IMG_0111by Dung Nguyen, CHANGE

15 days to COP21 Paris. We are joining hand to send our message to the world leaders and country governments in every way we can. #StopFundingFossils is a campaign towards COP21 combining a digital mobilization, sending Tweets and emails to Japanese leaders, as well as in-­person actions at Japanese embassies around the world. Here in Vietnam, a group of young climate fighters gathered at the Japanese Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) to make our voices heard.

Vietnam is not an easy country to take action to the streets, in-person demonstration can even be quite risky sometime. Japanese Consulate is located at the corner of Dien Bien Phu and Tran Quoc Thao streets, a crowded area in HCMC with busy traffic at all time. Scouted the area beforehand, we knew it’s wise to keep the number small – 13 persons. We clustered from 8 am, one junction away from the Japanese consulate. Some were eager to write their personal message on the dust masks. Some held on to the banners stated “Stop Coal Finance”. The others were discussing about the recent issue of air pollution in the city.


From the distance, the consulate looks like a fortress isolated from the rest of the city, in which no voice from the outside can be heard. I couldn’t stop myself from wondering how it is from the other side of the wall. Wouldn’t we become moving dolls in a city mock-up, all on a stage exposed for them to observe from inside the tall beige walls surrounded by pavement barriers. One of the participants asked me “Would all of these lead to anything?”. As we walked towards the embassy, masks on and banners up; as we stood in front of the embassy, banners held high and our fists gripped in the air; I wondered what we could achieve out of these too.

  • 2011, the newly passed Power Development Plan 7 steered the wheel of the coal industry
  • 2012, landslide at Phấn Mễ coal mine killed 7 people and wiped out a dozen houses of the village nearby.
  • 2013, countless lives of Quảng Ninh mining workers were lost in coal mine accidents from gas explosion, floor collapsing to transportation cable breaking….
  • 2014, pollution reports popped up on every communication channels from various cities and provinces from North to South, showing that coal mines and coal-fired thermal plants are indeed polluting the whole country.
  • 2015, people outbreak. The demonstration against Vĩnh Tân 2 in Bình Thuận province were unexpectedly quite violent and dramatic. Smaller scale uprising also happened in Hải Phòng when pollution from coal-fired thermal plants surpassed local people’s tolerance.

I recalled these events when still standing next to my fellows and busy posing for our group photos. Japanese government has given billions and billions to this dirty, dying industry in Vietnam for decades. Coal kills. This much is clearly known. Not only some local people around those coal projects or miners, but the entirely planet with every single life on it. These deaths can be prevented if Japan and investors stop funding coal; and coal “addicts” – such as Vietnam – are left with no support, thus forced to move away from coal. That is why we, representing people who stay naked to coal-pollutants everyday, joined in a movement to build pressure on Japan to stop financing deadly coal projects around the world. Would the Japanese government protected in the box feel the pressure? Regardless of the answer, we have to stand against representatives of Japanese government body around the globe, even when being wavered, long enough to keep the fire going on. For the lives that lost. For the lives that being suffered. For the future that we want to offer the next generation. And we feel hopeful today knowing Japanese people are standing with us.