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Pham Minh Hoang: Vietnamese Blogger Deported and Separated From Family

Updated on July 27, 2017
Stephen Sinclair profile image

Stephen Sinclair is a freelance Canadian writer who has been publishing professionally for several years.

The People's Committee Building in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
The People's Committee Building in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. | Source

Blogger Separated From Family

On June 23, 61-year-old Vietnamese math lecturer Pham Minh Hoang was arrested at his house in Ho Chi Minh City, held overnight, and put onto a plane to Paris, according to reports from the Associated Press. On May 17, the Vietnamese government stripped the dissident of his citizenship. However, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports that the blogger did not learn of his fate until June 1. Pham Minh Hoang previously held dual French-Vietnamese citizenship.

AP describes Hoang as a "pro-democracy" blogger, an activity that he is said to be determined to continue now that he is in France. It appears that, with the deportation, Hoang is now separated from his wife and daughter, who are in Vietnam. AP wrote, "When he refused to consent to his deportation, he said officials reminded him that his wife and daughter were still living in Vietnam."

Thirty-three articles written under the pen name Phan Kien Quoc resulted in Pham Minh Hoang's 2010 arrest for their alleged part in his attempt to "overthrow the government." After serving 17 months in prison, Hoang was released in January 2012 and allowed to serve the remainder of his sentence under house arrest. His writing is said to have "criticized one-party rule, alleged corruption, environmental degradation, and Chinese influence."

Steve Butler with CPJ called the moves by the Vietnamese government "exceptionally cruel responses to dissent," and called on the country to "cease trying to silence voices" of its citizens. A representative of Vietnam's Foreign Ministry was said to justify stripping Hoang of his citizenship and deporting him because the decision was carried out in accordance with "Vietnamese law."

According to the Vietnam Reform Party, before he was arrested in 2010, Pham Minh Hoang lectured in mathematics at Ho Chi Minh City Polytechnic Institute. Educated in France, Hoang was said to hold a belief that Vietnamese youth had been "failed by an education system" that was unable to keep pace with a fast-changing world. This motivated him to return to Vietnam and work as a teacher, as well as organize free classes to help develop leadership skills within Vietnamese students.

Traffic in Ho Chi Minh City.
Traffic in Ho Chi Minh City. | Source

Vietnam Imprisoning More Bloggers and Activists

The specific issues Pham Minh Hoang wrote about that caused such a stir include Central Highlands bauxite mining concessions by the Vietnamese government and aggression on the part of China in the South China Sea. Further, Hoang is said to have published "dozens of commentaries on issues such as human rights, environment, and corruption in Vietnam."

World Report has noted the reputation of the Vietnamese government for punishing "Independent writers, bloggers, and rights activists" who raise questions with regard to policy and corruption, and who criticize one-party rule. Police are said to perform surveillance operations on and secretly detain dissidents, who are often held without legal representation. In 2012, World Report noted that journalists and bloggers like Pham Minh Hoang are being sentenced to "increasingly long terms in prison for violating vague national security laws." The organization states that Vietnamese police have even used "torture" to force confessions.

In 2016, the number of Vietnamese bloggers and activists who had been imprisoned rose to "at least 19," from seven in 2015. In addition to charges of attempts to "overthrow the government," as in Hoang's case, other "vague" provisions of Vietnamese law said to be used to harass and intimidate bloggers and activists include “conducting propaganda against the state,” “abusing the rights to democracy and freedom to infringe upon the interests of the state," and “undermining national unity."

In March 2016, blogger Nguyen Dinh Ngoc was sentenced to four years in prison for his writing. The same court that convicted Nguyen Dinh Ngoc was also said to have sentenced a number of human rights activists to multi-year prison terms, including Ngo Thi Minh Uoc, Nguyen Thi Be Hai, and Nguyen Thi Tri. The charges stemmed from a protest the group staged in Ho Chi Minh City, at the United States Consulate. Other jailed Vietnamese dissidents include Nguyen Huu Quoc Duy, Nguyen Huu Thien, and Can Thi Theu, who were arrested for political graffiti, holding unpopular beliefs, taking part in public protests, and boycotting elections.

© 2017 Stephen Sinclair

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