Courts in central Vietnam have handed down lengthy prison terms against two activists as communist authorities step up their crackdown on dissent.

The two were given nine and seven years respectively for attempting to overthrow the government and spreading anti-state propaganda in two separate trials Thursday. Their sentences came just days after seven activists were convicted and given harsh sentences for subversion.

Despite sweeping economic reforms launched in the mid-1980s that made the country one of fastest growing in the region, the communist government tolerates no challenge to its one-party rule.

International human rights groups and some Western governments often criticize Vietnam for jailing those who peacefully express their views, but Hanoi says only law breakers are punished.