Pham Doan Trang, one of Vietnam’s most prominent activists and independent journalists, has been arrested for allegedly “propagandizing against the state”, a rights group said on Wednesday.

Trang was reportedly arrested at 11:30pm (1630 GMT) in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday, the same day Vietnam and the US held the 24th Annual US-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue, which included wide-ranging discussions on human rights, including freedom of expression.

Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, strongly condemned Trang’s arrest in a statement issued on Wednesday morning.

“Despite suffering years of systemic government harassment, including severe physical attacks, she has remained faithful to her principles of peaceful advocacy for human rights and democracy,” Robertson said.

“Her thoughtful approach to reforms, and demands for people’s real participation in their governance, are messages the Vietnam government should listen to and respect, not repress,” he added.

Vietnamese authorities charged Trang with “making, storing, disseminating or propagandizing information” that aims to oppose the Vietnamese state, for which the harshest sentence is 20 years in prison.

In 2018, Trang was awarded the Homo Homini Award by Czech-based human rights organisation People In Need and in 2019, Reporters Without Borders awarded her a Press Freedom Prize in recognition of her work’s impact.

Trang is the author of numerous books and a frequently publishing journalist, activist and blogger whose work has covered topics including LGBT rights, women’s rights, environmental issues, police brutality, the suppression of activists and land rights.

Her arrest comes amid a clampdown on journalists and activists ahead of Vietnam’s five-yearly National Congress in January.

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