Vietnamese Repression Cannot Keep Pace With The Internet

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In an example confirming why conservatives and libertarians fight back against Democratic attempts to control the Internet, the communist dictatorship of Vietnam is cracking down on and even jailing those who use social media.

The reason is that dissidents in the Stalinist-style country are using the Internet as a meeting place of sorts to organize resistance to the regime’s policies.

Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch said the Internet is a considerable threat to the power of the Vietnamese government because it gives individuals a medium to expose its repressive behavior:

“Facebook is being used as an organizing tool, as a self-publishing platform, as a monitoring device for people when they are being detained and when they get released.”

Robertson adds that Facebook is providing a support network to “to connect communities that otherwise would not be connected.” This awareness of a swelling number of dissident Internet users has provided encouragement to those who in the past felt like they were fighting a lonely battle.

Pro-Democracy advocate Nguyen Anh Tuan felt isolated when he was questioned by Vietnam’s police forces over his political writings back in 2011. Now, however, such unfortunate matters as the government seizing his passport and subjecting him to further police interrogations are leavened by his knowledge that there are a considerable number of like-minded allies on the Internet. He said, “Regarding activism, I cannot feel lonely anymore.”

The government is fighting back in a typically repressive and transparent way. Under the specious guise of national security, Vietnamese agents are arresting and imprisoning rebellious bloggers. A recent case in point is blogger Nguyen Ngoc Quynh, better known as  “Mother Mushroom” on social media, being imprisoned by the regime for posting what they refer to as propaganda against the government on the Internet.

True to form, the regime limited who could enter the courtroom during her trial. Despite the best effort of the communists, information still leaked to the public in the form of Quynh’s post-sentencing statement before the court.

An hour after the verdict, her lawyer posted Quynh’s defiant statement on social media:

“I hope that everyone will speak up and fight, overcome their own fears to build a better country.”

Quynh will serve a 10-year prison term.

Despite this crackdown, half of the country continues to use Facebook (at last count, the number was 45 million), and the government cannot keep pace with blocking their Internet access.

Like-minded citizens are donating money from their bank accounts to provide financial support for the families of imprisoned activists, despite the ability of the government to track down who specifically is giving money.

And the generous folks giving the money are fully aware of the risk, according to Tuan:

“{Donors} know very well that they could be checked by the government, but they dare to do it.”

When Soviet communism imploded in 1989, conservative humorist P.J. O’Rourke quite seriously believed that it was the hunger of the regime’s citizens for American consumer goods that helped topple the regime.

If so, such unarmed weapons as the Internet could accomplish what American forces could not do during the Vietnam War: topple Vietnamese communism.

Not since the printing press has information posed such a threat to repressive government.

Ron Capshaw is a Senior Contributor to The Liberty Conservative from Midlothian, Va. His work has appeared in National Review, The Weekly Standard, and the American Spectator.

  • Cytotoxic

    Good story but calling Vietnam ‘Stalinist-style’ is way off. The country is nowhere near that repressive.

    There’s good reason to be optimistic about V. They are delivering more of the free-market reform that China likes to half-heartedly commit to and only reluctantly carry out, if at all.

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