The Vietnamese Magazine Calls On Readers To Send Letters To Imprisoned Journalist Pham Doan Trang

The Vietnamese Magazine
The Vietnamese Magazine

November 4, 2021 - The Vietnamese Magazine, Luat Khoa Magazine, and The 88 Project today jointly call on members of the public to send letters to Pham Doan Trang who is being detained in Hanoi.

In her letter to her friends before her arrest in October 2020, Doan Trang wanted us to read more books on political participation and pushing for free elections in Vietnam. We think that those are tasks for the mass.

As individuals, we think each of us can also write letters to Doan Trang to keep her spirits up and continue to do it during her detention.

We can’t be certain whether she will receive everyone’s letter. That’s up to fate. But we can be sure that she’ll receive our love.

You can mail your letter for Trang to:

  • Pham Thi Doan Trang, Hanoi Detention Center No. 1, Lane 702, Phuc Dien, Nam Tu Liem District, Hanoi, Vietnam.  Prisoner number: 4661 V1-M2 (M5).
  • In Vietnamese: Phạm Thị Đoan Trang, Trại Giam Số 1 Hà Nội, Ngõ 702, Phúc Diễn, Quận Nam Từ Liêm, TP. Hà Nội, Việt Nam. Số Giam: 4661 V1-M2 (M5).

You can also send a message here: bit.ly/dearTrang. We will collect the messages, put them on postcards, and send them to Trang in the detention center.

Another way is to create your own postcard by following the instructions below:

  • Step 1: Use the template available here (https://bit.ly/write4doantrang; https://bit.ly/write4Trang) or compose your own letter template (handwritten or email).
  • Step 2: Fill in the message for Doan Trang and download it to your device (if using the design template provided by the campaign)
  • Step 3: Send a letter to the email address (doantrang@mail.luatkhoa.org) or print it out and send it via post to the address above.
  • Step 4: Re-upload the image of the letter on your social media account with the hashtag #Thư_gửi_Trang and #DearTrang, tag Luat Khoa Magazine at @luatkhoatapchi and The Vietnamese Magazine at @thevnmesemag on Twitter, or send it to Luat Khoa Magazine (https://www.facebook.com/luatkhoa.org/) or The Vietnamese Magazine (https://www.facebook.com/thevietnamese.org) to show your solidarity with the support community.

And now, you can learn a bit more about Pham Doan Trang and her works.


PART I: The Early Years

Journalist Phạm Doan Trang was born in 1978 in Hà Nội. She’s the youngest child in a family of educators.

“Like many children,” she tells us, “I was very afraid of ghosts. My fear was only heightened on nights we went to bed without electricity. You couldn’t even see the fingers on your hands. Looking outside, the entire neighborhood was pitch dark. There was this burned-down house with blackened walls; its owner died in the fire and no one was living there anymore. There was another empty house whose owners were a couple who had died and the children went to live with relatives…”

“When I entered 7th grade, I began struggling with my neighbor’s cassette tape machine as I tried to listen to and write down lyrics to the songs that I could hear the clearest. I borrowed my friends’ songbooks to copy the Beatles, in bad English and in even worse grammar… But that’s how I grew up — with The Beatles.”

From 1996 to 2000, Doan Trang attended Hanoi Foreign Trade University, majoring in international economics. It was during this period that Trang and other students discovered the Internet for the first time.

“In those days,” Doan Trang recalled, “this Internet thing had just been introduced into Vietnam. Students like us were very shy and cautious with it. We didn’t have many books then, and our reality wasn’t anything like the books anyhow. Besides, no companies or organizations would let college kids like us go into their place to do research. The more studious among us, however, were able to find an excellent source of information in foreign articles on economics — either in other languages or translated into Vietnamese. Those authors probably had no idea that there was a whole generation of Vietnamese students who grew from their writings.”


PART II: The Engaged Journalist

In the Winter of 2000, after graduating from the Foreign Trade University, Doan Trang started working for the experimental online paper VnExpress when it first launched.

“I remember well the Winter of 2000 and my first days as a budding journalist,” she said. “Sometimes when I look back I can still see myself as a young newbie, not knowing anything and afraid of everybody and everything. I was scared of many things, but my biggest fear was of writing something wrong.”

After serving for some time as managing editor for VnExpress, Doan Trang went to work for the digital TV station VTC, followed by stints at VietnamNet and Phap Luat TP (Law City). She and Hoang Nguyen teamed up to write “Bóng”, considered the first biography of its kind in Vietnam about a homosexual person.

In 2008-2009 Doan Trang became somewhat of a phenomenon with a series of in-depth articles analyzing the relationship between Vietnam and China. The articles created quite a sensation as part of the section called Vietnam Weekly on VietnamNet. One excerpt reads:

“However, I’ve never been an effective reporter because my heart still feels weighed down tremendously by misfortune. If you’re a Vietnamese journalist, you should have many reasons to feel sad. Whether or not that sadness seems deserved is up to you. But if you want peace of mind, perhaps you shouldn’t be a journalist.” (2007)


PART III: The Activist

In August 2009, Doan Trang was arrested and held for nine days in Hanoi while being investigated for her involvement in printing t-shirts denouncing the Bauxite project in the Central Highlands.

Her life shifted in a totally new direction. She started down the path of a democracy activist.

In 2013 she left Vietnam to engage in human rights activities in other countries and the United Nations. In 2014 she came to the United States on a scholarship by the Villa Aura Center and the University of Southern California. During this same time, she co-founded the online magazine Luat Khoa (The Law) with Trinh Huu Long, Tran Quynh Vi, and Truong Tu Minh.

In 2015 she returned to Vietnam and continued her in-country activism. That same year, she participated in the protest movement against the cutting down of 6,700 trees in the capital city. She later co-founded the group Green Trees, a civil society organization focused on protecting the environment.

During that period, Doan Trang was a leading voice in the democracy movement in Vietnam. Doan Trang was abducted many times and even violently assaulted — she was so severely injured that her legs had to be operated on. Nowadays, she usually needs crutches to get around.

From 2017 onward, Doan Trang had to constantly move around all over the country in order to be safe.


PART IV: The Author

Doan Trang never stops writing. She finds all kinds of ways to write.

She is the author of books on basic political education such as “Politics for the Common Man”, “Non-violent Opposition”, “How to Support a Prisoner”, “Politics of a Police State”, “Understanding Public Policies Through the Special Economic Zones Bill”…

She is also the author or co-author of many reports on human rights abuses such as “The Ocean Disaster in Vietnam”, “The Dong Tam Incident” and many other reports on things that no one else wrote about.

“Live to tell the stories, my friends. Future generations of Vietnamese need to know what violent and terrible obstacles existed on the road to democracy in this country. As for the rest of the world: Citizens in democratic countries should read the story of Vietnam today to understand and appreciate that freedom and democracy are values that people in countries less fortunate than theirs must fight and pay for with blood, tears, and sometimes their own lives.”

In 2018, People In Need honored Pham Doan Trang with the human rights award Homo Homini. In 2019, Reporters Sans Frontières awarded her with the Press Freedom Prize for Impact. She is also the principal personnel behind the Liberal Publishing House which was awarded the Prix Voltaire by the International Publishers Association in 2020.


PART V: Imprisonment

On October 7, 2020, Doan Trang was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City and held incommunicado for over a year, during which time neither her family nor her lawyers could see her. It wasn’t until the middle of October 2021, that she was allowed to have legal counsel for the first time.

Doan Trang has been charged with “anti-state propaganda” based on Article 88 of the 1999 Criminal Code. In a letter to her friends before her arrest, she wrote:

“No one wants to sit in prison. But if prison is inevitable for freedom fighters, if prison can serve a pre-determined purpose, then we should happily accept it.”

“I don't want freedom for just myself; that’s too easy. I want something greater: freedom for Vietnam. It might seem like some grand goal, but it’s totally possible--with your support.”


PART VI: Writing Letters to Doan Trang

In her letters to her friends before her arrest in October 2020, Doan Trang wanted us to read more books on political participation and pushing for free elections in Vietnam. We think that those are tasks for the mass.

As individuals, we think each of us can also write letters to Doan Trang to keep her spirits up and continue to do it during her detention.

We can’t be certain whether she will receive everyone’s letter, that’s up to fate, but we can be sure that she’ll receive our love.

You can mail your letter for Doan Trang to:

  • Pham Thi Doan Trang, Hanoi Detention Center No. 1, Lane 702, Phuc Dien, Nam Tu Liem district, Hanoi city, Vietnam.  Prison number: 4661 V1-M2 (M5).
  • In Vietnamese: Phạm Thị Đoan Trang, Trại Giam Số 1 Hà Nội, Ngõ 702, Phúc Diễn, Quận Nam Từ Liêm, TP. Hà Nội, Việt Nam. Số Giam: 4661 V1-M2 (M5).

You can also send a message here: bit.ly/dearTrang. We will collect the messages, put them on postcards, and send them to Trang in the detention center.

You can also create your own postcard by following the instructions below:

  • Step 1: Use the template available here (https://bit.ly/write4doantrang; https://bit.ly/write4Trang) or compose your own letter template (handwritten or email).
  • Step 2: Fill in the message for Doan Trang and download it to your device (if using the design template provided by the campaign)
  • Step 3: Send a letter to the email address (doantrang@mail.luatkhoa.org) or print it out and send it via post to the address above.
  • Step 4: Re-upload the image of the letter on your social media account with the hashtag #Thư_gửi_Trang and#DearTrang, tag Luat Khoa Magazine at @luatkhoatapchi and @thevnmesemag on Twitter, or send it to Luat Khoa Magazine (https://www.facebook.com/luatkhoa.org/) or The Vietnamese Magazine (https://www.facebook.com/thevietnamese.org) to show your solidarity with the support community.
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