Vietnam: Open Letter–Apple urged to address climate justice concerns in the country

More than 60 human rights and environmental organisations from around the world, issued on April 11, 2024 a pressing call to Apple’s leadership team and Board of Directors, urging them to take action regarding the systematic persecution and imprisonment of climate leaders in Vietnam.

Dear Apple Leadership Team and Board of Directors,

We are writing with an urgent request regarding climate justice in Vietnam, which directly impacts Apple and your manufacturing operations in the country. Since Vietnam is now Apple’s most important production hub outside of China and you have committed to human rights and “equity and justice in climate solutions,” we believe you have a responsibility to weigh in on the systematic persecution and imprisonment of climate leaders in the country. Indeed, by not making a public statement on this matter, you risk violating your own environmental and human rights policies and delegitimizing Apple’s positive work in these areas.

Vietnam has weaponized its ambiguous laws to arrest climate leaders on trumped-up “tax evasion” charges. Those who have been targeted include Goldman Environmental Prize winner Ms. Nguy Thi Khanh, who served 16 months behind bars after working to reduce the government’s coal expansion plans and researching solar solutions; prominent environmental lawyer, Mr. Dang Dinh Bach, who is serving a five-year sentence after dedicating his life to protecting communities from harmful pollution, phasing out plastic waste, and supporting the Vietnamese government’s transition to clean energy; and Obama Foundation Scholar Ms. Hoang Thi Minh Hong, who is serving three years in prison after founding and leading the environmental group CHANGE Vietnam which was dedicated to clean energy and wildlife conservation solutions.

Vietnam’s latest arrest of Ms. Ngo Thi To Nhien, former Executive Director of Vietnam Initiative for Energy Transition, was based on “appropriation of information or documents,” suggesting efforts to criminalize access to information about Vietnam’s clean energy transition.

Apple’s most recent Environmental Progress Report states not only your commitment to equity and justice in climate solutions but also to transitioning your suppliers to renewable energy and having net-zero carbon impact from all of your products by 2030. In Vietnam, however, where you are building the capacity to manufacture nearly all of these products, those who would have facilitated net-zero carbon impact by supporting the transition to clean energy and other climate solutions are either in jail or have been silenced due to fear that they could be next. Environmental organizations are shutting down, and there is currently no transparency or safe way for civil society to participate in this vital clean energy transition.

How can Apple accomplish its clean energy goals while increasing manufacturing in a country that is silencing its climate leaders?

Apple’s Commitment to Human Rights states: “We believe in the critical importance of an open society in which information flows freely, and we’re convinced the best way we can continue to promote openness is to remain engaged, even where we may disagree with a country’s laws.” In light of this, we urge Apple to publicly ask the Vietnamese government to release these unjustly imprisoned climate leaders and ensure that civil society is free to participate in the monitoring and implementation of Vietnam’s supposed transition to clean energy without fear of persecution.

This is not just a domestic matter for Vietnam, but rather an issue of global concern. In December 2022 the Vietnamese government entered into a $15.5 billion Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) with the U.K., U.S., and other G7 countries. However, the implementation plan released at COP 28 lacks a clear road-map for how this will occur, or how it will be “just”. There is no timeline for when the country will retire its coal plants, for example. It’s impossible to envision how a just energy transition can be successful without the participation of civil society, which is fundamental to providing independent monitoring and accountability from a social and environmental perspective.

The UN has made numerous statements about Vietnam’s “systemic problem with arbitrary detention” of environmental defenders and has publicly called for the release of those unjustly imprisoned. Several governments including the U.S., U.K., E.U., and Germany have also issued multiple public statements along the same lines. Mr. Dang Dinh Bach was specifically mentioned in a recent U.S. Senate resolution calling for robust U.S. leadership against human rights abuses that target environmental defenders and urging the international community to stand with individuals fighting climate chaos. Unfortunately, these calls are falling on deaf ears.

But Apple, a company of growing significance to Vietnam’s economy, is in a unique position to bring this issue to the forefront. Simply stating that you are in support of equitable and just climate solutions and human rights is not enough. Your commitments require action, and now is the time to take it.

Members of the Vietnam Climate Defenders Coalition, a group of over three dozen international human rights and environmental organizations, wrote to you with these concerns on May 31, 2023. One day later Hong was arrested and Bach declared a hunger strike from prison. We appreciated the opportunity to meet virtually with members of your staff to discuss these concerns in November 2023. Still, despite these communications, we have not heard any response regarding Apple’s next steps.

As you know, it’s all hands on deck to mitigate the global climate crisis. We appreciate everything Apple has done to accelerate solutions and implore you to use your powerful voice to raise concerns about this disturbing situation in Vietnam. How could Apple not take a public stance, knowing that it could make all the difference?

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this matter.


  2. ACAT France (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture)
  3. ACAT Germany (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture)
  4. Accountability Counsel
  5. Actions for Nature Conservation and Community Development (ACNDC)
  6. Actions pour la Lutte Contre les Injustices Sociales (ALCIS)
  7. Africa Child Care Nation (ACCN)
  9. Agency for Turkana Development Initiatives (ATUDIS)
  10. Alternatives Ménages, Nature et Marchés AMEN DRC
  11. ARTICLE 19
  12. Asia Indigenous Peoples Network on Extractive Industries and Energy (AIPNEE)
  13. Bank Information Center
  14. Baroness Helena Kennedy of the Shaws KC
  15. Both ENDS
  16. Brotherhood For Democracy
  17. Buliisa initiative for rural development organisation (BIRUDO)
  18. Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED)
  19. Centre for Environment, Human Rights & Development Forum (CEHRDF)
  20. Center for Human Rights and Environment (CHRE)
  21. Community Resource Centre
  22. Community Support Center / CSC-Asbl
  23. DEFENDRE c’est ma VOCATION
  24. EarthRights International
  25. Economic Justice Network Sierra Leone
  26. Environmental Defender Law Center
  27. ETO Watch Coalition
  28. Federal Association of Vietnamese Refugees in Germany
  29. FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders
  30. Friends of the Earth Japan
  31. Friends of the Earth Sierra Leone
  32. Global Network of Movement Lawyers
  33. Global Participe
  34. Global Witness
  35. GroundWork
  36. Inclusive Development International
  37. International Accountability Project
  38. International Rivers
  39. Judicial Reform Foundation 民間司法改革基金會
  40. Just Ground
  41. KRuHA
  42. Manushya Foundation
  43. Mekong Watch
  44. Movement Law Lab
  45. Namati
  46. Oil Change International
  47. Population and Development Initiative
  48. PowerShift e.V.
  49. Project88
  50. Protection International
  51. Quê Me: Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR)
  52. Rivers without Boundaries Coalition
  53. Roots2Justice
  54. Sierra Leone Land Alliance
  55. Stand.Earth
  56. Swiss Vietnam Committee COSUNAM
  57. The Marginalised Mirror
  58. Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) – South Korea
  59. Viet Tan
  60. Witness Radio -Uganda
  61. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.