Authorities in Vietnam on Friday detained French-Vietnamese professor Pham Minh Hoang, according to his wife, who said the former political prisoner is likely to be expelled from his home country over the weekend following a decision by the government to revoke his citizenship.
Kieu Oanh told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that Hoang, 62, had been taken into custody late on Friday by police officers pretending to carry out a census survey at their home in Vietnam’s economic capital Ho Chi Minh City.
“A local police officer came to my house, knocked on the door and said he was conducting a periodic check of the local population,” Oanh said.
“Right after we opened the door for him, several other policemen came through the door. There was also a cameraman, but I didn’t let him in, saying no one without a uniform could enter,” she said.
“They said they wanted to invite my husband to the local police station to deal with some matter. We did not agree and told them there is no law that allows the police to simply enter a person’s home and make them go like that.”
Oanh said that the police demanded that Hoang sign a document if he would not go with them, but Hoang refused. He tried to telephone his lawyer, she said, but the call failed “because [the police] brought some kind of equipment to jam the phone network around the house.”
When Hoang—who is also a French citizen—again refused to go to the local station, the police officers read a notice informing him he would be expelled from the country on Saturday, Oanh said, adding that the officers would not allow them to read the document.
“After reading the paper, they took Hoang away,” she said.
“I wanted to film it, but I couldn’t because they pushed us into a corner. When they pulled him out of the house, they locked the door from outside so … I couldn’t get out.”
Immediately after Hoang was taken, Oanh called the French Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City and informed an official there that he had been arrested and would be deported on Saturday.
Oanh said she doesn’t know where her husband is being held.
U.S.-based banned opposition party Viet Tan issued a statement Friday condemning Hoang’s detention and calling Vietnam’s plan to expel him to France “an apparent effort to silence [his] peaceful political advocacy.”
“The French government should not take part in the Hanoi regime’s brazen exile of a well-known human rights activist,” it said.
“If Professor Hoang were to be expelled, he would be separated from his wife and young daughter, and unable to take care of his disabled older brother. Pham Minh Hoang has stated his wish to remain in his homeland and work for a better Vietnam.”
Viet Tan noted that Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that no individual can be arbitrarily deprived of their nationality.
In a letter issued on May 17 and signed by President Tran Dai Quang, Vietnam’s government informed Hoang 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 had formally begun the process of renouncing his French citizenship in a bid to block the revocation.
The move was slammed by international rights groups, including New York-based Human Rights Watch, whose deputy Asia director Phil Robertson labeled it “nothing short of outrageous,” and called for pressure on Hanoi to withdraw the decision.
Hoang, who is the only dissident to have his citizenship revoked in recent history in Vietnam, had stated that he would not leave his home to avoid any risk of forced expulsion while his lawyers worked on his case.
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.