Vietnam’s government has stripped French-Vietnamese professor and former political prisoner Pham Minh Hoang of his citizenship against his will, throwing his right to stay in his home country into limbo, according to French consular officials.
Hoang, who is also a French citizen, was recently invited to the French consulate in Vietnam’s economic capital Ho Chi Minh City, where he currently lives, and told an order had been signed by the central government in Hanoi.
“The French consul general invited me to discuss some issues and said there was very bad news for me—that the Vietnamese government on May 17 had signed a decision to strip my citizenship,” he told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
“This will inevitably lead to my expulsion from Vietnam because I have dual French-Vietnamese citizenship,” he said, adding that no reason had been given for the order.
According to Hoang, the French Embassy asked Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs whether the decision could be postponed or reversed, and was told that Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang had signed the order into effect and that it would be implemented.
He said that the French Consulate had so far only received a notification letter signed by Quang announcing that Hoang’s citizenship had been stripped, but neither he nor French officials had been sent an official order, meaning Hoang remains a citizen of Vietnam for the time being.
“They still haven’t given me the official decision with the president’s signature yet,” he said.
“I contacted some lawyers for legal assistance and gave them all the documents proving my Vietnamese citizenship. They said that my case is not very difficult, but that they need the document from the president [before they can proceed with any kind of defense].”
Hoang said that the French Consulate had also requested the official document with Quang’s signature “so they can have their lawyers do what they can for me,” but had received no reply.
He said rights lawyer Ha Huy Son had advised him to apply to renounce his French citizenship, so that he becomes a national solely of Vietnam, which he did in a letter to the French Consulate on June 2.
“Then the Vietnamese government could not do anything [to strip my citizenship],” he said, adding that the French Consulate had notified him that it would take six months to officially renounce his French nationality.
“[The Vietnamese government] currently have the right [to strip my citizenship], because I have two nationalities.”
Hoang said he doesn’t feel as if he is “losing anything” by renouncing his French citizenship.
"My desire to live in my country, near my family is too strong,” he said.
“I'm not young anymore, nor do I want to move forward in my career. I just hope 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.
An activist blogger, Hoang 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.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.