A Vietnamese dissident blogger with dual French citizenship has arrived in Paris after he was stripped of his birth nationality by the Asian country and deported.
Former mathematics lecturer Pham Minh Hoang was put on a plane to the French capital, weeks after his Vietnamese citizenship was revoked - a rare move that has sparked outrage among critics of Hanoi, who accuse it of quashing dissent by any means available.
"I am very sad," Hoang told the AFP news agency by phone after his arrival in Paris on Sunday.
"I tried to do the best I can but today I lost the battle," he said, adding he would continue fighting for democracy in Vietnam.
Hoang said police surrounded his house on Friday night and took him away with no prior warning.
He met French consular officials and a lawyer before his deportation, but was unable to say goodbye to his wife, Le Thi Kieu Oanh.
"I feel totally defeated ... when my husband left, I couldn't say any farewell words, I also feel very angry," Oanh told AFP.
After speaking to Hoang on arrival in France, Oanh said she was at least reassured that he no longer faced political persecution.
Vietnam routinely jails critics of its government, but 62-year-old Hoang is the first Vietnam-based dissident to have his citizenship revoked in recent history.
Vietnam's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.
|Pham Minh Hoang at a community meeting in the Paris suburb of Le Kremlin-Bicetre following his deportation on Sunday [AFP]|
'Unprecedented and shocking'
Human Rights Watch called the revocation an "unprecedented and shocking action".
"[It] crosses many human rights red lines on freedom of expression, right to nationality and exercise of basic civil and political freedoms," the rights group said in its statement.
"By effectively forcing Pham Minh Hoang into indefinite exile, the Vietnam government has demonstrated its readiness to violate its citizens' human rights however it deems necessary to preserve its political power."
Hoang found out his Vietnamese citizenship had been stripped early this month after he received a letter dated May 17 and signed by the president, a decision he unsuccessfully tried to appeal against.
Hoang is a member of the Viet Tan, or Vietnam Reform Party, which is considered a "terrorist organisation" by the Vietnamese government.
"The vaguely worded decision was a thinly veiled move to silence Pham Minh Hoang for his peaceful advocacy," Viet Tan said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press news agency.
He was convicted in 2011 of attempted subversion for publishing a series of articles which prosecutors said were aimed at overthrowing the government.
Hoang was released from jail after 17 months and ordered to serve three years of house arrest.
He continued to post articles critical of the government on social media following his release from prison.
Hoang moved to France in 1973 and lived there for 27 years before returning to Vietnam to work as a mathematics lecturer at the Polytechnic University of Ho Chi Minh City.
He told AFP this month he had to stay in Vietnam to care for his disabled brother and elderly mother-in-law, whom his wife will now look after.
Source: News agencies