In an unprecedented move designed to silence a leading dissident, the Vietnamese authorities put Hoang, 62, on a flight to France, where he acquired French citizenship while studying and working there for 28 years before returning to Vietnam in 2000.
“I am still in state of shock and very sad,” Hoang said after landing yesterday morning in Paris, where he was met by relatives. He added that he would try to “live in order to continue the fight” that was his “reason for existing.”
“Stripping a government opponent of his nationality in order to expel him and silence him is absolutely shocking,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “What has happened to Pham Minh Hoang, a well-known independent and courageous defender of free speech, is shameful, especially for Vietnam.”
In a moving interview for RSF on 20 June, Hoang had appealed to France to try to prevent his expulsion by refusing to issue the necessary laissez-passer. He said he was totally opposed to being sent to France and wanted at all costs “to live and die in Vietnam” in order to stay with his family and to keep fighting for freedom of expression.
Persecuted, subjected to an illegal procedure
This is the first time that Vietnam’s one-party state has stripped one of its dissidents of their nationality, which is prohibited by Vietnam’s own legislation for a person born in the country, as Hoang was. His lawyer had filed an appeal against the measure on the grounds that it was completely illegal.
A respected lecturer in mathematics at the Ho Chi Minh City Polytechnic School and member of the pro-democracy party Viet Tan, Hoang had already been subjected to psychological and judicial harassment.
His blog posts about education, the environment and the threats to Vietnamese sovereignty from China led to his being sentenced to 17 months in prison and three years of house arrest in 2011 – a sentence that was reduced thanks to pressure from the French government.
Vietnam has one of the worst scores of any country in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index, in which it is ranked 175th out of 180.