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20 June 2023

Joint letter on the arrest of Obama Foundation Scholar Hoang Thi Minh Hong in Vietnam

Download the joint letter as a PDF

Mr. Barack Obama

c/o Obama Foundation

Chicago, Illinois

Re: Arrest of Obama Foundation Scholar in Vietnam

Dear Mr. Obama,

We write to request your assistance in calling for the unconditional release from jail of Obama Foundation scholar Hoang Thi Minh Hong. Hong is one of 12 members of the very first cohort of your foundation. She is also the founder of the Center of Hands-on Action and Networking for Growth and Environment (CHANGE), an organization that advocates for action on climate change, the environment, and wildlife protection. CHANGE was a leading organization in the campaign to stop the construction and financing of new coal-fired power plants in Vietnam. Unfortunately, Hong was forced to close CHANGE in October 2022, after being harassed by the government.

Vietnamese police arrested Hong on 1 June, 2023. She is being held incommunicado and has been denied access to a lawyer. The government is preparing to prosecute Hong on a false charge of tax evasion. She faces up to seven years behind bars and if found guilty, she may be subjected to a prison system that is known for torture and willful neglect.

Hong is the fifth climate activist to be jailed in the past two years in Vietnam for supposed tax evasion. Dang Dinh Bach, another jailed activist, was sentenced to five years in prison after he successfully advocated for the government to decarbonize the energy sector. A human rights investigation, published in April, documents clear evidence that these prosecutions are politically-driven and designed to criminalize climate activism using false charges of tax evasion.

The United Nations and the U.S. State Department have already made public statements calling for Hong’s release. You have met Hong and praised her work, and your foundation continues to use her name and image on its website. Given this, it seems appropriate that you would join the UN and State Department by making your own public statement calling on the Vietnamese government to release her.

We would be happy to provide you more information on this important case. We look forward to your response.



350 Silicon Valley

Accelerate Neighborhood Climate Action

Agency for Turkana Development Initiatives

Amnesty International

Animals Are Sentient Beings, Inc.

Article 19

Asia Democracy Network

Asian NGO Coalition

Asia Pacific Network of Environmental Defenders

Center for Energy, Ecology and Development

Center for Environmental Concerns - Philippines Inc.

Center for Human Rights and Environment

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

Climate Rights International

EarthRights International

Environmental Defender Law Center

Extinction Rebellion Phoenix

FIDH - International Federation for Human Rights

Fortify Rights


Freedom House

Friends of the Earth Japan

Friends of the Earth US

Front Line Defenders

Global Network of Movement Lawyers at Movement Law Lab

Global Witness

Grassroots Foundation (Germany)

Greenpeace UK

Human Rights Foundation

Human Rights Watch

International Accountability Project

International Commission of Jurists

International Rivers

International Service for Human Rights

Mano River Union Civil Society Natural Resources Rights and Governance Platform

Manushya Foundation

Market Forces

Mekong Watch

Mighty Earth

North American Climate Conservation and Environment


Nuclear Energy Information Service

Oil Change International

Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum

Peace Action WI

PowerShift e.V.

Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights

Protection International

Reclaim Finance


Rivers & Mountains GreenFaith Circle

Sierra Leone Land Alliance

Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt, New York

Social Eco Education

Terra Advocati

The 88 Project

Third Act

Trend Asia

Turtle Island Restoration Network

Unite North Metro Denver


Vietnamese Advocates for Changes

Vietnam Committee on Human Rights