Comments from 2024 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award honoree Phạm Đoan Trang’s lawyer Dang Dinh Manh, who now lives in the United States after fleeing Vietnam due to government harassment of his legal work:

Kính thưa Quý vị

Cảm ơn Quý vị đã vinh danh cho cô Phạm Thị Đoan Trang.

Không chỉ với tư cách là luật sư bào chữa cho cô ấy trong các phiên tòa mà chính quyền Cộng Sản Việt Nam đã xét xử, giam cầm, ngược đãi cô ấy một cách đầy bất công. Mà còn là nhân chứng về quá trình đấu tranh của cô ấy cho các giá trị tự do.

Theo đó, tôi có thể khẳng định rằng, cô Đoan Trang hoàn toàn xứng đáng với sự vinh danh hôm nay mà Quý vị đã dành cho cô ấy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for honoring Ms. Pham Thi Doan Trang.

As Trang’s defense lawyer during her trials, I saw first-hand the Vietnamese government unfairly try, imprison, and mistreat her. I also witnessed her heroic fight for democracy and freedom.

Without a doubt, Ms. Doan Trang is indeed deserving of the honor bestowed upon her today.

Comments from Trang’s friend, Quynh-Vi Tran, co-founder and executive director of Legal Initiatives for Vietnam:

Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed members of PEN America, and distinguished guests, it is an honor and a privilege to stand before you tonight at this annual gala. I feel even more honored to accept the Barbey Freedom to Write on behalf of my dear friend, Phạm Đoan Trang.

Phạm Đoan Trang is a great writer and one of the most prominent journalists in Vietnam’s contemporary history. More than that, she is a human rights defender and a pro-democracy advocate for Vietnam. She has become the symbol of bravery and perseverance, inspiring countless young people to envision and strive for a Vietnam where freedom and human rights are upheld.

Trang wrote this to us one year before her apprehension in 2020:

“No one wants to sit in prison. But if prison is inevitable for freedom fighters, if prison can serve a pre-determined purpose, then we should happily accept it.”

“I don’t want freedom for just myself; that’s too easy, I want something greater: freedom for Vietnam.”

These moving words remind us of the sacrifice she has made. Despite having the option to remain abroad, Phạm Đoan Trang chose to return to Vietnam, fully aware of the risks. She chose to go back to Vietnam, knowing very well about the dangers that awaited her there. She knew, but she never hesitated to go back. Because she wanted to make Vietnam better.

I first met her ten years ago when she was a fellow at the University of Southern California. Inspired by her and our mutual friends, Trinh Huu Long and Truong Tu Minh, we launched Luat Khoa Magazine, an online platform for independent journalism in Vietnam. This endeavor marked the beginning of our fight for a free press in our homeland. Today, Phạm Đoan Trang is serving a nine-year sentence for that very cause.

While she herself has expressed no desire for personal freedom, preferring the collective liberty of our nation, I stand before you to ask—selfishly, perhaps—for your support in demanding her release, especially given her urgent medical needs. When she is free, I look forward to telling her that the quest for Vietnam’s freedom begins with her own.

Let us unite in calling for the immediate release of Phạm Đoan Trang. Your support can pave the way for her freedom and, ultimately, for the freedom of Vietnam.

Thank you for your attention, your compassion, and your unwavering support.