Vietnam Detains Author and Democracy Activist Hours After US Rights Talks

Pham Doan Trang is a vocal freedom of speech advocate in the one-party state.
October 8, 2020, 9:48am
Vietnam, human rights
A worker stands under a signboard with Vietnam's national flag in Hanoi on Oct. 5, 2020, as the city prepares for an upcoming party congress. Photo:

Vietnam detained prominent author, journalist and pro-democracy champion Pham Doan Trang hours after Vietnamese officials discussed human rights issues with United States officials.

Police seized the 42-year-old from an apartment in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday and took her to the capital Hanoi for further investigation, the feared Ministry of Public Security said in a statement.

Trang, who has contributed to several local and international media outfits, was charged with "propaganda against the state" and could face 20 years in prison if brought to trial and convicted.


The charge punishes "making, storing, distributing or disseminating information, documents and items against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam," according to Amnesty International.

Vietnam is a one-party state without independent media outlets but critics have used Facebook and various social media platforms to write bluntly about the government, which has responded with intimidation, arrests and lengthy jail terms.

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The country has been widely praised for containing the coronavirus but observers have pointed out that its success was made possible by having an authoritarian system in place.

Trang, a vocal supporter of free speech and democratic reforms, was previously arrested by authorities but continued her work, rights groups said while calling for her immediate release.

"Despite suffering years of systemic government harassment, including severe physical attacks, Pham Doan Trang has remained faithful to her principles of peaceful advocacy for human rights and democracy," Human Rights Watch said.

The arrest took place hours after a Vietnamese delegation participated in the annual U.S.-Vietnam human rights dialogue on Tuesday where they discussed the rule of law, free speech, religious freedom and labor rights among other issues.

The U.S. embassy in Hanoi did not immediately reply to a request for comment from VICE News but said it was “concerned” by reports of the arrest and was monitoring the situation, according to Reuters.