Revoking Activist’s Citizenship ‘New Low’ For Vietnam Government: Rights Group

Human Rights Watch calls for pressure on Hanoi to rescind the decision.

Pham Minh Hoang in an undated photo.

A decision to strip French-Vietnamese professor and former political prisoner Pham Minh Hoang of his citizenship “marks a new low” for Vietnam’s government, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday, urging the international community to pressure Hanoi to reverse the ruling.

In a letter issued on May 17 and signed by President Tran Dai Quang, Vietnam’s government informed Hoang, 62, of its official decision to revoke his nationality, citing Articles 88 and 91 of the country’s Criminal Code, which prohibit “conducting propaganda against the state” and “fleeing abroad or defecting to stay overseas with a view to opposing the people's administration,” respectively.

After receiving the letter on June 10, Hoang called the decision “invalid,” saying it violates the Law on Vietnamese nationality, and pledged to fight for his right to live in his homeland. He has formally begun the process of renouncing his French citizenship in a bid to block the revocation.

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said in a statement that the Vietnamese government’s action to strip Hoang of his citizenship “is nothing short of outrageous,” and called for pressure on Hanoi to withdraw the decision.

“This completely unjustified abuse of human rights marks a new low for Hanoi's treatment of political dissidents because it says that they cannot even be considered Vietnamese, stripping them of their identity and nationhood in one abrupt maneuver,” Robertson said.

“The international community, especially aid donors to Vietnam, must tell Hanoi that this abuse cannot be allowed to stand, the President's letter must be rescinded, and the action must be immediately reversed.”

Robertson said that Hanoi must not be given the impression that the international community will condone such actions against dissidents in the future.

“This should be a lesson that such extreme government retaliation against political activists cannot happen without Vietnam suffering a major loss of international prestige and respect,” he said.

Hoang, who is the only dissident to have his citizenship revoked in recent history in Vietnam, has stated that he will not leave his home in Vietnam’s economic capital Ho Chi Minh City to avoid any risk of forced expulsion while his lawyers work on his case.

Desire to stay

Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service last week, the former mathematics professor and activist blogger, said his desire to live in his homeland near his family “is too strong” at this point in his life.

“I'm not young anymore, nor do I want to move forward in my career,” he said at the time, adding that he only hopes to “live and serve in Vietnam.”

“I was already thinking about giving up my French citizenship, so there is nothing holding me back.”

Hoang lived in France as an international student from 1973 until the late 1990s, when he returned to Ho Chi Minh City to teach at the Saigon University of Science and Technology.

He spent 17 months in prison for “undermining national security” and “ruining the nation’s image” through writings critical of Vietnam’s government, before being released in January 2012 and serving three years of probation.

Hoang told Agence France-Presse he had continued to publish "peaceful" articles on social media that were critical of the government since his release from prison.

Vietnam routinely jails bloggers, lawyers and activists authorities accuse of anti-government activity.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.