February 3, 2019, the Vietnamese Communist Party celebrates its 89th anniversary.
In a recent speech to commend the auspicious event, Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong wrote: “The Party stays strong, the country prospers, the people concur.”
However, on Facebook, the people’s reactions to both Trong’s writing and other propaganda, do not seem to show a public consensus as to the VCP’s leadership role in Vietnam.
Today, the users’ reactions to a posting on Facebook seem to suggest the Party’s legitimacy is being called into question by the very people it tries to lead.
A Facebook page names Vietnam’s Politics (Chính trị Việt Nam) identifies itself as a source for government’s news and uses a webpage domain of www.nguyenxuanphuc.org – which also is the name of the country’s current Prime Minister.
The website posted a piece of writing entitles “Our Party” (Đảng Ta) in celebration of the anniversary.
The writing did not deviate far from other propaganda materials in past decades, praising the accomplishment of the VCP, reaffirming its leading role in society for years to come, and confessing the love of the Vietnamese people for the Party.
However, Facebook users were not willing to let that slides and quickly took the opportunity to express their distrust and unhappiness with the way “Our Party” has been leading society and the country in the comment section.
A few hours after its posting on Facebook, the piece received over 400 reactions from Vietnamese users, about one-fourth of them was the “laughing” icon.
Not stopping at that, the majority of the people who commented also raised a series of issues, such as corruption and nepotism within the VCP. They also questioned the legality of the recent National Assembly’s election result and pointed out the wealth discrepancy between the VCP’s members and the non-member citizens.
The overall picture of the people’s reactions on the post shows an alarming sense of distrust in the VCP, leaving doubts to the other readers as to whether the VCP could still maintain the position of the leading and only political party in the country indefinitely.
Other reactions from the Vietnamese people to the political events in another country during the past few weeks may cause the leaders of the VCP more worries.
The recent political turmoil in Venezuela has been receiving a lot of attention in Vietnam with the majority of the people supporting Juan Guaidó, the leader of the opposition front. When Nicolas Maduro used the example of another Vietnam to warn against an American invasion, he probably did not know that the majority of Vietnamese are strong supporters of the Trump administration’s decision to back his political opponent.
Back to the comments on this posting, it is not difficult to detect that the support for the VCP among its non-member citizens is waning. While the VCP certainly can continue to enjoy the political monopoly for being the only political party in the country, even its top officials may not be sure of its future – if and when a political opposition surfaces.
The lacking of confidence that it still has the mandate to maintain the legitimacy among the majority of Vietnamese people could explain the VCP’s enhanced oppression against political dissidents in recent years.
Most recent was the Party’s effort to silent online criticisms with the new cybersecurity law of 2018.
Vietnamese internet users appear to be very well aware of the purpose and intention of the government in passing such law.
One comment on the post did mention the potential application of the new cybersecurity law against internet users in cases like this: “The page administrator purposely posted this (writing) to incite the people to react and then (the government) threatens us with the cybersecurity law.”
At the same time, there are no clear signs that online activism in Vietnam has been slowing down since the new law takes effect earlier this year although it is true that just in January 2019, there have been reports of two confirmed arrests of Facebookers and one incident of police questioning a university student over his Facebook’s activities.
Vietnam has been increasingly repressive in the past two years. Not only the number of arrests have been steadily on the rise, but the sentences in political cases also became a lot harsher compared to a few years ago, often in the range of one to two decades behind bars.