Pham Doan Trang is a Vietnamese writer, publisher, journalist, and  pro-democracy activist currently imprisoned in Vietnam due to her writings in support of human rights. Trang was arrested by authorities in October 2020, and in December 2021 the People’s Court of Hanoi sentenced her to nine years in prison for “conducting propaganda against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” After a court rejected her appeal in August 2022, Trang was transferred to An Phuoc Prison in Vietnam’s southern Binh Duong Province, a remote facility located 100 kilometers away from Ho Chi Minh City. Trang’s health has declined during her detention, and authorities have denied her access to medical treatment. 


October 12, 2023: PEN America collaborated on a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submission regarding Vietnam, detailing infringements on free expression, cultural rights, privacy, due process, and arbitrary detention, and advocating for the release of incarcerated writers and dissidents, including Pham Doan Trang.

October 12, 2022: PEN America condemns transfer of Vietnamese writer Pham Doan Trang to remote prison. 

August 22, 2022: Ahead of the appeal, PEN America calls for the immediate release of Vietnamese human rights defender Pham Doan Trang and expresses serious concerns for her health.

December 13, 2021: PEN America strongly condemns the impending trial and arbitrary detention of journalist and human rights defender Pham Doan Trang.

October 27, 2021: Ahead of Pham Doan Trang’s trial, PEN America joins 28 human rights and freedom of expression organizations calling for her immediate release.

October 10, 2020: Following Pham Doan Trang’s arrest, PEN America condemns Trang’s arrest. 

July 14, 2020: PEN America expresses deep concern over the threats by the Vietnamese government faced by individuals like Pham Doan Trang, who is being targeted solely for exercising her right to freedom of expression, as evidenced by Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security branding her written works as “anti-state propaganda,” forcing her to disassociate from Liberal Publishing House for safety reasons, leaving her in hiding with a high risk of arrest.

September 22, 2009: After the temporary detention of Pham Doan Trang, PEN America expresses concerns on crackdowns on free expression in Vietnam.


A prolific author, blogger, and journalist, Trang has published several books about democracy and human rights, including Cẩm Nang Chống Độc Tài (Anti-Authoritarian Handbook), Phản Kháng Phi Bạo Lực (Non-Violent Resistance), Chính Trị Bình Dân (Politics for the Masses),Cẩm nang nuôi tù (A Handbook for Families of Prisoners), and Politics of a Police State, and has repeatedly criticized the Vietnamese Communist Party and government. She also co-founded Luật Khoa, an online magazine on law and human rights, and served as an editor for The Vietnamese, an independent news website covering political issues. Trang resigned from the Liberal Publishing House in July 2020, citing security threats. Trang has faced harassment by Vietnamese authorities multiple times since 2015, including being beaten by security forces during an environmental protest in Hanoi in April 2015, causing Trang to have a permanent limp. 

Despite persistent harassment from Vietnamese authorities, Trang continued to courageously write and advocate for democracy in Vietnam. In 2019, anticipating her arrest, Trang wrote a letter and recorded a video message calling on the public to continue to fight for democratic reform and the release of prisoners of conscience. She wrote, “I don’t want freedom for just myself; that’s too easy. / I want something greater: freedom for Vietnam. / It might seem like some grand goal, but it’s totally possible—with your support.”


September 4, 2023: Trang’s lawyer, Dang Dinh Manh, publishes a statement regarding the lack of due process during the trial and appeal and discussions he has had with Trang while she has been imprisoned. Manh highlighted the extensive monitoring of conversations between Trang and himself, underscoring the authorities’ refusal to respect client-attorney confidentiality.

August 25, 2022: Pham Doan Trang’s conviction is upheld during the appeal. 

May 18, 2022: Pham Doan Trang suffers from breathing problems after contracting Covid earlier in the year, according to her lawyer, who shares an update after being allowed a brief 15 minute visit. He says she remains resolute in not wearing prison garb. She also refuses to sign anything or to compromise with prison officials in order to receive privileges such as family visits. Trang sends this message to the public: “Overcoming fear is easy. Overcoming discouragement is harder. My friends, don’t get discouraged.”

December 14, 2021: The People’s Court of Hanoi sentences Pham Doan Trang to nine years for disseminating anti-state propaganda, two years longer than requested by the prosecutor.

November 1, 2021: Trang’s trial is postponed due to one person involved in the prosecution coming in contact with someone who had COVID-19. A new trial date is yet to be determined. 

October 29, 2021: Several UN human rights experts call on the Vietnamese government to immediately and unconditionally release detained writer and human rights defender Pham Doan Trang.

October 25, 2021: The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declares Pham Doan Trang’s detention arbitrary.

October 18, 2021: The indictment of Trang is made public. “For almost two months, Pham Doan Trang’s family and her attorneys, as well as the public, have been kept in the dark about the case Vietnam has against her.” Vietnam is known to hold detainees incommunicado

September 3, 2021: Pham Doan Trang’s lawyer reports that she has been formally indicted and the investigation has concluded. Trang was charged with “anti-state propaganda” according to Article 117 of the Criminal Code (corresponding to Article 88, an older law).

August 30, 2021: The indictment of Pham Doan Trang is submitted.

October 6, 2020: Pham Doan Trang is arrested and charged with “making, storing, disseminating or propagandizing information, materials and products that aim to oppose the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” state media report. She was facing nearly identical charges under a similar but older law, Article 88, because she had been under investigation by the state since before 2018. Trang is detained in Hanoi, and faces up to 20 years in prison.

September 7, 2020: Pham Doan Trang writes a piece published on Facebook about the murder trial against 29 residents of the Dong Tam commune, alleging their guilt in a land clash that resulted in deaths.

July 10, 2020: Pham Doan Trang quits the independent Liberal Publishing House after harassment by police. The publisher had been founded in Ho Chi Minh City in February 2019 by a group of dissidents. 

October 2019: 30 copies of books published by Freedom Publisher are stopped and lost during the shipping process, including the last copies of Pham Doan Trang’s “Phan khang phi bao luc, A Handbook for Freedom Fighters” and “Cam nang nuoi tu, A Handbook for Families of Prisoners.”

August 2019: 1000 copies of Pham Doan Trang’s book “Cam nang nuoi tu” had been given away to readers, however, Trang told RFA that many secret agents pretended to be interested in the book and made appointments at hidden locations to grab and beat the shippers. Activists have undertaken many efforts to publish uncensored books, but the Vietnamese government maintains tight control over the publishing industry by ordering all printing companies to print books only with permission from approved publishers.

March 2019: On March 18, The Vietnamese, of which Trang is a founder and editor, reported that the Vietnamese secret police have continued to harass Trang by surveilling the attempted dissemination of her most recent book, and attempting to hack into Trang’s personal Facebook account. Moreover, Trang has expressed that the surveillance she has experienced in 2019 has led her to believe that her life is in danger.

Early 2018: When Trang visits home in Hanoi to celebrate Vietnam’s lunar new year, she is detained and questioned for two days on her book “Politics for the common people.”

March 2016: Since 2015, Trang has been placed under temporary arrest at least 20 times, including on 23 and 24 May 2016 when she was kidnapped for 26 hours by the security forces who tried to prevent her from attending a meeting between then-US President Barack Obama and civil society organizations in Hanoi.


The Vietnamese government continues to quash dissent, with a particular focus on controlling the public’s access to social media and expanding the government’s ability to obtain access to personal data. In 2022, Vietnam ranked as the fourth leading country for the highest number of imprisoned writers with 18 writers in prison. The Vietnamese government has effective control of all traditional media, including the press, television, radio, and other publications. The Vietnamese authorities monitor online spaces to censor and surveil online content. The Vietnamese government continued to arrest and imprison writers for making critical statements against the Vietnamese government which is criminalized as “propaganda against the state” under Article 117 of the 2015 Vietnam Penal Code. Writers who criticize the government on issues such as human rights abuses, corruption, territorial disputes, environmental rights, and/or COVID-19 policies are often harassed, arrested, or imprisoned. Vietnam has violated due process and other human rights, including denying legal representation, imposing arbitrary arrests, and subjecting individuals to unfair trials. Vietnamese courts have upheld the trend of lengthy imprisonment despite condemnations from the United Nation Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and human rights organizations.