Government tells police to confiscate unapproved publications

January 16, 2002

His Excellency Tran Duc Luong
President, Socialist Republic of Vietnam
c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Hanoi, Vietnam

Via facsimile: 011-84-4-823-1872

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about a recent government decree instructing police to confiscate and destroy publications that do not have official approval.

An announcement of the decree, signed by the Vice Minister of Culture and Information Nguyen Khac Hai, appeared in newspapers in Vietnam on January 8, according to CPJ sources. The new decree establishes formal nationwide regulations tightening restrictions over prohibited publications, including those that express dissenting political viewpoints.

According to The Associated Press, a government official named several publications that were targeted for confiscation, including the memoirs of Lt. Gen. Tran Do, Vietnam’s most famous dissident,

Tran Do’s three-part memoirs include his thoughts on the future of the country, as well as an analysis of the 9th Party Congress, held in April 2001. Police confiscated 15 photocopies of Part 3 from Tran Do last June. Part 2 was published overseas last year and has been widely distributed on the black market in Vietnam.

Also proscribed were Dialogue 2000 and Dialogue 2001, hard-copy editions of an Internet forum initiated in 1999 by Ho Chi Minh City-based scholars Tran Khue and Nguyen Thi Thanh Xuan. The forum featured articles by both writers advocating political reform. One essay called for the elimination of Article 4 of the Vietnamese Constitution, which guarantees the leading role of the Communist Party of Vietnam, according to CPJ sources.

The official also singled out for confiscation Meditation and Aspiration, an essay by dissident geophysicist Nguyen Thanh Giang; and A Few Words Before Dying, an essay by Haiphong-based dissident Vu Cao Quan.

The decree accompanies an escalation in the harassment of Vietnamese dissidents. In recent days, the phone lines of several dissidents have been cut, while Lt. Gen. Tran Do and Nguyen Thanh Giang have both come under heightened surveillance.

On January 7, police searched the home of Nguyen Xuan Tu, a scientist and political essayist better known by his pen name, Ha Sy Phu, and confiscated his computer. Ha has been under house arrest since May 2000.

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, CPJ condemns your government’s efforts to censor dissenting political views. We urge Your Excellency to lift this new decree and to ensure that Lt. Gen. Tran Do, Nguyen Thanh Giang, Ha Sy Phu, and other intellectuals are free to write and publish without further interference.

CPJ respectfully reminds Your Excellency that Vietnam is a signatory to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which obliges your government to ensure that citizens are free to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds. These freedoms are also guaranteed under Article 69 of the Vietnamese Constitution.

Thank you very much for your attention to this important matter. We await your response.


Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director