Pham Minh Hoang, a former prisoner of conscience, professor of mathematics, and blogger with dual French-Vietnamese citizenship, published a call for help on his Facebook page upon receiving news that he is likely to lose his Vietnamese citizenship and be deported to France.
Dear Facebook community, friends, and supporters far and wide,
On June 1, 2017, the French Consulate in Saigon invited me to inform me of “terrible news”: the Vietnamese government decided to revoke my Vietnamese citizenship on May 17, which will result in my deportation to France (I have dual French/Vietnamese citizenship).
As I begin writing these words, I feel as though I am intoxicated. Upon hearing the news, my wife and daughter started to cry. My older brother (a disabled South Vietnamese war veteran) was also shocked. Due to family circumstances, my wife cannot come with me, She has to take care of her elderly mother as well as her disabled brother, and this means that our family must split up.
I remember the day like yesterday, moving to Paris to study. As the plane flew over Saigon’s skies, I looked outside the window and said I would return to build my homeland in shambles from war. Two years later, all of my plans were turned upside down and I was forced into a new life, in a completely new place, with completely new ways of thinking; however, in my heart, I was still looking toward my homeland—where I was born, and where I will buried.
After a period of time living and working in Paris, the thought of returning to Vietnam returned and kept nagging at me. I went back to school to prepare myself with knowledge to work in Vietnam. Returning to Vietnam in 2000, I struggled to find a suitable job for a period of time before coming to work at Saigon Polytechnic University for a very minimal income. In my ten years of tenure, I continually asserted that I am not an amazing professor, but rather I am focused and dedicated. It brought me great pride and joy to put my heart and soul into passing on my knowledge to youth. When I was arrested in 2010 for speaking up about the conditions in Vietnam, I was teaching five different subjects of mathematics; I was at the height of my mental capacity, creativity, and excitement.
With intervention from the French government, the support of human rights groups, as well as the efforts from people inside and outside Vietnam, my sentence was relatively light — just 17 months of imprisonment and 3 years of house arrest. I was no longer able to teach. However, after that, all my ambitions to continue teaching were destroyed. On occasion, I tried to teach some French classes, and even then they gave me a very hard time. I was sharing some of my knowledge with youth in 2016 about human rights and Vietnamese law when security police intruded and dissolved the group in a rough and physical manner, confiscating all of their technology and possessions. Since then, my lawsuit against them has gone nowhere.
Despite the setbacks and threats, I continued to maintain my contributions to my country’s social issues.
Despite the setbacks and the threats, I continued to try to contribute to help resolve my country’s social issues. My writing was critical, yet always moderate and peaceful and cannot be deemed as dangerous to national security. However, in the eyes of the communist government, that was not enough. Through various channels of information, I learned that I remained some type of obstacle and threat to them, and despite maintaining my reactions in moderate and prudent manners, they have remained uneasy, now ultimately coming to the decision to revoke my Vietnamese citizenship.
Revoking my citizenship is synonymous with deportation, meaning I am robbed of the right to live and die in my homeland.
I still remember when I was communicating with the French Consulate in 2010-2011 while in prison. I assured that I chose to be in prison rather than be exiled. The French Consulate took note of this and continually returned to these expressed desires and promised to help me fulfill them.
Today, it appears the situation has changed. Perhaps imprisoning a French citizen is complicated business for both governments, and in the end they have chosen the easiest path — which also happens to be the most inhumane one — because more than anyone, they understand most clearly my family’s situation.
Back when I was in prison, I thought surely those would be the most difficult days of one’s life, but now I see that there is a far more horrific situation: to be refused the right to live in my homeland.
As of today, I still have not received any form of communication regarding my Vietnamese citizenship being revoked and so am only able to share some of my thoughts to my friends, asking for your support by sharing this letter widely. My family has spoken with a lawyer to better understand the situation and I was informed that revoking my citizenship is a violation of Vietnamese law (see the attached documentation).
Lastly, I would like to repeat the words of an activist who was exiled: “They can take me out of Vietnam, but no one can take Vietnam out of me.”
Phạm Minh Hoàng
Source: Pham Minh Hoang’s Facebook