In Hanoi, Rösler should try to advocate for a release of imprisoned bloggers and for more Internet freedom

German Minister for Economic Affairs visits Vietnam (17.09.)

During his visit to Hanoi, the German Minister for Economic affairs, Philipp Rösler, should try to advocate for the release of imprisoned bloggers and for more freedom of the Internet in Vietnam. The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) addressed this appeal to the Minister on the occasion of his visit to the south-east Asian country. "The rigorous restriction of Internet freedom in Vietnam is not only interfering with the freedom of expression, but also with job-qualification training for new workers," criticized the STP's expert on questions regarding Asia, Ulrich Delius, in Göttingen on Monday. "If one of Germany's strategic partners flouts basic human rights and this also interferes with the economy, the matter should also concern the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs."

Germany is paying court to the emerging economic nation although Vietnam's human rights record is catastrophic. The country was chosen to be a "strategic partner" although it is considered to be an enemy of the Internet and is known to suppress ethnic and religious minorities. Since Vietnam started blocking critical websites in May 2004 – following a Chinese example – there are now more than 30 million Internet users who can no longer freely access information on minorities, democracy and human rights. Just recently, the authorities announced further drastic measures of Internet censorship. The new policy for online internet services will make the prosecution of critical bloggers even more simple. It is planned to prohibit – and declare punishable – any public criticism against the "Socialist Republic" and any act of "undermining the unity of the people". In effect, anyone who uses the Internet to criticize human rights violations or to posts critical comments on the situation of ethnic and religious minorities, becomes liable for prosecution.

Thus, Vietnam is trying to ban any attempt to distribute information about the ongoing human rights violations against the mountain tribes who are fighting against land grabs and the arbitrary closing of Protestant churches. The Khmer Krom, the Hmong and other ethnic minorities are not allowed to inform others about their problems via the internet. Bloggers who try to criticize the denial of religious freedom for Catholics are also affected. Some of the people who were arrested already are devout Roman Catholics who are fighting for civil rights because of their religious beliefs. In May 2012, four Catholic students were sentenced to up to three and a half years in prison for allegedly spreading propaganda against the government. Mrs. Ta Phong Tan, a 43-year-old Catholic and former policewoman, is being held in custody since September 2011. As a form of protest against the arbitrary arrest of her daughter, her mother burned herself in July 2012.