Pham Doan Trang

Current Status: Sentenced to prison

Photo of Pham Doan Trang

Other Names: Phạm Đoan Trang

Date of Birth: May 27, 1978

Gender: F

Ethnicity: Kinh

Occupation: Author

Last Known Prison: An Phuoc detention center, Binh Duong province

Areas of Activism:

  • Democracy
  • Human rights
  • Sovereignty
  • Police Brutality

Known Affiliations:

Highlighted Human Rights Concerns:

  • Denial of Legal Representation
  • Denial of Adequate Medical Treatment or Supplies
  • Prolonged Incommunicado Detention
  • Denial of Family Visit/Punitive Prison Transfer

April 2024:

Imprisoned author Pham Doan Trang has received the 2024 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write award.

October 2022:

Award-winning journalist Pham Doan Trang, whose family is in Hanoi, was transferred to An Phuoc Prison in Binh Duong Province in southern Vietnam to begin serving her nine-year sentence. The prison is about a thousand miles from her family home, making it extremely difficult for her 81-year-old mother to visit.


On October 12, Pham Doan Trang’s mother, brother, and a few friends, were able to visit her at An Phuoc Prison. They reported that “her health has deteriorated a little bit but she was mentally stable.” They also said she was allowed to receive her guitar, although it had to be kept in the activities room where she could play it

August 2022:

As expected, the Hanoi Supreme Court upheld the nine-year sentence for award-winning journalist Pham Doan Trang for spreading “anti-state propaganda.” Lawyer Trinh Vinh Phuc reported that prosecution ridiculed Trang’s activism by asking, “What right does the defendant think she has by concerning herself with and reporting on the environment and people’s religious beliefs in Vietnam?” In a blatant display of disregard for the rule of law, Trang’s mother was blocked from entering the courthouse; Trang’s closing statement was also cut off. Diplomats from multiple embassies and international human rights organizations were not allowed into the courtroom to watch the “open trial,” even though they had pre-registered as required.


Pham Doan Trang shared with The 88 Project some of her personal stories shortly after the Liberal Publishing House, which she co-founded, was suppressed by the government in October 2019. Watch her video interview here. 

Details - Background, History of Activism, Family Situation, Support the Family.

Trang was a decorated state journalist before leaving that career to write independently; since then, she has written numerous books hoping to engage people in conversations about politics and human rights. She is also an avid guitar player. Read more about her impressive background, here.

October 2019:

On October 14, 2019, 30 copies of books published by Freedom Publisher were stopped and lost during the shipping process. These were 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." The bank account of the shipping company was also blocked within five minutes after the shipper reported the incident to the recipients of the books.  Read about incidents of violations of freedom of publication in Vietnam from 2018-2019 in our report, here. 

Doan Trang has long written on the issues of democracy and free elections, is a co-founder of the Liberal Publishing House, and has recently reported on the recent Dong Tam raid and trial. 

Trang is the only working journalist in Vietnam who, through her writings, openly advocates human rights and the exercise rule of law in the police-dominated communist country. She was the first journalist in the mainstream media to write in-depth analyses of the highly politically sensitive Sino-Vietnam relations with regard to territorial disputes in the region (2008). She was also the first author to write a book, a best-seller, examining the life of the homosexual community in Vietnam, advocating LGBT's rights (“Male Love”, or “Bóng”, 2008).

Two recent publications by Trang were “Politics for the common people”, “A handbook on non-violent resistance techniques” (2017), “Learning public policy through the SEZ project” (2018). Since 2015, all of her books were officially banned and could only be published clandestinely.

She was a founder of the Green Trees, an independent CSO in environment protection (2015), the co-initiator of campaign “Rose Myrtles in Remembrance of the Border War” (2014), co-founder of the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers (2013).

Trang has long been involved in activism, and thus, has long been a target of the authorities.

Since January 26, 2015 until present, Trang has been placed under temporary arrest at least 20 times, the longest arrest of which was 26 hours on 23 and 24 May 2016 when she was kidnapped 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.

In May and June 2018 she was kept under house arrest in Hanoi as the police feared that she may trigger protest rallies against a bill on special economic zones and the cyber security law.

In early 2018, when Trang got back home in Hanoi to celebrate Vietnam’s lunar new year, she was detained and questioned for two days on her book “Politics for the common people.”

She was briefly detained in November 2017 for participating in a meeting with the Political Counselors of the EU Member States at the Office of the EU Delegation to Vietnam.

Back to August-September 2009, she was also put in a nine-day detention which effectively ended her career as a mainstream journalist.

With the police escalating in using violence against dissidents, Trang, as did other activists, suffered from many physical assaults. In 2015, she was brutally beaten by security forces while participating in a peaceful demonstration to protest Hanoi’s plan to chop down thousands of aged trees in the city’s center. Her legs are still in pain from the injury caused by the assault, and she keeps limping.

Trang was announced as the winner of the 2017 Homo Homini Prize from People in Need, which she was unable to accept in person due to near-constant surveillance from the police and her commitment to staying in Vietnam to continue working for peaceful change.

According to a press release from the Vietnam Human Rights Network on November 30, 2018, they will award three Human Rights Awards in 2018 to the following activists: Hoang Duc Binh, Tran Thi Nga, and Pham Doan Trang. Binh is an environmental activist serving 14 years in prison, Nga is a land and labor rights activist serving nine years, and Trang is a dissident writer who promotes political participation and human rights in Vietnam.

She suffers from joint effusion, synovitis, and somatic pain as a result of police assaut.

March 2019:

The Vietnamese called on Vietnam to cease its repression of dissident writer and The Vietnamese Editor Pham Doan Trang. Police recently found Trang at her new residence and began to place her under surveillance. Police have been trying to locate Trang for weeks, watching her mother's home and even posing as readers of her new book. Trang fears injury at the hands of secret police.

May 2019:

Dissident writer Pham Doan Trang has a message for all women. "Our fight is not only against dictatorship, it's also a fight to free ourselves, from our own ideological constraints". We were honored to speak with her as our first interviewee in our video series with female activists in Vietnam. Watch the full video, here.  

August 2019:

On August 8, 2019, Pham Doan Trang, author of several political books, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that 1000 copies of her book “Cam nang nuoi tu” had been given away to readers. But Trang also 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.

August 2019:

Pham Doan Trang released a new book called "Politics of a Police State." The book is available in English, here. Trang has long advocated for press freedom and multi-party democracy in Vietnam and has written extensively on the subjects despite state censorship and threats to her personal safety. 

September 2019:

On September 12, 2019, Reporters Without Borders awarded Pham Doan Trang, founder of Luat Khoa magazine and editor of The Vietnamese, their Prize for Impact for her activities in promoting press freedom (read about it in Vietnamese, here). Her colleague at Luat Khoa, Trinh Huu Long, went to receive the prize on her behalf, as Trang has vowed not to leave Vietnam until it becomes a democracy.

On September 14, 2019, several activists in Ho Chi Minh city held a party to celebrate journalist Pham Doan Trang winning Reporters Without Borders's Prize for Impact. The police surrounded the place where the party was held and tried to capture Trang. The activists at the party quickly divided into two groups to help Trang get into a taxi and escape. Nguyen Dai, who played a song with Trang at the party, was detained for keeping Trang’s backpack.

In late September, Trang announced her hiatus from social media for at least one month to receive medical treatment in Vietnam. Trinh Huu Long, her colleague and co-founder of Luat Khoa magazine, said that Trang’s illness stems from severe wounds of the spine, arms, and legs, which she received over the last four years while fighting for democracy in Vietnam. Trang has been followed, harassed, and attacked by police multiple times, including being violently assaulted during a friend's private music show in 2018. 

October 2019:

An Ninh ("Security") TV (, a state-owned channel dedicated to security-related news, was airing a series of programs to defame well-known political activists. On October 27, 2019, An Ninh TV aired a program in which it identified several activists as “subversives,” among them: Le Trung Khoa, Le Dung Vova, Nguyen Thuy Hanh, Pham Doan Trang, and Dung Truong. The program also provided ways to recognize those activists on social media. On October 31, 2019, Le Dung Vova and his CHTV channel were publicly-accused of igniting some people to question the government.

June 2020:

On June 3, the International Publisher’s Association (IPA), in a virtual ceremony, announced that the Liberal Publishing House (Nhà xuất bản Tự Do) won the 2020 Prix Voltaire Award. The chair of the IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee said of the LPH: “The work of Liberal Publishing House in Vietnam as guerilla publishers, making books available in a climate of intimidation and risk for their own personal safety is nothing short of inspirational.” The LPH motto is: “We write for you to read, (Vietnam).” They were among four nominees shortlisted for the award. 

Pham Doan Trang, spokesperson for the LPH, sent a video message acknowledging the win, saying, “The award that we receive today does not just recognize our tireless efforts but it represents the bravery of tens of thousands of Vietnamese readers who have been harassed, and who have been arrested and interrogated simply for reading our books.” Watch the full message, here. The Liberal Publishing House has faced near constant harassment from the Vietnamese authorities– including arrests of and physical attacks against its employees, distributors, and buyers– since its inception in 2019. Despite this, the LPH has distributed over 25,000 books. Just hours before LPH received its award, on the morning of June 3 2020, two officers of the Security Investigation Agency of the Ministry of Public Security went to Trang’s house in Hanoi to meet with her mother, Bui Thi Thien Can. Can is 80 years old. However, despite this, two officers forced her to participate in their “interrogation” with questions about Trang’s whereabouts and communication between the two. They forced her to sign a statement saying that Trang has produced and distributed “anti-state” materials. 

July 2020:

Pham Doan Trang on July 9 announced on her Facebook page that she had formally resigned from Liberal Publishing House (Nhà xuất bản Tự Do), citing harassment and increased pressure from security police against her, her colleagues, and the organization.

In June, Liberal Publishing House was awarded the prestigious “2020 Voltaire Award” by the International Publishers Association (IPA). As its principal founder, Trang has been the subject of stepped up attacks as well as a smear campaign. In her Facebook post she wrote: “Since September of last year, the government has relentlessly been harassing our operation. Following a lull after the lunar new year due to Covid-19, the government resumed its tactics. On May 8, a courier who was transporting our books was arrested in Saigon and tortured. Many of our members have been followed, hunted, even kidnapped….

As the principal founder of this organization, I feel it is my responsibility to protect our members from harassment and arbitrary arrest. I have also been suffering from declining health. After a discussion with my colleagues, I have decided that I should remove myself completely from Liberal Publishing. Starting immediately (July 10, 2020) I no longer have anything to do with this organization. All the books that have previously been published by LPH were my own doing. I ask that the government leave my colleagues alone since they are not responsible for any of them.”

In this short but succinct interview that was filmed prior to her arrest, Pham Doan Trang discusses her activism in starkly personal detail. Trang explains her goals and wishes, not just for herself but also for the groups she’s been involved with. She describes certain negative patterns she sees with many human rights organizations in Vietnam and suggests ways to improve.

Also read “They Will Be Here In 5 Minutes,” a reflection by Trang (also translated into English),  which she wrote ahead of her March 2018 detention on International Women’s Day. And follow this account for regular updates on her case. 

Trang’s father passed away in 2005. She lived with her mother, Mrs. Bui Thi Thien Can (b. 1941), until July 2017, when she reluctantly left home after months struggling the house arrest that the police imposed on her.

Bui Thien Can has been harassed by police while advocating for her daughter. Read more about this harassment in the arrest tab of this profile. 

Trang’s elderly mother is living almost alone after Trang escaped from house arrest in July 2017.

Interview: ‘Politics Are Everywhere in Our Lives’, Radio Free Asia, October 3, 2017

The plight of Vietnamese dissidents, BBC News (video interview), November 10, 2017

‘I Won’t Leave Vietnam,’ Detained Blogger Says, Promising to Stay to Work For Change, Radio Free Asia, February 28, 2018

Phạm Đoan Trang – The Humming Guitar Before Rainstorm Falls, The Vietnamese, March 6, 2018

Digital dictatorship in Vietnam seeks to silence dissidents, Al Jazeera, November 15, 2018

Interview with Pham Doan Trang, The 88 Project, May 10, 2019

New documentary series highlights the struggles of women activists in Vietnam, Global Voices, July 1, 2019

Những quyển sách không kiểm duyệt ở Việt Nam bị an ninh “đánh” ra sao?, Radio Free Asia Vietnamese, August 6, 2019

Background brief on the Liberal Publishing House

The 88 Project’s archives

Vietnam’s Liberal Publishing House awarded 2020 Prix Voltaire, June 3, 2020

Pham Doan Trang Facebook post, July 9, 2020

Pham Doan Trang: Vietnam arrests leading pro-democracy blogger, BBC News, October 7, 2020

Rights Groups Deplore Arrest of Vietnam Writer and Activist Pham Doan Trang, Voice of America (RFA Vietnamese), October 8, 2020

A dissident jailed in Vietnam shares her message: Don’t free me, free my country, The Washington Post, October 8, 2020

Pham Doan Trang's May 2019 letter regarding arrest

'Freedom fighter' Pham Thi Doan Trang, The 88 Project, October 11, 2020


Pham Doan Trang's writings:

Politics of a Police State (2019)

Report: Assessment of the 2016 Law on Belief and Religion in relation to the Exercise of the Right to Freedom of Religion and Belief in Vietnam (October 2017)

Virtual civil society (May 2013)

An Overview of the Marine Life Disaster in Vietnam 

Unfair Elections in Vietnam How the Communist Party Manipulates the Process

Report on Dong Tam, 2020

They Will Be Here in 5 Minutes, 2018

Đoan-Trang and the Jailed Guitar, Vietopian

Interview with Pham Doan Trang before arrest, The 88 Project, November 11, 2021

Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award

Pham Doan Trang: Human rights journalist in jail for “anti state activities," Women in Journalism, April 2022

(video) Portrait of Pham Doan Trang - Laureate of the 2022 Martin Ennals Award | ENG

February 24, 2018: detained for questioning about her new book

February 24, 2018
Public security
Mai Dich ward, Cau Giay, Ha Noi (map)

  • freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
  • liberty and security of the person
  • freedom of expression

On February 24, 2018, Pham Doan Trang was arbitrarily and forcefully taken into custody by Vietnamese authorities. She was abducted from her mother’s house in Hanoi at 2 pm by the police to be interrogated about her recently-published book, “Chính trị bình dân” (Politics for the Masses), without an arrest warrant. Trang was taken back home after 10 hours, at midnight, but was told she must continue to “work” with the police in the coming days. Trang managed to escape, which, she said, “is a miracle,” as she faced imminent arrest and prosecution. Trang herself believed that the authorities were preparing to arrest her, and posted a bilingual letter on her Facebook page to thank those who support her and to assert her commitment.

March 8, 2018: detained because of her new book

March 8, 2018
Public security
Hai Ba Trung district, Ha Noi (map)

  • freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
  • liberty and security of the person
  • freedom of expression

Pham Doan Trang was reportedly taken into custody on International Women’s Day, March 8, and released after nine hours of interrogation. She was arrested from an unknown location, after being on the run since being forcefully detained on February 24 regarding her recently-published book, “Chính trị bình dân” (Politics for the Masses).

Prominent blogger detained anew, Southeast Asian Press Alliance, March 9, 2018

Prominent Political Blogger Doan Trang Detained for 10 Hours, Second Detention within Two Weeks, Defend the Defenders, March 9, 2018

August 15, 2018: assaulted at Nguyen Tin’s private music show

  • Property confiscation
  • Physical assault in a public space
August 15, 2018
  • Public security
  • Ministry of Information and Culture
Casanova Cafe, No 61C, Tu Xuong Street, District 7, Ward 3, Ho Chi Minh City (map)

  • liberty and security of the person
  • freedom of expression
  • freedom of peaceful assembly
  • not be subjected to torture and degrading treatment
Amnesty International

On August 15, 2018, singer Nguyen Tin’s mini-show at Casanova Cafe in Ho Chi Minh City, Sai Gon Ky Niem (Memory of Saigon), was raided and broken up by a large number of police officers. Nguyen Tin and other participants, including prominent journalist and writer Pham Doan Trang, engineer Nguyen Dai, and many other guests, were severely beaten right at the cafe. Preventing Nguyen Tin from singing apolitical love songs composed before 1975 and attacking activists, especially Pham Doan Trang, were believed to be the main purposes for this crackdown.

Nguyen Tin told the BBC that after he performed seven or eight songs, the police force of Ward 7, District 3 and an interdepartmental examination delegation of information and culture (the “examination delegation”) stormed into the cafe and asked for the concert license. Nguyen Tin kept singing despite knowing that dozens of police, vigilantes, and security men in both uniforms and plain clothes were surrounding the coffee shop. Around 9:30 pm, Nguyen Tin had to apologize to around 80 music showgoers for having to reluctantly halt his show. Pressure from police on Casanova’s owner  forced Nguyen Tin’s live show to end earlier than scheduled.

After that, the police locked the door of the cafe and asked to examine the audience’s ID cards. Some women were released while the rest were still confined in the cafe. Activist Duong Dai Trieu Lam recounted that the police were crowding outside, with three to four specialty vehicles arriving by 10:20 pm. Arrests started, and police attacked many activists and guests.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Tin was working with the examination delegation inside and was fined for the alleged lack of a performance license, lack of copyright permission, and performing songs that have not been allowed to circulate. Police also confiscated his phone and wallet, which included his important documents such as driver’s license and ID card. He was questioned as to who organized this event and beaten for an hour before being brought into a seven-seat car with his hands cuffed.

Nguyen Dai, one of the organizers, was also beaten and put in the same car as Nguyen Tin. Both of them were blindfolded and hooded with their hands cuffed.  The police drove about 60 km and stopped at a rubber forest in Cu Chi district, where police pushed Nguyen Tin out and left him there. The car drove on for 15 minutes more, at which point the police dragged Nguyen Dai out and left him in the forest without any money or documents. Tin and Dai managed to find their way home while coping with their injuries. Duong Dai Trieu Lam stated that he and others picked Nguyen Tin up at 2:30 am in Tan An Hoi commune, Cu Chi district, while Nguyen Dai arrived home at 6:20 am.

Dinh Nhat Uy reported that police also arrested many other activists, including Nguyen Tien Trung, Nguyen Lan Thang, Huynh Phuong Ngoc, Ta Quang Linh, Tran Minh Khanh, Huynh Thanh Phat, and many others, and moved them to the police station of District 3. Among them, Pham Doan Trang was assaulted the most brutally.

Witnesses saw the police hit Pham Doan Trang in the face and belly so harshly that her face was disfigured. According to activist Trinh Huu Long, Trang was beaten many times during the questioning session in the police station of Ward 7, District 3. At the end of the interrogation, the police called a doctor to check her health and concluded that it was only soft tissue injuries and that they would not be dangerous. However, Trang believed that it was a police officer disguising herself as doctor, as that person did not sound like a normal and knowledgeable doctor and was mainly trying to touch Trang’s body as if to find something, which could be Trang’s phone. The police also confiscated her laptop, ATM card, ID card, and money, as they did with Nguyen Tin and Nguyen Dai. On the way to bring her back home by taxi, they dropped her off in the middle of the trip and continued to beat her brutally with a helmet, making her head bleed and breaking the helmet into pieces. Trang was in serious condition when she was brought to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with a brain concussion because of these assaults. On August 22, she first shared her story on her Facebook, after many days in the emergency room in the hospital, where security forces always kept an eye on her and her visitors. Pretending to be doctors and calling for Trang’s family, the police identified her visitors and harassed them in many ways, including physical assault and continuous surveillance.

Amnesty International condemned the attack, saying: “‘Viet Nam’s authorities must immediately and independently investigate these serious allegations in line with their obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture.’”

September 14, 2019: harassed by public security during a party to celebrate her Prize for Impact

  • Intimidation
  • Travel restriction
September 14, 2019
Public security
A restaurant in Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City (map)

  • freedom of peaceful assembly
  • freedom of movement

On September 14, 2019, several activists in Ho Chi Minh City held a party to celebrate journalist Pham Doan Trang winning Reporters Without Borders's Prize for Impact. The location of the party was in a restaurant in Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City. 

During the party, the area police called Danh Vu, one of the participants, and asked Vu to go home. Meanwhile, a group of public security in plainclothes surrounded the restaurant and tried to capture Trang. The activists at the party quickly divided into two groups to help Trang get into a taxi and escape. Nguyen Dai, who played a song with Trang at the party, was among activists who stayed and distracted the security forces, while others helped Trang to escape. 

Finally, Trang arrived home safely thanks to support from many activists.

Arrested October 6, 2020. Sentenced to 9 years in prison under Art. 88 (1999 Code). Expected Release is October 6, 2029.

October 6, 2020
  • Art. 88 (1999 Code)
Ministry of Public Security
Her apartment in Ho Chi Minh City (map)
December 14, 2021
  • Trinh Vinh Phuc
  • Ngo Anh Tuan
  • Nguyen Ha Luan
  • Dang Dinh Manh
  • Nguyen Van Mieng
  • Le Van Luan
9 years in prison
October 6, 2029
  • freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
  • liberty and security of the person
  • freedom of expression
  • freedom of association
  • fair trial
  • political participation
  • International professionals
  • FIDH
  • The 88 Project
  • UN Special Rapporteurs
  • Vietnamese civil society groups
  • Article 19
  • Vietnam Human Rights Network
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
  • Safeguard Defenders
  • Que Me – Vietnam Committee on Human Rights
  • People in Need
  • Legal Initiatives for Vietnam
  • Green Trees
  • Access Now
  • The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  • Committee to Protect Journalists
  • Human Rights Watch
  • US government
  • Amnesty International
  • One Free Press Coalition
  • International Commission of Jurists
  • UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
  • PEN International
  • International government officials
  • EU Delegation to Vietnam
  • The European Union
  • Reporters Without Borders
  • Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • Boat People SOS
  • Vietnamese Women for Human Rights
  • Professional associations
  • Frontline Defenders
  • Defend the Defenders
  • Civil Rights Defenders

October 2020:

Late on October 6, police arrested Doan Trang in Ho Chi Minh City. She is charged under Article 88 of the 1999 Criminal Code. Under this charge, she faces up to 20 years in prison. The arrest came right as the annual US-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue began. 

On October 6, 2020, the US and Vietnam held their 24th annual Human Rights Dialogue via virtual sessions. According to the State Department’s website, “The three-hour Dialogue addressed a wide range of human rights issues, including the importance of continued progress and bilateral cooperation on the rule of law, freedom of expression and association, religious freedom, and labor rights.… The promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms remains a critical pillar of U.S. foreign policy and is key to further building upon the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership.”

However, no sooner had the meeting concluded than Vietnam demonstrated how far those important objectives were from being achieved. Around 11:30pm that evening Ho Chi Minh City Police, in coordination with Hanoi Police and the Ministry of Public Security, arrested prominent journalist Pham Thi Doan Trang in Ho Chi Minh City and charged her with anti-state propaganda under Article 88 of the 1999 Criminal Code. She is being held in pre-trial incommunicado detention in Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi. Read our updates on her background and arrest here

Pham Doan Trang’s family has retained attorney Dang Dinh Manh to represent her. Manh says the authorities have issued a limit on how many lawyers are allowed to work on this case, and that they cannot have access to the defendant until after the authorities have completed their investigation because this is “a matter of national security.” Besides Manh, the other attorneys are Nguyen Van Mieng, Trinh Vinh Phuc, Luan Le, Nguyen Ha Luan, and Ngo Anh Tuan. Most of these lawyers also worked on the Dong Tam trial, something that Trang wrote extensively about prior to her arrest.

The People’s Police newspaper began a smear campaign against Pham Doan Trang, calling her a reactionary agitator who authors “dirty books” and who is involved with, as well as receives money from, foreign entities such as Viet Tan and VOICE. It says her illegally published books misrepresent the truth about freedom and human rights in Vietnam. The article also links Doan Trang to the Hanoi-based environmental group Green Trees and accuses its members of spreading anti-state materials as well. It also calls Can Thi Theu and her sons, already arrested in June, accomplices in Doan Trang’s alleged network of abusers of free speech.

Read the letter she wrote prior to her arrest, which details her wishes for the country and elaborates on what the public should do while she is in prison, as well as our report on her arrest. Follow this account for regular updates on her case; any fundraising appeals will be posted here in the future.

November 2020:

It has been one month since journalist Pham Doan Trang’s arrest. The only thing we know is her family has visited the detention center several times to bring her some supplies but could only see her signature on the receipt for the supplies.

September 2021:

Luan Le, lawyer for journalist Pham Doan Trang, was notified that the investigation has concluded and Trang will be charged with “anti-state propaganda” according to Article 117 of the Criminal Code. 

October 2021:

More than a year after her arrest, Pham Doan Trang was finally allowed to see her lawyer, Luan Le, on October 19. During repeated interrogations during her pre-trial detention, Trang refused to answer any questions until she could see her lawyer; she did not admit to being the author of anything posted on social media, only to several articles in English and two interviews with RFA and the BBC — for which she’s being accused of “anti-state propaganda.”

Her trial, originally scheduled for November 4, was suddenly postponed. The reason given for the delay was that some of the prosecutors have to “self-quarantine due to coming into contact with Covid-positive individuals.” The family was not notified of the delay and only learned about it through others.

Just one day before the delay was announced, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) issued its report on Pham Doan Trang’s arrest, calling it a blatant violation of due process. Also, after Trang was finally allowed to have legal counsel, doctors made two visits to check on her health. Their exams revealed a small internal tumor and confirmed the presence of ovarian cysts. Trang had lost 22 lbs since her arrest last October. 

December 2021:

On December 14, author Pham Doan Trang was handed a 9-year sentence by a Hanoi court, one year more than recommended by the prosecutor, for conducting “anti-State propaganda,” in a trial that lasted only four hours. Even though Trang did not know about her own trial until the day before, she was able to deliver powerful closing remarks that were frequently interrupted by the judge. After much pressure from the lawyers, Trang’s mother and brother were allowed into the courtroom. It was the first time any family member has seen Trang since her arrest in October 2020. Representatives from several embassies, including the United States, were allowed inside the courtroom while some others were not. There were no witnesses in the trial. The examiners who investigated the case were absent — the judge said they were excused for being Covid positive, but refused to show proof when asked by defense lawyers. Trang is expected to appeal the verdict.

Earlier in the month, her family was once again denied permission to visit her. She has been seen by a doctor but she has not received any treatment. Letters from well wishers have also been withheld from her.

February 2022:

Dang Dinh Manh, Trang's attorney, said the Court accepted her motion for an appeal on January 27; the appeal trial for her nine-year sentence legally must happen within 90 days of then. Trang has been denied family and lawyer visits since her trial in December.

April 2022:

Pham Doan Trang was featured in an informative and detailed article by Women in Journalism. Read it here.

The Clooney Foundation for Justice published a highly detailed legal analysis of Pham Doan Trang's trial. Its TrialWatch expert gave the proceedings a grade of “F”. Read the written exposition here.

Her lawyer, who visited Trang the week of August 15, said that she is in poor health. Trang’s mother, Bui Thi Thien Can, says she has not been allowed to send food to her daughter.

May 2022:

Attorney Nguyen Van Mieng posted on his Facebook page a brief report on three political prisoners whom he talked to by phone on May 17:

Pham Doan Trang was suffering from breathing problems after contracting Covid earlier in the year. Nevertheless, she remained 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 sent this message to the public: “Overcoming fear is easy. Overcoming discouragement is harder. My friends, don’t get discouraged.”

Mieng said he could only speak to each person for about 15 minutes even though the law says he can have “unlimited time” with his clients. He also said that his call with Trang was cut off by prison officials.

June 2022:

The Martin Ennals Award ceremony was held in Geneva on June 2. Pham Doan Trang’s mother, Bui Thi Thien Can, accepted the award on Trang’s behalf and made a short but impassioned statement. A few days prior, the organization called on UN member states to reject Vietnam’s candidacy for the Human Rights Council for 2023-2025 due to its continued disregard of international obligations regarding human rights.

The full Martin Ennals Award ceremony in Geneva can be viewed here. The segment on Pham Doan Trang (starting at 0:19:00) also includes an excellent short film that’s highly recommended.

The US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council, Mme Michelle Taylor, also met with Bui Thi Thien Can and noted that “Today was a vivid reminder of the importance of the work we do in Geneva.”

Bui Thi Thien Can was detained at Noi Bai Airport for questioning by security police for four hours upon her return from the Geneva trip. During the three-week visit, Mrs Bui met with more than 20 representatives from the EU, several international organizations, officials at Switzerland Foreign Ministry, representatives from the UNHCR, a number of UN Special Rapporteurs, the US ambassador to Geneva, and officials from Canada and the Czech Republic. According to one of her children, the octogenarian was finally released after hours of questioning, in a state of total exhaustion.


October 2021:

While mentally strong, Trang was suffering from low blood pressure and prolonged menstrual periods that can last up to 15 days. The cyst that she was diagnosed with before her arrest is still there (at this time we don’t know what type it is). Her legs, which were severely injured by police a few years ago, have been giving her pain. Trang has lost 10kg and has not been seen by a doctor since her detention. Her family has written to the authorities requesting that she get immediate medical attention.


Numerous organizations released statements condemning Pham Doan Trang’s arrest:

The Czech Foreign Minister also called for the immediate release of Pham Doan Trang, a recipient of the Czech Republic’s 2017 Homo Homini Award. 

Front Line Defenders released an Urgent Appeal for her as well. 

A group of Vietnamese in Tokyo protested in front of the residence of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga ahead of his visit to Vietnam on October 18-20. They carried pictures of political prisoners such as Trinh Ba Phuong, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Pham Doan Trang, Le Dinh Luong, and Nguyen Nang Tinh. The group also went on a 24-hour hunger strike to call attention to the government’s continued crackdown on peaceful dissent and violations of freedom of speech.

November 2020:

EU Ambassador to Vietnam, Giorgio Aliberti, tweeted that he raised the case of jPham Doan Trang with other ambassadors of EU member states and “like-minded countries.” In a separate tweet the ambassador said he had an “interesting meeting” with Vu Chien Thang, Vietnam’s Chairman of the Committee for Religious Affairs, to discuss religious freedom.

Five working groups at the UN have written a letter to the government of Vietnam to demand specific information regarding the arbitrary arrests of a number of journalists in the past few months, including Pham Doan Trang, Nguyen Tuong Thuy, and several others. If there is no answer within 60 days, the groups said they will raise the issue publicly with the Human Rights Council as required by their charter.

As co-chairs of the Media Freedom Coalition, comprising 40 countries, Canada and the UK issued a statement calling attention to Vietnam’s arbitrary arrests of journalists such as Pham Chi Dung and Pham Doan Trang. They urged Vietnam to “ensure its actions and laws are consistent with Vietnam’s international obligations and commitments.”

December 2020:

Read Safeguard Defender’s report on fighting impunity with Magnitsky Act sanctions. The Vietnamese version of the report was co-authored by jailed writer Pham Doan Trang and is dedicated to her. Safeguard Defenders writes that: “This comprehensive manual, localized for Vietnam, is aimed at civil society, and is the only resource of its kind, providing step-by-step instructions on how to file recommendations for sanctions on Vietnamese perpetrators of gross human rights violations.”

Take action with RSF for Trang by signing and sharing their petition for her release. 

November 2020:

The UN Special Rapporteurs on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and on the situation of human rights defenders, as well as the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, sent a petition to the Vietnamese government concerning the cases of five people arrested for their reporting on and activistm in the aftermath of the violent police raid in Dong Tam Commune in January 2020: Can Thi Theu, Trinh Ba Phuong, Trinh Ba Tu, Pham Doan Trang, and Nguyen Thi Tam. All five were known activists before the Dong Tam raid, particularly in the area of land rights;they are still awaiting trial at the time of this writing. This is Theu’s third arrest. 

The parties wrote of these cases: “We are troubled by the fact that these arrests and the charges brought against them appear to be an attempt to criminalise their efforts to investigate, document and bring public attention to the alleged human rights violations that occurred during the raid.” They expressed concern about the arbitrary arrests and lack of information available to family members and lawyers.They also called on the government to provide more information on the legal basis for the arrests and detentions and the safeguards in place to protect the human rights of activists.

On February 4, 2021, the government of Vietnam finally responded to the UN regarding their concerns over the Dong Tam trial and for political prisoners Trinh Ba Phuong, Trinh Ba Tu, Can Thi Theu, Nguyen Thi Tam, and Pham Thi Doan Trang. Not unexpectedly, Vietnam said that “the allegations made in the Joint Communication were not accurate, mostly drawn from unverified sources and did not reflect the nature of these cases.”

March 2021:

One Free Press Coalition published its Top Ten Most Urgent list of journalists at risk for March. In anticipation of International Women’s Day (March 8), this month’s list focused on women reporters and writers. The list includes Pham Doan Trang, imprisoned Vietnamese journalist and writer. According to the article: “Six of the women on the list this month are behind bars, and 13% of all imprisoned journalists in 2020 were women. One of the journalists on the list this month was murdered in connection to her reporting, and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has documented 70 female journalists murdered since 1992.”

English PEN released an action in support of Trang

April 2021:

To help raise international awareness of and support for writer Pham Doan Trang, Reporters Sans Frontières asked Trang’s peers — past recipients of the RSF Press Freedom Prize — to speak out on her behalf. They responded with a message of solidarity. 

May 2021:

On May 18, 2021, PEN Germany announced that it has given jailed journalist Pham Doan Trang an honorary membership in the organization. Ralf Nestmeyer, vice-president and chairman of the Writers in Prison committee, called for the immediate release of Trang and reassured her that the organization is always in solidarity with her. 

Friends and colleagues of Pham Doan Trang have created a webpage for her birthday which you can visit here.

September 2021:

Activist Trinh Huu Long argued that prominent independent journalist Pham Doan Trang can technically be released from her detention since she has not been charged with any crimes. He called on Vice President Harris to use her visit to help make this happen.

Kurtulus Bastimar, a Kurdish human rights lawyer at the UN, submitted the case of Pham Doan Trang with the UN Working Group Against Arbitrary Detention. He said the case against Trang has some serious flaws. Bastimar said he expected to hear back from the UNWGAD on September 17. Bastimar has represented Vietnamese journalist Le Huu Minh Tuan before UNWGAD, as well as Cuban activist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, who was later released.

October 2021:

This statement, from The Vietnamese called for Pham Doan Trang’s release on the anniversary of her arrest. Of her important work, they wrote: “As a journalist, Pham Doan Trang has dedicated her career to documenting and shedding light on the many atrocities and human rights violations committed by the Vietnamese government, despite the constant threat to her life and safety. Her work has been appreciated by Vietnamese people inside and outside of Vietnam, and has granted her international acclaim.”

In a thoroughly detailed and scathing report, the UN-mandated Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) determined that journalist Pham Doan Trang was denied her rights and placed outside the protection of the law. The report highlighted how the government of Vietnam routinely ignored not only international conventions and UN covenants to which it has adopted but also its own laws. The remedy, WGAD asserts, is to unconditionally release Trang and compensate her appropriately.

The independent group of experts also recommended that Vietnam amend its Criminal Code, particularly the intentionally vague Articles 117 and 331, in order to be compliant with international norms. In a separate news release, WGAD also confirmed that the UN Special Rapporteurs were in contact with the Vietnamese government regarding Doan Trang.

On the one-year anniversary of Pham Doan Trang’s arrest, her friend and former political prisoner, Pham Thanh Nghien, penned an essay titled ”Doan Trang and the Jailed Guitar” which tells the story of a guitar that spent more years behind bars than any other Vietnamese dissident.

November 2021:

Take action with The 88 Project, The Vietnamese Magazine, and Luat Khoa Magazine by sending a note of support to Pham Doan Trang. Learn more about Trang, her career, and her inspirations via the illustrated journey on The Vietnamese’s website.

Human Rights lawyer Kurtuluş Baştimar filed a petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) on behalf of journalist Pham Doan Trang. He spoke with RFA and broke down the case against Vietnam’s government, explaining what should happen next.

Actions taken in the wake of her trial:

Statement from Article 19

UN OHCHR Press briefing 

Statement from the EU

Statement from RSF

Statement from the US Government 

January 2022:

Pham Doan Trang has been named one of the laureates of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders this year. 

The letter from eight UN Special Rapporteurs sent to the government of Vietnam 60 days ago regarding dozens of human rights defenders was made public. It describes serious allegations and patterns of abuse, and requests that the government respond to very specific inquiries about each individual case as well as the broader legal framework. The case of Pham Doan Trang also raises serious concerns “where reports shared with the UN were used as evidence against her.”

A coalition of Vietnamese diaspora organizations in Canada and the United States was spearheading an effort to nominate Pham Doan Trang for the Nobel Peace Prize. The group has been joined by dozens of other organizations all over the world.

February 2022:

Pham Doan Trang was given the Canada-UK 2022 Media Freedom Award.

March 2022:

On March 3, the 20th edition of the International Film and Human Rights Festival (FIFDH) screened two films dedicated to two women activists: Pham Doan Trang, 2022 Martin Ennals Laureate; and Ida Leblanc, winner of the Martine Anstett 2022 Prize.

Pham Doan Trang was highlighted as one of the 2022 International Women of Courage Awardees by the US State Department. The award ceremony took place virtually on March 14 with remarks by First Lady Jill Biden. The ceremony was hosted by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

July 2022:

The Committee to Protect Journalism announced that Pham Doan Trang is one of four journalists who will receive the International Press Freedom Awards, to be honored in New York City on November 17, 2022.

August 2022:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on the government of Vietnam to release Pham Doan Trang ahead of her appeal hearing on August 25. “The sooner Vietnam releases all of the journalists it wrongfully holds behind bars,” says CPJ, “the sooner it will be taken seriously as a responsible global actor.”

Ahead of the trial, several other organizations also called for Pham Doan Trang to be exonerated and released, some citing “grave concerns” for her health: Amnesty InternationalHuman Rights WatchPEN America.

Numerous organizations also issued statements on Hanoi’s decision to uphold Pham Doan Trang’s prison sentence on appeal:

November 2022:

The Committee to Protect Journalists gave Pham Doan Trang an International Press Freedom Award for 2022. Watch CPJ’s Youtube video, part of which came from an interview of Trang done by The 88 Project before her arrest.

January 2023:

The U.S. Department of State launched the #WithoutJustCause campaign, aiming to bring awareness to the plight of political prisoners in authoritarian countries worldwide. Pham Doan Trang was a featured case. The campaign said it would use advocacy strategies including “public diplomacy, bilateral engagement, outreach in international organizations, and meetings with other governments, NGOs, and political prisoners’ families.”


Pham Doan Trang: Vietnam arrests leading pro-democracy blogger, BBC News, October 7, 2020

Vietnam arrests prominent journalist as state cracks down on free speech online, The Guardian, October 7, 2020

‘Scorched Earth’: Vietnam Arrests Leading Dissident Activist and Blogger, The Diplomat, October 8, 2020

Rights Groups Deplore Arrest of Vietnam Writer and Activist Pham Doan Trang, Voice of America (RFA Vietnamese), October 8, 2020

A dissident jailed in Vietnam shares her message: Don’t free me, free my country, The Washington Post, October 8, 2020

Pham Doan Trang's May 2019 letter regarding arrest

A dissident jailed in Vietnam shares her message: Don’t free me, free my country, Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2020

Vietnam’s Arrest of a ‘Modern Legend’, Asia Sentinel, October 9, 2020

'Freedom fighter' Pham Thi Doan Trang, The 88 Project, October 11, 2020

“Law of the Jungle” for Pham Doan Trang, The Vietnamese, October 16, 2020

Pham Doan Trang’s Interview Before Her Arrest: Our Freedom Is Not A Commodity, October 25, 2020

Pham Doan Trang Goes to Prison, Common Dreams, November 11, 2020

Free the well-known journalist Pham Doan Trang at once!, Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

PENWrites: Pham Doan Trang

When Calls To Free Pham Doan Trang Are Not Enough, The Vietnamese (Luat Khoa)

Journalist Pham Doan Trang Can Still Be Freed In Vietnam. And The US Could Help Win Her Release, The Vietnamese, August 25, 2021

Facebook post on official charges, September 2021

Luật sư đưa vụ án Phạm Đoan Trang ra LHQ: Việt Nam vi phạm nhân quyền trầm trọng, VOA Vietnamese, September 14, 2021

Vietnamese rights activist marks first year in jail, Stewart Rees, Asia Times, October 6, 2021

Statement On The First Anniversary Of The Arrest Of Journalist Pham Doan Trang, The Vietnamese, October 6, 2021

Đoan-Trang and the Jailed Guitar, Vietopian

Pham Doan Trang’s Indictment Is Public Today; What Do We Know About Her Case?, The Vietnamese, October 19, 2021

Vietnamese journalist Pham Doan Trang’s health declines after a year of detention, Radio Free Asia, October 20, 2021

Vietnam: Immediately release independent journalist and human rights defender Pham Doan Trang, October 26, 2021

Vietnamese journalist Trang examined for health concerns in detention, Radio Free Asia, October 27, 2021

Vietnam Violated Journalist's Rights, UN Watchdog Says, VOA, October 27, 2021

Pham Doan Trang Trial Postponed as International Observers Condemn Her Detention, The 88 Project, October 31, 2021

Viet Nam: release writer held on “propaganda” charges - UN experts, The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, October 29, 2021

Opinion from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, adopted September 2021, publicly released October 2021

The 88 Project Encourages Audience To Send Letters To Imprisoned Journalist Pham Doan Trang, November 4, 2021

The Vietnamese Magazine Calls On Readers To Send Letters To Imprisoned Journalist Pham Doan Trang, The Vietnamese, November 4, 2021

'The arrest and the detention of Pham Doan Trang was arbitrary,' lawyer says, Radio Free Asia, November 10, 2021

Letter from the Special Rapporteurs, November 22, 2021

Vietnam's Communist Party Jails its Most Trenchant Critic, David Brown, Asia Sentinel, December 8, 2021

Vietnam jails dissident journalist for 9 yrs over 'anti-state' acts, Reuters, December 14, 2021

Pham Doan Trang's Final Statement At Her Trial, The Vietnamese, December 14, 2021

Vietnam jails its ‘most famous activist’ for nine years, The Washington Post, December 14, 2021

Imprisoned Vietnamese Journalist Recognized With Human Rights Award, The Diplomat, January 20, 2022

Canada and United Kingdom announce recipient of the 2022 Media Freedom Award, February 10, 2022

Vietnam irked by 'unsuitable' U.S. prize for jailed dissident, Reuters, March 17, 2022

TrialWatch report on Pham Doan Trang's trial, April 2022

Nguyen Van Mieng Facebook May 2022

Vietnam, live up to commitments to Human Rights, Martin Ennals Award, May 30, 2022

Vietnamese human rights journalist’s appeal set for Aug. 25, Radio Free Asia, August 10, 2022

Vietnam court upholds 9-year prison sentence for journalist, AP, August 25, 2022

Tòa Việt Nam y án nhà báo Phạm Đoan Trang 9 năm tù, VOA Vietnamese, August 25, 2022

Vietnam: Appellate Court Upholds Journalist Pham Doan Trang’s Nine-Year Imprisonment, The Vietnamese, August 26, 2022

Profile last updated: 2024-04-16 18:33:04

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