SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: May 17, 2017

Attack Types: Travel Restrictions | Other


Region & Country:Southeastern Asia | Vietnam

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 10, 2017, Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang signed an order into effect stripping  French-Vietnamese mathematician and activist blogger Pham Minh Hoàng of his Vietnamese citizenship, which reportedly puts in jeopardy his ability to continue to live there.

Professor Hoàng, a lecturer in applied mathematics, has written critically about the Vietnamese government on social media. In 2011, he was jailed for writing a series of articles under a pen name that prosecutors said tarnished the country’s image and were aimed at overthrowing the government. Professor Hoàng was released after 17 months and served three years of house arrest. He has continued to write critical articles since his release from prison.

The French consulate delivered a copy of the notification, which was dated May 17, 2017, to Professor Hoàng on June 10. In it, he is charged with violating Article 88, which prohibits “propaganda against the state,” and article 91, which prohibits “fleeing abroad or defecting to stay overseas with a view to opposing the people’s administration.” Hoàng is reportedly the only dissident in the recent history of Vietnam to have his citizenship revoked.

Consular officials reportedly sought on Hoàng’s behalf to have the order reversed or postponed, but their requests were denied by the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry. As of this report, Hoàng has sought legal assistance in challenging the order. At the advice of his lawyer, he has begun the process of renouncing his French citizenship, which authorities there say could take up to 6 months, in an attempt to force the Vietnamese government to reverse its decision.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about restrictions on travel and related actions — including the loss of citizenship — in retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. State authorities have a responsibility to protect academic freedom and freedom of expression, and to refrain from imposing arbitrary restrictions on movement intended to limit or retaliate for the exercise of these freedoms.  Such actions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.

UPDATE: On June 23, 2017, authorities reportedly detained Professor Hoàng at his home and stated that he would be deported. Professor Hoàng failed to successfully appeal the order and was deported to France the next day.