Vietnam Parliament Approves Bill on Cyber Security Despite Widespread Objection

Vietnamese legislators conducted the vote on the bill of Cyber Security on June 12, 2018

Defend the Defenders, June 12, 2018


Vietnam’s highest legislative body National Assembly has passed the bill on Cyber Security despite widespread objection, both from the domestic public and the international community.

On the vote conducted in the morning of June 12 as part of the first one-month sitting of the parliament, 423 legislators said yes to the bill proposed by the Ministry of Public Security, the government agency with the biggest benefit in implementing the law from January next year.

Only 15 legislators objected the bill while 28 others had no opinion. The Vietnamese rubber-stamped parliament has 496 members currently.

With the approval of the bill, Vietnam’s government is expected to further crackdown on online bloggers and critics who have relied on social media to express their disatisfaction on socio-economic issues as well as national sovereignty and poor human rights record of the nation.

Before the parliament made the vote, Vietnam’s leadership received many petitions and calls for postponing the bill.

In its public releaseon June 8, the US Embassy in Vietnam said Washington and Ottawa urge Vietnam to delay the vote on the draft law to ensure it aligns with international standards. It finds the draft cyber law may present serious obstacles to Vietnam’s cybersecurity and digital innovation future, and may not be consistent with Vietnam’s international trade commitments.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have also called on Vietnam’s parliament not to pass the bill because once it is approved, it will violate the basic right to Internet access.

On June 11, 74 lawyers filled a joint petition to the parliament, saying they found the bill contains many loopholes which may be used by interest groups to violate basic human rights enshrined in the 2013 Constitution.

The bill, if is approved, will affect the right to freedom of expression so have negative impacts to the country’s socio-economic development as well as violate Vietnam’s international commitments, said the lawyers who came from many different cities and provinces.

Over 40,000 Vietnamese citizens have signed a petition calling for abandon of the bill.

According to legal experts, the approve law on Cyber Security will give sweeping new powers to the Vietnamese authorities, allowing them to force technology companies to hand over potentially vast amounts of data, including personal information, and to censor Internet users’ posts. The law aims to silence government’s critics and every Internet users may be criminally charged just for exercising their basic right to freedom of expression, activists said.

When the bill was introduced to the public last year, legal experts found that it is a copy of China’s Law on Cyber Security which focuses on suppressing government critics along with dealing with technical issues.

Global technological companies such as Google and Facebook must cooperate with Vietnam’s authorities in removing articles considered harmful for the ruling communist party, and provide Internet users’ history to the authorities upon request, or they have to leave the country.

Vietnamese citizens may be forced to use Chinese platforms such as Weibo and Webchat, said observers, adding the government’s censhorship will be enhanced as every citizen will be potential prisoner for their online posts.

In the past few years, Vietnam has imprisoned around 30 bloggers, according to international human rights organizations.

On June 10, tens of thousands of Vietnamese rallied on streets of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Nha Trang and other locations in the first large-scale demonstrations to protest the two bills of Special Economic Zones and Cyber Security. The same parliament agreed to postpone the vote of the first bill.