(NEW YORK)— Today, PEN America, alongside PEN International and the Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre, jointly submitted a Universal Periodic Submission (UPR) on Vietnam, documenting violations of free expression, cultural rights, privacy, due process, and arbitrary detention. Through the UPR process, we encourage the United Nations Human Rights Council and its Member States to closely examine Vietnam’s recent track record on free expression and provide concrete recommendations, which could lead to significant improvements in the lives of all Vietnamese citizens. 

“On the global stage, the Vietnamese government has perfected the art of paying lip service to free expression and human rights by claiming to support the recommendations of the previous UPR cycle. In reality, Vietnam maintains a dismal record in regards to free speech, as documented in PEN America’s 2022 Freedom to Write Index, where Vietnam was found to be the country with the fourth most imprisoned writers in the world (tied with Belarus and Myanmar), A stark contradiction to its supposed commitment to free expression,” said PEN America Research and Advocacy Coordinator Anh-Thu Vo. 

“The human rights situation in Socialist Republic of Vietnam has deteriorated significantly with the draconian application of the Criminal Code’s Article 117 and 331 to reduce civic space and to incriminate discourses of national issues,” said Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre’s Lloyd Duong.

These days, if you live in Vietnam, a simple Facebook post can result in a decade in prison. The Vietnamese government continues to stifle free expression, wielding laws as weapons to control narratives and silence voices that dare to imagine a different world. The Vietnamese government has relentlessly tried to block all avenues of free expression and has attempted to manipulate and regulate public opinion and the will of the People by weaponizing their penal code and cybersecurity laws against dissidents,” said PEN America’s Anh-Thu Vo. 

“As part of the Vietnamese government’s efforts to control public discourse and silence dissenting voices, it has relentlessly weaponised the legal system against writers, journalists and others who dare to criticize the government or challenge state narratives. Among those persecuted for their peaceful expression is writer Pham Doan Trang, who is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence for her writings on politics and human rights,” said Ross Holder, Head of Asia/ Pacific Region at PEN International.

PEN America, along with our partners, calls on the United Nations Human Rights Council and its Member States to hold Vietnam accountable for its free expression violations during the 46th Session of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review in April and May of 2024. We demand the immediate unconditional release of all imprisoned writers in Vietnam and a repeal of legislation that infringes on free expression. 


About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. To learn more, visit PEN.org


About PEN International

PEN International promotes literature and defends freedom of expression. It is a forum where writers meet freely to discuss their work and a voice speaking out for writers silenced in their own countries. PEN International was founded in London, UK, in 1921, simply as PEN. Today, it operates across five continents through 145 Centers in over 100 countries. PEN International is governed by the PEN Charter and the principles it embodies: unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations. To learn more, visit PEN-international.org


About Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre 

Founded in 1978, the Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre is an organization of writers, poets, musicians and composers, etc., from across the globe promoting Vietnamese literature and culture and to express deep concern for human rights’ violations, especially those oppressive campaigns against writers, poets, musicians, composers and other culture-sector workers in Vietnam. The Vietnamese Abroad PEN Centre has many active members in Canada and the United States of America.  To learn more, visit vietpen.org.


For further information or to request an interview, please contact Dietlind Lerner, [email protected] / +1 310 699 8775

For further information, read the full submission and recommendations here.