Case David, Big Brother Is Alive and Well in Vietnam-And He Really Hates the Web, Wired magazine, Nov 1997,


Clarke Roger (, FC: Human Rights Watch criticizes Vietnam Net-censorship (3/17/97)

Visiting Fellow, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology

The Australian National University Canberra ACT 0200 AUSTRALIA

Information Sciences Building Room 211 Tel: +61 6 249 3666


Grams Etika <>, FC: Vietnam to Censor Net (fwd)


Lovering Daniel, Chronicle Foreign Service, The communist government is nurturing Internet entrepreneurs to catch the wave, Dot-Com Vietnam, Tuesday, March 13, 2001,  


Reporters sans frontières, le 15 Mars 2002.


Watkin Huw,  Vietnam's Net censorship counterproductive,2000010021,20183227,00.htm, ZDNetAsia news, 23/2/2001



Big Brother Is Alive and Well in Vietnam-And He Really Hates the Web

By David Case

Wired magazine, Nov 1997

In anticipation of the "real Internet," as it is called, a handful of similar systems have popped up in the past year. "We'd like to provide Internet service, but the government won't let us," explains one of the young hacks at the computer expo. "So we created an intranet." These are among the most jam-packed booths at the show.

I shoulder my way down the aisle to meet a troop of geeks dressed in identical white polos emblazoned with the name of a would-be ISP. Their guru, Pham Thuc Truong Luong, a young computer engineer, is perhaps unique among the crowd at the exposition. Luong has actually seen the Net, while studying in Hungary. He understands his government's concerns, and, like most young Vietnamese, he's no foot soldier of free speech. While I browse Luong's Web site, the screen displays text that reads, "Firewalls are what keep the jerks out while you get your business done." He tells me officials are constructing a firewall to protect against social evils. "In Hungary," he says, "I had a chance to access information not suitable to Vietnam. We must find a reliable way to filter out damaging content, like porn, neo-Nazi propaganda, and political information."

While the Net has a reputation for being impossible to control, Vietnam is attempting to do just that. Under temporary rules, intranet services face severe restrictions that forecast the harsh climate that is likely to exist when full access to the Internet becomes available. The final regulations will be enacted in the spirit of a Politburo decree that says the "expansion of the Internet must not be carried out on a massive scale and at random."

Many people expect that licensing procedures and fees will be used to discourage the general public. For those who manage to get access, the depths of Net censorship may be dramatic. The litany of online no-nos currently includes content that would "report false information, libel the prestige of organizations, insult national heroes and great men, or incite superstition or social evils."

How will it be policed? "Officially, the government is allowed to screen and check everything," says John Barnes, an Australian computer consultant who is working with one of the would-be ISPs. And to overcome the essentially anonymous nature of cyberspace, the government is holding responsible nearly anyone who plays a role in making the Net accessible - whether they be ISPs, company managers, computer room administrators, or parents. For example, says Barnes, "if the rules are violated by a user, the service provider's license for operation can be suspended and their equipment confiscated." Essentially, Vietnam's security apparatus found cyberspace to be so unwieldy that it has decided to delegate its duties.

To put this in context, Vietnam's Internet regulations conform to a great tradition of the Marxist/Leninist order, whereby laws are so strict that they are widely violated. This makes most people into outlaws and places them at the mercy of police and security officials, who get rich turning a blind eye. In practice, those who keep to themselves or are well connected can expect to live in peace.

Back at the expo, I bump into Chang, a middle-aged geek with disheveled hair. An embattled purveyor of flatbed scanners, Chang pokes me hard in the arm and launches into a passionate plea for help. "You don't understand!" he implores, wiping beads of perspiration from his brow. "Business is tough. So many scanners stuck at Customs. The government requires a license for every scanner! No joke! Publishing tool, scanners are. Can influence people's ideology! Very hard for anyone but state media."

What's at the root of all this paranoia? Barnes, the computer consultant, has an answer. "The government is frightened of the radical element" overseas, he explains, referring to the many Vietnamese who have escaped the country since the waning days of the American War.


By day, Hien Do Ky is a telecom engineer in Canada. By night, he's an activist, fighting for freedom and justice in Vietnam via the Internet. We've never met, but through email, he has taught me much of what I know about the dark side of Vietnam.

Nearly two decades after fleeing Vietnam, Hien, like most of the "boat people," still has strong feelings for his motherland. "I had many friends there. Some of them died in the Cambodian war. Some died in the angry seas, and some escaped." In their memory, he says, "I want to see a homeland that is free and fair to all its citizens."

In their adopted countries across the Western world, overseas Vietnamese have regrouped and reorganized. Their numbers are substantial: Hanoi has compiled a blacklist of 130 overseas groups, according to the activists. But for years, they have been separated from Vietnam and one another by the vast geography of the globe. The Internet has changed that, bringing them as close as the nearest modem.

Individuals like Hien can now make an impact. From him, I receive weekly email reports (accessed by an international call) of goings-on censored by the régime in Hanoi. The activists send news of high-level corruption, a crackdown on an underground political magazine, and an elderly dissident whose family noodle shop is threatened with closure if he continues to advocate civil liberties. In fact, while I'm living in Saigon, email from overseas brings news about what's happening in Vietnam - events that I would never know about even if they happened just across town.

"The government is really scared about dissident information from overseas," confirms a well-placed European executive working on one of the country's latest Internet schemes. He says that information from email is said to be showing up among clandestine student groups. Human Rights Watch reports that activists have even managed to spam Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet's email account.

For the curious among the Vietnamese, the Net would certainly be an eye-opener. In comparison to the vapid fare served up by the state media, it would offer a mind-boggling array of opinions and information. Since 1975, very few people in the country have had access to any information that wasn't put forth by the government, and until recently, even fewer have traveled overseas. As such, the critical skills - taken for granted in the West - that enable readers to discern the sincere from the sinister are largely underdeveloped. There will, undoubtedly, be mishaps.

Nearly three months have passed since the cybercafés were shut. The monsoons have arrived, and each day the sky is heavy with undulating clouds that cast a gray hue over Ho Chi Minh City. Whenever I ride past TâmTâm, the iron gate out front is down. Inside, the computers remain sealed.

From New York, Rapp emails me that they still don't really know what happened. He and Vu suspect that they may have been sabotaged or denounced by a disgruntled rival, but legal recourse is basically nonexistent. "The fear is gone now," he writes, "except for the fact that the money might be gone forever, and has been replaced by a kind of sodden depression. Vu is very depressed, and I feel utterly helpless to affect anything. An unhappy time."

I decide to pay Vu another visit. Back at the café, I bang on the drawn gate, and wait. On the wall, a sign reads, "Café will be closed a few days," but the words are barely legible, bleached by the sun and washed by the rain. When Vu arrives, he looks haggard. Seated next to his outcast computers - which remain sealed and shrouded in plastic - I wait for more than an hour as he haggles with his landlords. With no customers, he later explains, he's fallen behind on rent payments.

When we finally speak, I'm struck by how worn out he has become. No longer looking me in the eye, he stares into the distance. He says, "I'm trying my best to reopen. I don't want to lose the café, but at the same time, if I'm allowed to reopen I won't be happy staying in Vietnam." As we sit - once again sipping Coke, but this time in darkness - it becomes painfully clear that he's been defeated. For now, the police state has won.

But as the pressure for capital builds, people's expectations mount, and cyberspace becomes more vital to business, Vietnam may find it difficult not to throw the doors open, let the Internet grow, and let its talented populace profit. Next century, Vietnam's battles will be fought in cyberspace.


FC: Human Rights Watch criticizes Vietnam Net-censorship (3/17/97)

Roger Clarke (

Wed, 19 Mar 1997 11:02:20 +1100

This is re-posted from Declan's Fight Censorship list; but it's so well
expressed that I think *all* linkers would like to have a read of it!

>Date: Tue, 18 Mar 1997 15:25:46 -0800 (PST)
>From: Declan McCullagh <>
>Subject: FC: Human Rights Watch criticizes Vietnam Net-censorship (3/17/97)
>MIME-Version: 1.0
>X-FC-URL: Fight-Censorship is at
>[Some general information about international Net-censorship is at
> --Declan]
>---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Dear Declan, We would appreciate if you can circulate following letter
> we sent yesterday.
> Thanks for your help.
> Jagdish Parikh
> ---------------------------------------------------
> By Fax: 202 861 0917
> March 17, 1997
> Mr. Vo Van Kiet, Prime Minister, Socialist Republic of Vietnam Mr. Do
> Muoi, Secretary-General of the Vietnam Community Party
> Dear Prime Minister & Secretary-General of the Vietnam Communist
> Party,
> We are writing on behalf of Human Rights Watch/Asia to express our
> concern over the recent decision by the government of Vietnam to
> establish strict controls on Internet use.
> Under a new decree which we understand will take effect March 17, the
> government will manage domestic use of the Internet, supervise all
> Internet content, and control international links between Vietnamese
> users and the World Wide Web.
> This decree may have unfortunate consequences for Vietnam, as it comes
> at a time when the government is trying to foster high-technology and
> export-oriented industries. It will prevent Vietnamese citizens from
> gaining inexpensive access to the Net through a server outside the
> country and thus prevent them from exchanging ideas on how to
> integrate Vietnam's economy into global market. It will also narrow
> the opportunity for international communications and exchange of ideas
> on topics that could benefit Vietnam's development. Internet, as it
> exists today, provides one of the best way for scientists and
> academicians to share knowledge globally and learn from each others
> experiences. Any attempt to control the content can discourage free
> flow of information even among this community.
> The Vietnam government's own use of Web pages demonstrates how the
> Internet can be used to propound a particular point of view. Its
> citizens, so long as they are not using their site for purposes
> incompatible with freedom of expression, for example, inciting
> violence, should have the same opportunity to share views as their
> government.
> As stated in Article 19 (2) of the International Convention on Civil
> and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a party:
> Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right
> shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and
> ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in
> writing, or in print, in the form of art or through any other mediam
> of his choice.
> We hope that the Vietnam government will retract these new regulations
> and support the development of an unfettered Internet.
> Sincerely,
> ___________________ ______________________
> Dinah PoKempner Jagdish Parikh
> (Deputy General Counsel) (On-line Research Associate)
> cc:
> Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State,
> Steve Coffey, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human
> Rights and Labor
> 2201 C St. NW
> Washington DC 20520.
> Gopher Address://
> Listserv address: To subscribe to the list, send an e-mail message to
> with "subscribe hrw-news" in the body of the
> message (leave the subject line blank).
> Human Rights Watch
> 485 Fifth Avenue
> New York, NY 10017-6104
> TEL: 212/972-8400
> FAX: 212/972-0905
> E-mail:
>This list is public. To join fight-censorship-announce, send
>"subscribe fight-censorship-announce" to
>More information is at

Roger Clarke
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
Tel: +61 6 288 1472, and 288 6916

Visiting Fellow, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology
The Australian National University Canberra ACT 0200 AUSTRALIA
Information Sciences Building Room 211 Tel: +61 6 249 3666


FC: Vietnam to Censor Net (fwd)

>From the fight-censorship mailing list:


---------- Forwarded message ----------

03/11/97 - 01:47 PM ET - Click reload often for latest version

Via USA Today Web Site


Vietnam to censor the Net


HANOI, Vietnam - All information coming into Vietnam through the Internet 

will be censored and the government announced Tuesday it will control who 

has access to online services. 


It also will limit the gates through which Internet servers in Vietnam 

are linked to the world's largest information network. 


The new regulations, to take effect next week, were widely publicized in 

state-controlled media. 


The controls were issued in a decree by Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet, who 

said information servers must be based in Vietnam. This will ensure that 

information entering and leaving Vietnam goes through a 

government-filtered gateway, the Communist Party newspaper, The People, 



The government has been looking for efficient ways to allow Internet 

service, while restricting its contents. 


By The Associated Press


Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Dot-Com Vietnam

The communist government is nurturing Internet entrepreneurs to catch the wave  

Daniel Lovering, Chronicle Foreign Service

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam -- The steel railings and concrete walls of the Saigon Software Park give Truong Dinh Street, an avenue lined with trees and airy French colonial villas,

an institutional look.

But the scene at Realtimedia on the fourth floor of this monolithic office building is anything but institutional.

Tran Van Tuan, the new firm's 29-year-old owner, puffs on a cigarette while listening to heavy metal music. Nearby, a dozen computer programmers sip coffee while creating Web sites and software programs for clients in Vietnam, California, Ireland, Denmark and elsewhere.

"We work with the Internet because we love it," said Tran. "And we have a flexible work environment."

Fortunately for Tran, Vietnam's communist government has finally embraced the Internet. When the Web first surfaced in Vietnam three years ago, many party cadres worried it would threaten their ability to control public information and protect national security. Police closed down Internet cafes and carted off computers.

But now the state envisions high technology as an economic boon that will create employment, and it is willing to give young entrepreneurs like Tran a chance to nurture dreams of Silicon Valley-style fortunes.

©2001 San Francisco Chronicle


Reporters sans frontières, le 15 Mars 2002.

Deux dissidents arrêtés pour avoir diffusé des documents sur Internet

Dans une lettre adressée au ministre vietnamien de la Sécurité publique, le lieutenant général Le Minh Huong, Reporters sans frontières (RSF) a demandé la libération de Le Chi Quang et Tran Khue, deux dissidents vietnamiens récemment arrêtés par la police pour avoir diffusé sur Internet des documents critiques à l'encontre du gouvernement. RSF s'est inquiétée de la répression exercée à l'encontre des dissidents qui utilisent Internet pour informer ou s'informer sur la situation politique dans le pays, et notamment sur les relations entre le Viêt-nam et la Chine. "Au moment même où va s'ouvrir la Commission des droits de l'homme des Nations Unies à Genève, cette nouvelle vague de répression démontre à quel point le Viêt-nam reste un ennemi de la liberté d'expression", a déclaré Robert Ménard, secrétaire général de l'organisation.

Selon les informations recueillies par RSF, Le Chi Quang, un professeur d'informatique également diplômé de la Faculté de droit, a été arrêté, le 21 février 2002, dans un café Internet de Hanoi. Il a été inculpé d'avoir diffusé à l'étranger des informations dangereuses. Les policiers ont saisi du matériel informatique et des documents à son domicile. Le Chi Quang, âgé de 31 ans, a ensuite été placé en détention dans le camp B14 de la province de Ha Dong (nord du pays). Son arrestation fait suite à la diffusion sur Internet d'un texte intitulé "Vigilance envers l'Empire du Nord". Dans ce document très détaillé, le dissident revenait sur les conditions dans lesquelles les autorités vietnamiennes ont signé des accords frontaliers avec le gouvernement de Pékin. Le texte a été très largement diffusé au sein de la communauté vietnamienne à l'étranger.

Le 8 mars 2002, la police de Hô Chi Minh-Ville a perquisitionné le domicile de Tran Khue, professeur de littérature et fondateur d'une association de lutte contre la corruption. Les policiers ont saisi un ordinateur, une imprimante, un appareil photo, des téléphones portables et des documents appartenant au dissident. Le 10 mars, ce dernier a été placé en résidence surveillée en vertu de la directive administrative 31/ CP. Cette décision fait suite à la diffusion sur Internet d'une lettre de Tran Khue adressée au président chinois Jiang Zemin, à la veille d'une visite officielle au Viêt-nam. Le dissident demandait au chef d'Etat de revoir certaines clauses des accords sino-vietnamiens. En août 2001, Tran Khue avait déjà été interpellé par la police et reconduit à son domicile alors qu'il enquêtait sur la situation dans les zones frontalières avec la Chine.

Reporters sans frontières rappelle que deux autres dissidents, Ha Sy Phu et Bui Minh Quoc, sont également en détention surveillée dans la ville de Dalat (sud du pays).

Dans un rapport intitulé "Les ennemis d'Internet", publié en février 2001, RSF constatait : "Les questions de politique ou de religion sont taboues sur le Réseau. Près de deux mille sites politiquement ou moralement " dangereux " sont filtrés " manuellement " par la Vietnam Data Corporation (VDC qui dépend de l'administration des Postes et Télécommunications). Des proches des dirigeants du comité central du Parti communiste sont à la tête de tous les fournisseurs d'accès du pays. Ainsi, le directeur de la Financing and Promoting Technology (FPT), Truong Gia Binh, est le gendre du général Giap, héros de la guerre d'indépendance. Un investisseur issu de la diaspora vietnamienne a récemment été écarté du secteur Internet, domaine réservé de la nomenklatura."

Reporters sans frontières, le 15 Mars 2002.


ZDNetAsia news

Daily News

Vietnam's Net censorship counterproductive,2000010021,20183227,00.htm

By Huw Watkin


Vietnam has developed a significant capacity to intercept and control Internet communications, but its efforts to censor the Net are already failing and will ultimately do more harm than good, according to industry sources.

HANOI ( - Hanoi's Ministry of Public Security says it now has the technology to eavesdrop on e-mail communication and is likely to upgrade that capacity amid escalating concerns from the country's leadership about the threat from "hostile external forces".

State-controlled media reported this week that exiled Vietnamese groups were increasing their efforts to slander Hanoi via the Internet by exaggerating ethnic conflicts and fanning religious tensions. A report in the Saigon Giai Phong said human and religious rights groups and pro-democracy activists were escalating an electronic propaganda campaign in an attempt to create instability ahead of the Communist Party Congress, a key five-yearly leadership and policy forum scheduled for next month.
"This information only tells some of the truth, the rest is a distortion," the report said. "It deliberately targets an audience which has limited political awareness and lacks information." The article came a week after the quelling of widespread anti-government demonstrations in the Central Highlands by ethnic minorities protesting at the alleged seizure of traditional lands for coffee-growing and other agriculture.

Hanoi dismissed the unrest as the work of agents provocateurs and imposed an effective information blackout by banning travel to the region by all foreigners. But ethnic minorities who fled overseas following the communist victory in 1975, fearing recriminations for their allegiance to the United States during the Vietnam War, have embraced the Web to tell their side of the story.

A Web site set up by exiled hill-tribe members carried allegations of heavy-handed retaliation against their clansmen by Vietnamese security forces, including the use of heavily armed troops, tanks and aircraft. Those charges have proved impossible to verify independently and have been rejected by authorities in Hanoi. But they prompted Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacker to write to Secretary of State Colin Powell alleging that hill-tribe protesters had been "mown down" by helicopter gunships in "a second Tiananmen massacre".

Fear of the political fallout from such allegations has prompted Vietnamese security forces to increase the resources devoted to controlling Internet information including, according to one computer systems engineer, the ability to block Web sites through the use of a so-called "firewall", and to intercept e-mail.

"It's actually quite simple. Software is available now which identifies key words in e-mail messages or headers," the engineer said. "The e-mail is then diverted to a network administrator who can even decode encrypted messages and either censor or delete their content.

"The trouble with a country like Vietnam is that the vast majority of Internet messages are in foreign languages. The security apparatus can target individuals, but it doesn't have the linguistic capacity to deal with even a fraction of the Internet traffic."

Local information technology experts complain, however, the Government's concern about subversion through the Web is damaging attempts to develop Vietnam's ability to participate in the global information economy.

"We have problems with insufficient infrastructure, but the Government's policy prevents us from developing and is increasingly useless in terms of censorship," said a leading Vietnamese software engineer.

"The firewall, for example, can be applied only to particular sites. Change the name of a site and it is no longer blocked by the firewall. The number of sites is also increasing every day, but the use of a firewall just slows the whole system down," he said.

Vietnam hooked up to the Web in late 1997 and now has approximately 113,000 Internet users. But a recent survey of Southeast Asian countries found it ranked above only Burma, Laos and Cambodia in terms of knowledge and technical capacity.


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