October 6, 2023
HANOI – Việt Nam rejects claims of ‘politically motivated’ ‘cracking down’ on environmentalists and using them as bargaining tools in international relations.
Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Phạm Thu Hằng rebuked the allegations as “ill intent” at the regular press conference held on Thursday in Hà Nội, in response to questions over recent arrests and the jailing of leaders of environmentalist NGOs.
“This is false information used with ill intents with regards to Việt Nam’s efforts to combat and prevent crimes, as well as Việt Nam’s diplomatic activities,” Hằng said.
The information regarding these cases has been provided to press members through the Ministry of Public Security, she noted.
“These cases involved the violation of Vietnamese laws, and the individuals have been investigated, prosecuted and brought to trial in accordance with the laws of Việt Nam,” Hằng said.
The latest one to be detained is Ngô Thị Tố Nhiên, Executive Director of Việt Nam Initiative for Energy Transition Social Enterprise, who is charged with appropriating internal documents from the state-owned utility corporation Electricity of Việt Nam (EVN).
She is accused of ‘hiring’ on contracts two officials from EVN to gain illegal access to its internal documents and information.
“These are internal documents, which are not allowed to be shared or publicised,” Lieutenant Tô Ân Xô, spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Security said last week.
“The Ministry of Public Security rejected the slanderous allegations and considered it an act of interference in Việt Nam’s internal activities,” he said in response to foreign media’s claims of a “crackdown” on environmentalists.
Previously in late September, Hoàng Thị Minh Hồng, 51, leader of the environmental NGO CHANGE, was sentenced to three years in prison for ‘tax evasion’ on unreported revenues of VNĐ69 billion.
She was also ordered to pay an additional fine of VNĐ100 million.
Four other cases that were brought to trial in 2022 include Đặng Đình Bách (born in 1978), director of the non-profit Law & Policy of Sustainable Development (LPSD), who was given a five-year prison sentence, also for tax evasion with regards to unreported use of funds from foreign and domestic organisations; Mai Phan Lợi (1971) and Bạch Hùng Dương (1975) executives from Media Education for Community (MEC), who were given 48 months and 30 months, respectively, in prison for tax evasion crimes; and Nguỵ Thị Khanh, founder of GreenID, who was imprisoned for two years, also for tax evasion.
On the allegation of Việt Nam’s talks with the United States on the potential purchase of F16 fighter jets, spokesperson Hằng said currently they don’t have information regarding the case.
“However, if you have recalled recently, the joint leaders’ statement between Việt Nam and the US on the upgrade of bilateral ties to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for Peace, Cooperation and Sustainable Development outlined the key direction of cooperation in the next 10 years and beyond across 10 areas of cooperation, including bilateral collaboration and cooperation on regional and global issues,” she said. — VNS