Radical Instrument

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Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam

Vietnam’s crackdown on blogging

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A week ago, the Washington Post  summarized the Vietnamese government’s efforts to restrict online critics in a campaign dating back to August. What the piece misses is something Time picked up in a similar, late December summary,  the China connection: 

In December 2007 and January 2008, 56-year-old human rights activist Nguyen Hoaong Hai — who blogged under the pseudonym “Dieu Cay” — organized demonstrations in Ho Chi Minh City against the government’s permission of the Olympic torch to pass through Vietnam. The demonstrations protested Chinese occupation of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea — which Vietnam also claims. Within months, police arrested Nguyen on charges of tax evasion — a move widely seen as retaliation. “It’s pretty clear that what he was really thrown in jail for was for criticizing China’s claim over the Paracels,” says Bob Dietz, Asia program coordinator at the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. In December, an appeals court upheld Nguyen’s 30-month jail sentence.

The WashPost piece focuses on the potential role of Yahoo! and Google – per the new regulations, “Internet companies” are required to report to the government every six months, although the application of this to non-Vietnamese companies is unclear. But the possible role of China would seem to be more interesting here, especially considering the relationships China has effectively forged with companies like Yahoo! and Microsoft.

1.  First, the high-profile arrest described in Time has paralleled growing cooperation between China and Vietnam in the military and technology sectors, with a new technology-cooperation agreement concluded in December

2.  Second, there’s the Burma precedent – not just in the example of the Internet-fueled protests of 2007, but in the allegations that Burmese military personnel received training abroad (specifically Russian) and other support in the junta’s cyber-crackdown. There’s an implication in the WashPost piece that the Vietnamese government is coming to the game somewhat late, in terms of its monitoring effectiveness. Even in the absence of international cooperation (e.g., if Yahoo! and Google were to close access to their blogging platforms), there’s a question as to whether Vietnam will need technical support to put teeth into its new edicts, and how it will acquire it.

3.  Third, there’s an interesting correlation between recent Chinese efforts to go after online pornographers and a line in the Vietnamese law banning “obscenity and debauchery” … regardless of whether or not it receives any technical support from abroad, it doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to suspect that Vietnam is looking to China as a model for how to leverage the economic benefits of the Internet without sacrificing political control.

Written by Mark

January 24, 2009 at 9:48 pm

Posted in Technology

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