The Washington Post recounts the events leading to the conviction of Pham Doan Trang for disseminating anti-state propaganda.


Pham Doan Trang, a Vietnamese activist known for her writing on women’s empowerment and environmental issues, was sentenced to nine years in prison Tuesday for disseminating anti-state propaganda. It was the latest crackdown on dissent in the Southeast Asian country and drew condemnation from rights groups.

The Hanoi People’s Court gave Trang more time in prison than the seven to eight years prosecutors had requested.

Trang, who was repeatedly interrupted by the judge during the trial, denied all charges. Her lawyers said she was informed of her trial date only a day beforehand.

There was heavy security at the courthouse, with riot police on hand and checkpoints on the main roads leading to the area, as well as numerous plainclothes agents.

“The trial was held under tight security control, which is not new for trials of this kind,” said Le Van Luan, one of the five lawyers for Trang. “The judge handed down a sentence that is heavier than
what prosecutors recommended. That’s unusual.”Advertisement

“Trang was in good spirits,” he told The Washington Post as he left the courthouse, adding that they would appeal to a higher court within 15 days.

Trang, 43, has written numerous books and co-founded ­independent media outlets. She also founded the environmental group Green Trees. In 2019, Reporters Without Borders awarded her a Press Freedom Prize.

Despite opening the country to foreign investment and seeking closer ties with the United States, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party retains tight control of the media and remains deeply intolerant of dissent. In a December 2020 report, Amnesty International said Vietnam held a record 170 prisoners of conscience, 40 percent of whom were incarcerated for sharing posts critical of the government on social media.

Nguyen Quang A, a prominent Vietnamese dissident, said the authorities were afraid of Trang, “the most famous activist in Vietnam.”Advertisement

“By jailing her, they are removing a focal point for dissidents in order to silence others,” Nguyen said. “The message is that the police can arrest anyone, so be obedient.”