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Vietnam used to be a developing country but in the past few years, it has started to grow economically and is moving fast towards becoming a developed country. There has been an increase in technological advances as well as an introduction to the internet and from the looks of it, the poor lifestyles of Vietnamese citizens will surely change for the better in terms of being more developed and having more money. Although this is true, it is all but a façade.
On the outside, data and statistics show that Vietnam is making good progress in shifting from a developing to a developed country. However, looking closely into the inner workings of the government, the Vietnamese people have been completely stripped of their rights, something that has not changed in decades. The amount of corruption within the Vietnamese government stems from the fact that Communism and communist ideology is prevalent in high ranks and officials in Vietnam. The Vietnamese communist government has been treating its citizens badly for years through oppression and censorship.
Due to censorship, Vietnamese people are unable to voice their discontent with the incompetency of the government in running the country and providing the citizens their rights to freedom and expression. At the end of the day, Vietnam is not progressing. The government’s censorship on its citizens is holding the country back from making any sort of development from their poor lifestyles.
Collected data show that statistically, Vietnam has been growing steadily in terms of economics.
Vietnam has been a developing country for a long time until recently when its economy has been shown to be growing. In 2019, over 45 million people were no longer in poverty, and poverty rates went from 70 percent to a mere 6 percent (Overview). Also, in the past few decades, basic services such as water and electricity have been significantly improved. About 99 percent of the population now as access to electricity as of 2016 compared to only 14 percent in 1993 and 70 percent have access to clean water in 2016 while in 1993 only 17 percent (Overview). Political and economic reforms as well as urbanization and industrialization has dramatically helped spur Vietnam’s growth over the past decades to lift the country to becoming a developing country. However, when looking at the physical state of Vietnam, these numbers do not exactly reflect how the country is running. Underneath the numbers lie corruption that renders all these statistics insignificant to what is actually happening in the country.
Vietnam’s government is completely corrupted due to the communists who have taken over as officials in the government as well as inside the police force. Only people affiliated with the Communist Party or are endorsed by them can run for official positions. Viet Cong, a communist group that is generally looked down upon by Vietnamese citizens who have no ties with them, hold a strong grip on everything in Vietnam; from rural land to small stores, the Viet Cong have enough power to forcefully take whatever they want and do whatever they want to anything. In one incident, the state-run press published a report that weaved a narrative that a local fish farmer who was “a criminal who had used illegal firearms.” to opened fired upon police officers. However, this was untrue; the farmer fired in self-defense due to being kicked off his state-owned land a whole year before his lease ended (Cain). Through thorough research, two newspapers revealed that they found out that district officials broke agreements made in court and lied about the statements made in court by witnesses (Cain). If the Viet Cong were not so intent in trying to take the farmer’s land prematurely, this situation would not have escalated as it did. Not only did the government try to hide the incident, after they were unable to control the story any longer, the government released the story but with a twist that made them look not as bad. However, the public already knew of the truth from reputable sources and saw through the lies. Such incidents only fuel the public’s distrust and dislike of the government.
Not only does the government lie to the public, but they also take away basic freedoms from their own people and censor whatever is against their agenda. Brad Adams, the executive director of Human Rights Watch Asia Division, stated: “The Vietnamese government claims that its citizens enjoy freedom of expression, but this ‘freedom’ disappears when it is used to call for democracy or to criticize the ruling Communist Party” (Vietnam: Crackdown on Rights). This paradox of a statement only further reveals how Vietnam’s government only takes from its people and never gives back anything that will benefit their own people. Criticism of the government’s incompetency or against their ideology is quickly shut down using lies or brute force. Arrests for political cases have been on the rise lately and punishments for those types of cases are now getting harsher, often ranging from a few decades behind bars (Tran). Locking up activists serves as a warning to other activists to stop their activities as well as an attempt to censor any more news against the government. At one point, after relentless criticism from the media against district officials, the Prime Minister of Vietnam made a public statement announcing that “heads would roll” (Cain). Instead of responding in a dignified manner, the high-ranking official threatens his own country, which is never a good sign of a good leader. With the vast number of Viet Cong in power, it is difficult for them to be removed from power because another communist will just take the spot.
The problem with the Viet Cong having an immense power in Vietnam is that they cannot run a country. There have been mass protests from Vietnamese citizens expressing their dissatisfaction with the corruption as well as other problems that have stemmed from the government’s inability to lead a country; large-scale environmental pollutions, social inequality despite being a communist state, as well as the government’s lacking response to China violating Vietnam’s jurisdiction to the resource-rich sea (Vu). Instead of defending their own country, the Vietnamese government allowed China to go into their sea and take their resources as well a destroying Vietnam’s waters with pollution.
In 2016, Vietnam had a great marine disaster that greatly affected the country. Toxic chemical waste from a factory was illegally dumped into Vietnam waters by a Taiwanese company, Formosa. Around 70 tons of dead fish were scattered along the beaches of Vietnam putting many fishermen out of work and depleting Vietnam’s aquatic resources that many depend on for jobs as well as food. The great environmental pollution posed a huge threat that Vietnam since they do not have the money or resources to clean up such a mess. On top of that, the government was the one that allowed the company to build the 10.6-billion-dollar steel mill in Vietnam waters (Clark). Knowing that it was their mistake, the government actively blocked reporting on the issue and banned protests about the disaster. News outlets desperately tried to make the news more widespread, but the arrests started to increase. Instead of trying to help their country recover, the Vietnamese government censors news regarding the disaster and their connections with Formosa as well as arresting activists trying to help with Vietnam’s recovery.
Like China and North Korea, Vietnam has a huge censorship problem. In terms of internet freedoms, Vietnam is often only a few spots above Iran, China, and North Korea in international censorship rankings (Cain). The Vietnamese government will do anything in order to censor anything that goes against their agenda. They will often quickly strike down those who publicize things that they think threatens the party-state, which is based on a combination of “economic performance, revolutionary history, and national unification” although they can tolerate some criticism just to show that they can (Cain). The efforts made in censoring are so that the Party can keep a good image of themselves but unfortunately it is only ruining their reputation. By censoring criticisms towards them, the government is showing that they are unable to accept their faults and make changes. Vietnamese citizens, however, still protest and publish articles against the government despite the police regularly putting activists under house arrest in order to prevent them from participating in protests and meetings (Vietnam: Crackdown on Rights). The fact that Vietnamese people are so desperately fighting against the government shows how much of a bad job the government is doing that the people want their voices to be heard. Unfortunately, both groups are stuck in a loop; the more wrongs the government does the more people will criticize them, in turn the government will censor the criticisms which then will only fuel the people’s dislike towards the government and increase the criticism.
In order to gain more control over what people are saying against the government and the Communist Party, the Vietnamese government is targeting where the main source of criticism is coming from, the internet. Internet journalists and media executives have been pressured by the Ministry of Information and Communications to remove critical comments towards the government from their websites (Cain), mainly because comments gain traction and more comments on the internet will snowball into something that big that the government won’t be able to contain. Articles that are not too controversial are allowed to be published online but they don’t have control over the comments that are made so removing critical comments was their solution. In order to censor criticism on a larger scale, the Vietnamese government has proposed a Cybersecurity Law that is almost a mirror image to China’s. Authorities are given the power to censor free expression and can get service providers to remove content that authorities would consider offensive (Vietnam: Crackdown on Rights). The government’s censorship has been so widespread that many reports of corruption as well as censorship, have all been erased from the internet. In 2016, a resolution was passed by the Human Rights Council that recognized the “right to Internet access” as a human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Tran). The goals and objectives within the Cybersecurity Law are violating this resolution due to the fact that the Vietnamese government and police are able to demand and censor information on the internet in Vietnam, all without due process. Yet, Censoring the voices of the people isn’t the only crime that the Vietnamese government is committing.
Not only does the Communist Party censor the people’s voices and take away their freedom of expression, but they also take away the basic rights of people. The rights of the people in Vietnam is in the hands of the government and they can shape it in any way they want without the people’s consent. The Communist Party limited “all basic civil and political rights” and banned all activities that the Party deems to be a threat to its power (Vietnam: Crackdown on Rights). Basically, whatever the government says, goes, even if it violates certain rights of the people. Those who oppose the Party and are caught are severely punished. Activists that were caught have been reported to be assaulted, interrogated, and arrested with extensive prison terms (Vietnam: Crackdown on Rights). Some punishments are made public in order to scare other activists from continuing with their protests and frighten the public to not follow in their stead. There are also bans on religious activities that are deemed contrary to “national interest”, “public order”, or “national unity”. Unapproved religious groups are forced to renounce their faith and can also be detained, interrogated, tortured, and imprisoned (Vietnam: Crackdown on Rights). “National interest” in this case refers to just the Communist Party and not the country as a whole. Anything that the Party does not like will be shut down and people are punished if they retaliate. This shows that the government does not care for their people, Vietnamese citizens do not even have the freedom to pursue the religion that they want, only the religion that the Party allows. This type of oppression is the reason why Vietnam has been unable to progress in terms of quality of life. Vietnamese citizens have their rights in the hands of corrupt officials and are unable to gather enough power to express their discontent because of censorship.
On the outside, Vietnam looks like it is doing well but when you look at their quality of life, it is very poor. Corruption due to the strong communist influence in government positions has made the Vietnamese government incapable of being able to run a country properly. Vietnamese citizens are stripped of their rights due to the fact the government and police can do whatever they wish. Censorship prevents anything from being said against the government and any activists are being silenced through unethical processes. The reason Vietnam has not been able to escape from their oppression is that there are not enough people to oppose the government’s censorship, the Communist Party is too strong in terms of power. The numbers are too small compared to the communists and most Vietnamese people are afraid of them. The only way to combat the issue is more coverage so that enough people can come together to overthrow the oppression of the Communist Party.
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