Several dozen senior members of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party have written a letter openly denouncing the country’s leadership, accusing them of taking the “wrong path”, and calling fora “decisive shift” from dictatorship to democracy, the UK’s Channel 4 reports:
The authors of the open letter want the Vietnamese government to “come clean” about a secret summit in which Vietnam is alleged to have secretly handed over territory to China. It is difficult to know where the open letter will lead but Hoi Trinh of advocacy group Voice, says it will encourage a small, growing and increasingly emboldened band of pro-democracy activists in Vietnam. “What is surprising about the letter is that it was made public,” says Trinh. “It’s not the way things are done in Vietnam. You can criticise the government within your family. You can even criticise them in the coffee shop. You don’t do it publicly – but these people did exactly that.”
“The path that the leadership has been imposing on the country is wrong and is taking us down a blind alley,” Nguyen Khac Main, a veteran party member and one of the letter’s signatories, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service:
The recent deployment of a Chinese oil rig in waters off Vietnam’s coast, together with the sinking by China of a Vietnamese fishing boat, have lowered relations between Vietnam and China to their worst level since the two communist nations fought a brief border war in 1979.
Violent anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam followed the deployment of the rig, which was later withdrawn, and left at least four people dead and the destruction of factories believed to be operated by Chinese companies, though many were Taiwanese-owned.
Also speaking to RFA, former director of the Vietnam Institute of Sociology Tuong Lai said, “In the name of socialism and in the name of having a similar communist leadership, China manipulates the Vietnamese Communist Party and the leaders of Vietnam, making them dependent on China.”
“And it is this dependence that has increasingly damaged the party’s reputation and caused such severe distrust among party members and the people.”
When David Nguyen – a human rights lawyer – tried to log in to the site, he found his account had been blocked. He was faced with a message from Facebook which said he was suspected of posting fraudulent personal information. He wasn’t the only one. At least 100 users – mostly pro-democracy and human rights campaigners – have faced similar treatment, according to Viet Tan, a political group who oppose the communist government.
Although the blocks have been implemented by Facebook, it isn’t the site itself that’s to blame. Nguyen says he, and many like him, have been targeted by a rival team of site members – or “opinion shapers” – organised and paid by the government.
When human rights in Vietnam are discussed in the international community it is invariably the nation’s track record on freedom of speech, or lack thereof, which takes precedence, notes an observer:
The communist nation is regularly excoriated for its human rights track record, by which critics usually mean the locking up of bloggers, but the issues that so concern many of those same bloggers – corruption, police brutality, and workers’ rights, among others – are often all but absent from the majority of discussions about human rights, at least publicly.