Tree campaign brings down Hanoi boss

Thao sparked public outrage with his plan to cut down thousands of Hanoi's old trees

Thao sparked public outrage with his plan to cut down thousands of Hanoi’s old trees

The head of the Hanoi People’s Committee has resigned, several months after the local government was forced to abandon a plan to cut down thousands of the capital’s famous old tress.

Nguyen The Thao admitted there had been “shortcomings” in the administration of the city during his term.

He was immediately replaced by the Hanoi police chief, General Nguyen Duc Chung.

Opposition to the tree cutting plan culminated in April when police broke up a demonstration by environmental activists.

A number of local government officials were later held responsible by an official inquiry for the plan to cut down some 6,000 of the city’s trees. Campaigners complained, however, that there was no full examination of what happened, or any true accountability.

Some 500 trees were chopped down on Hanoi's avenues

Some 500 trees were chopped down on Hanoi’s avenues

Mr Thao was quoted by state media as saying that there had been some shortcomings in his handling of many of the city’s problems and he asked for the public’s understanding.

There was no specific reference to the tree dispute.

An official statement paid tribute to him for his response to many complex problems during his two terms in the position – including floods, religious security and maritime security.

Victory for environmentalists

The latter is a reference to the city’s handling, and eventual crackdown, on demonstrators who came out to oppose China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Environmental campaigners claimed a victory of sorts after the city government’s climbdown over the tree dispute.

They will see the resignation of Mr Thao, a year before the end of his second term, as another sign that their limited display of “people power” had some impact.

However, the selection of the hard-line police chief as his replacement holds out little hope of a more conciliatory approach to dissent by the country’s capital.