action on climate change, the environment, and wildlife protection. CHANGE was a leading organization in the campaign to stop the construction and financing of new coal-fired power plants in Vietnam. Unfortunately, Hong was forced to close CHANGE in October 2022, after being harassed by the government.

Vietnamese police arrested Hong on June 1, 2023. She is being held incommunicado and has been denied access to a lawyer. The government is preparing to prosecute Hong on a false charge of tax evasion. 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 willful neglect.

Hong is the fifth climate activist to be jailed in the past two years in Vietnam for supposed tax evasion. Dang Dinh Bach, another jailed activist, was sentenced to five years in prison after he successfully advocated for the government to decarbonize the energy sector. A human rights investigation, published in April, documents clear evidence that these prosecutions are politically-driven and designed to criminalize climate activism using false charges of tax evasion.

The United Nations and the U.S. State Department have already made public statements calling for Hong’s release. You have met Hong and praised her work, and your foundation continues to use her name and image on its website. Given this, it seems appropriate that you would join the UN and State Department by making your own public statement calling on the Vietnamese government to release her.

We would be happy to provide you more information on this important case. We look forward to your response.


  1. 350.org
  2. 350Hawaii
  3. 350 Silicon Valley
  4. Accelerate Neighborhood Climate Action
  5. Agency for Turkana Development Initiatives
  6. Amnesty International
  7. Animals Are Sentient Beings, Inc.
  8. Article 19
  9. Asia Democracy Network
  10. Asian NGO Coalition
  11. Asia Pacific Network of Environmental Defenders
  12. Center for Energy, Ecology and Development
  13. Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines Inc.
  14. Center for Human Rights and Environment
  15. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  16. Climate Rights International
  17. EarthRights International
  18. Environmental Defender Law Center
  19. Extinction Rebellion Phoenix
  20. FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
  21. Fortify Rights
  23. Freedom House
  24. Friends of the Earth Japan
  25. Friends of the Earth US
  26. Front Line Defenders
  27. Global Network of Movement Lawyers at Movement Law Lab
  28. Global Witness
  29. Grassroots Foundation (Germany)
  30. Greenpeace UK
  31. Human Rights Foundation
  32. Human Rights Watch
  33. International Accountability Project
  34. International Commission of Jurists
  35. International Rivers
  36. International Service for Human Rights
  37. Mano River Union Civil Society Natural Resources Rights and Governance Platform
  38. Manushya Foundation
  39. Market Forces
  40. Mekong Watch
  41. Mighty Earth
  42. North American Climate Conservation and Environment
  43. Not1MoreIpsum
  44. Nuclear Energy Information Service
  45. Oil Change International
  46. Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum
  47. Peace Action WI
  48. PowerShift e.V.
  49. Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights
  50. Protection International
  51. Reclaim Finance
  52. Recourse
  53. Rivers & Mountains GreenFaith Circle
  54. Sierra Leone Land Alliance
  55. Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt, New York
  56. Social Eco Education
  57. Terra Advocati
  58. The 88 Project
  59. Third Act
  60. Trend Asia
  61. Turtle Island Restoration Network
  62. Unite North Metro Denver
  63. Urgewald
  64. Vietnamese Advocates for Changes
  65. Vietnam Committee on Human Rights

Photo Credit: Vietnamese activist Hoang Thi Minh Hong addresses the Zerokonferansen climate change conference in Oslo, Norway, in November 2019. Source: CHANGE via RFA

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