Vietnamese Environmentalist Kidnapped, Questioned for Her Activism

Environmentalist Cao Vinh Thinh and her daughter

Defend the Defenders, March 28, 2019

Vietnam’s security forces have kidnapped a female environmentalist, interrogating her during one-day detention about her activism, Defend the Defenders has learned.

Ms. Cao Vinh Thinh, a key member of the independent group Green Trees, was detained by undercover police officers in the morning of March 27 when she was on her way to her shop named Zero Waste Hanoiwhich is selling environment-friendly products in the capital city of Hanoi.

The kidnappers confiscated her laptop and cell phone and took her to an office of the Security Investigation Agency of the Ministry of Public Security located in Nguyen Gia Thieu street, Hoan Kiem district where she was questioned by officers about activities of her and her group Green Trees which aim to protect the country’s environment.

Activist Cao Vinh Thinh (center) at the anti-Formosa protest in Hanoi on May 1, 2016

Police also deployed IT specialists to try to get access to her equipment because she refused to give them the passwords for her laptop and cell phone.

Police released Thinh at 10 PM of Wednesday but still keep her equipment.

Thinh is one of the most active members of Green Trees which was established by activists in 2015 to protest a plan of Hanoi’s leadership to chop down thousands of aged trees in the capital city’s main streets. The group played key roles in the mass protest in Hanoi that year which forced the city’s leadership to stop its plan.

The group also involved in a campaign in 2016 which protests the Taiwanese Formosa Steel plant in the central province of Ha Tinh after hundreds of tons of fish died in the central coastal region due to Formosa’s discharge a huge volume of industrial waste into the sea. In October of 2016, the group released its comprehensive report about the environmental disaster caused by Formosa.

Recently, the group launched a film named Đừng Sợ (Dont Be Afraid about Vietnam’s independent civil society organizations. The film is expected to be projected across Vietnam in early April to mark the 3rd anniversary of Formosa’s environmental disaster.

Ms. Cao Vinh Thinh’s poster for Green Trees’ film

In Vietnam, the ruling Communist Party is striving to control all organizations and does not welcome the formation of independent ones. All activities of Green Trees are considered as anti-government, police officers told Thinh.