Political Blogger Pham Thanh Convicted of “Conducting Anti-state Propaganda,” Sentenced to Five Years and Six Months in Prison

Blogger Phẩm Thanh and his latest book criticizing incumbent Vietnamese communist chief Nguyen Phu Trong

Defend the Defenders, July 9, 2021


On July 9, the People’s Court of Hanoi found political blogger Pham Chi Thanh (aka Pham Thanh) guilty of “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Criminal Code for his online posts criticizing the country’s authoritarian regime.

After two and half hours, the first-instance hearing ended with the final judgment of five and half years imprisonment followed by five years of probation, his lawyer Ha Huy Son said on his Facebook page.

According to the indictment, Mr. Thanh’s writing including a book titled Thế thiên hành đạo hay Đại nghịch bất đạo (Holder of Mandate of Heaven or Great Immoral Traitor) and other posts on his blog Bà Đầm Xoè contains the information defaming the authoritarian regime’s leaders and distorting the regime’s policies.

In his defense statement, lawyer Son pointed out a number of shortcomings of the state agencies involved in the case, including the Hanoi City’s Department of Information and Communication which verificated the content of Mr. Thanh’s writing. However, the judge did not pay attention to the lawyer’s defense statement.

Mr. Thanh is a retired reporter and editor of the state-controlled Voice of Vietnam Radio (VOV). He has written several books critical of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and its leaders, including late President Ho Chi Minh and incumbent General Secretary cum President Nguyen Phu Trong. His posts on his blog Bà Đầm Xoè are mainly critical of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam and its leader Trong. His latest book Holder of Mandate of Heaven or Great Immoral Traitor talked about activities of incumbent General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam, which according to the author are harmful for the nation and beneficial for the red China.

On his blog Bà Đầm Xoè, Thanh also posted his writings on politics and social issues, including China’s violations of Vietnam’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea) and the weak response of the Vietnamese Communist regime, systemic corruption, widespread environmental pollution, human rights violations, etc.

His arrest on May 21 last year is part of Vietnam’s intensified crackdown on local dissent before and after the 13th National Congress of the ruling party.

One day before the trial, the New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement calling on Vietnam’s authoritarian state to release Mr. Thanh immediately and unconditionally since Mr. Thanh peacefully exercised his right to freedom of expression.

Mr. Thanh is the 17th activist being sentenced in 2021, according to Defend the Defenders’ statistics. Among others are President Pham Chi Dung and Vice President Nguyen Tuong Thuy of the unregistered professional group Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam who were also convicted of “conducting anti-state propaganda” and sentenced to 15 years and 11 years in prison, respectively.

According to Amnesty International, Vietnam is the largest jailer of prisoners of conscience with 170 activists being jailed while the latest statistics of Defend the Defenders shows that Hanoi is holding at least 258 prisoners of conscience. Reporters Without Borders regularly ranks Vietnam among the worst five countries on press freedom withhigh number of jailed bloggers. Vietnam’s communist government always denies it has any prisoners of conscience, saying it imprisons only law violators.