The conservative-dominated party that he heads has maintained unrelenting pressure on pro-democracy activists, for fear that the kind of opposition movements ignited in the Middle East could spread to Vietnam.
In April 2011, Cu Huy Ha Vu was sentenced to seven years in prison and three years under house arrest for “anti-state propaganda.” Vi Duc Hoi, another pro-democracy activist convicted of the same charge, had his sentence of eight years’ imprisonment and three years’ house arrest reduced to five years in prison and three years under house arrest.
Since Trong’s appointment, seven netizens have been imprisoned, in all cases for calling for a multi-party system or democracy. The ruling party uses the legal system against dissidence on the Web. A draft decree under consideration, scheduled for possible enactment in June this year, would enlist Internet companies in an effort to strengthen censorship on the Web.
Traditional media have not been spared. Radio journalists Vu Duc Trung and his brother-in-law, Le Van Tranh, were sentenced in November 2011 to three and two years in prison respectively for “illegal broadcasting.” On 2 January 2012, Hoang Khuong (real name: Nguyen Van Khuong), a journalist for the daily Tuoi Tre, was arrested on a charge of having bribed a police officer, in the course of reporting on police corruption.
Trong’s censorship and arrest powers override the authority of the prime minister and of the president, and are carried out in defiance of the international community’s recommendations.