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Saturday, 08 October 2022 11:11
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Countering the allegation that “Vietnam’s human rights record remains dire”

(PTOJ) - Vietnam pursues a consistent policy of respecting, protecting and promoting human rights, which is embodied in its each and every Party guideline and State law. During the periods of renovation and international integration, Vietnam has gained numerous achievements in promoting human rights - the fact that is distorted and slandered by reactionaries and hostile forces waving the banner “Vietnam’s human rights record remains dire”. This article is focused on identifying, analyzing and rejecting those baseless allegations, contributing to the reinforcement of the Party ideological foundation.

The Party and State of Vietnam recognize religions and beliefs as the spiritual needs of a part of the people - Photo: vietnamplus.vn

1. The allegation that “Vietnam’s human rights record remains dire” is actually a dire opinion on human rights in Vietnam

Despite its great achievements in protecting and promoting human rights over the period of renovation and international integration, Vietnam is subjected to unsubstantiated allegations concerning human rights by hostile individuals and groups, who even go too far saying “Vietnam’s record for human rights remain dire”. For instance, the “World Report 2021” by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrongly described that “Vietnam continued to systematically violate basic civil and political rights in 2020”(1). Meanwhile, John Sifton, the Asia Advocacy Director at HRW, in response to international inquiries, claimed that “Vietnam has basically made it a crime to use the internet or social media platforms to voice opinions or engage in debate”. He added that the intensifying crackdown on the so-called “pro-freedom of expression activists” ahead of the Communist Party of Vietnam’s (CPV) 13th Party Congress is meant “to ensure that the congress appears to run smoothly and without any dissident or opposition voices”(2).

The accusation that “Vietnam’s record for human right remains dire” represents a dire viewpoint on human rights situation in Vietnam given the following reasons:

Firstly, it is based on segmented, distorted information about the panorama of human rights in Vietnam.

In fact, such allegations as the World Report 2021 by HRW, the reviews of religious freedom, human rights, human trafficking by the U.S were poorly prepared with scavenged, fragmented, politically motivated information, which failed to reflect the reality of human rights in Vietnam. Indeed, all defendants confessed to having violated the law at public trials. It is in the interest of a sovereign, law-regulated country to carry out public prosecution, investigation and trials against offenders whose violations pose grave risks to the society.

Secondly, it tends to politicize all social issues from a hostile politically-motivated perspective

Terrorist organizations such as the Viet Tan, the Trieu Dai Viet, the Provisional National Government of Vietnam and some local dissidents have taken advantage of the complicated development of the COVID-19 pandemic disseminating a handful of distorted information about the socio-political situation in Vietnam with an eye to inciting instability from within(3). The same approach used to be taken by Western media, especially those from the US shortly after the protest in Cuba on 11 July 2021.  Then articles blamed the unrest largely on the nature of the socialist regime, urging Cuban people to   overthrow the government. Meanwhile, a pack of different countries like the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Australia, Thailand were rampant with demonstrations, riots, protest suppression as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic from mid-2020 until now. Are the same viewpoints and regime-toppling calls applicable to those countries?

Thirdly, the forced incorporation of moral elements into legal terminologies reflects an eclectic, fallacious and unethical way of thinking as no legal basis exists.

The widely-preached term “prisoner of conscience” is a compulsive juxtaposition of a moral element to the legal concept. Prisoners refer to people found guilty by a court, and are subject to imprisonment. As regulated in the penal code, those who breach the law should be subject to investigation, prosecution and even captivity. As such, there does not exist the so-called “prisoner of conscience” in the judiciary of Vietnam. The forced incorporation of a moral element into a legal term reflects an eclectic, fallacious, unethical way of thinking as there is no sufficient legal basis to denounce Vietnam on democracy and human rights.

By branding offenders “prisoners of conscience”, hostile individuals and organizations hope to seek a way out for those who stand up against the Party, State and people of Vietnam. This knavish trick, among many others, is used as an excuse for outside forces to interfere in the country’s internal affairs, putting pressure on the government and distorting the policy, guidelines of the Party and State. This is one step towards insecurity and disorder as a part of the “color revolution” whose ultimate goal is to change the local social regime.

It is not uncommon in Vietnam and other sovereign countries that those who violate the law are strictly punished according to the rule of law. The judicial process of arrest, investigation, prosecution or trial of law violators is nowhere near the crackdown on “dissidents”, nor the captivity of “prisoners of conscience”, “political prisoners”. By intentionally mistaking law-breakers for victims, hostile forces find a way to easily fool the public at home and abroad, yelling that Vietnam’s record for human rights remains dire.

Fourthly, it is based on speculative, abstract interpretations of universal human rights

Universal human rights are naturally entitled to people with dignity. Criticisms against Vietnam prevalently suggest that Vietnam (and other developing countries) consider human rights in too broad a connotation, which overlooks respect, protection, and implementation of natural rights of particular individuals. It is true that natural rights of individuals should be held up, protected and exercised, but not at societal sacrifice. That is to say human dignity is far from general and abstract concepts. Rather, it is manifested, respected, protected in daily behaviors and in relation to other individuals, especially close ones. It is the natural expression of universal human rights. Therefore, all nations, including Vietnam, share the same approach to exercising universal human rights not in general and abstract manner, but in the natural relationship between individual rights and those of social groups. Only when the natural rights of the individual are harmonized with the natural rights of the community, first of all, the natural rights of the social group directly related to that individual, will the universal attribute of natural human rights be realized.

Supported by speculations and overly one-sided, politically-motivated, hostile interpretation and unproven facts, discrimination against Vietnam, these allegations, in the name of universal human rights, tend to exaggerate the rights of a few individuals, but ignore the rights of individuals and social groups directly involved. This dire view is evident in HRW’s World Report 2021 in which their voice over “Vietnam’s deteriorating human rights record”(4) was repeatedly lent. This argument proves that HRW has no longer collected material to “produce” its report. That presents an apparent paradox of these criticisms against human rights in Vietnam.

Fifthly, it obscures Western political ideology in the name of universal human rights

This political ideology is imbued with cultural imperialism, considering Western culture as the center, Western-styled human rights as the deciding factor of universal human rights around the world and beyond national sovereignty. What’s more, it is dominated by foreign funds under market mechanisms. That accounts for its untrue, biased, politically pragmatic, self-serving, even openly hostile, blatant and fierce nature. Hence, it is likely to incite negative reactions in Vietnamese public opinion and the whole world. For example, HRW’s human rights reports are often subject to response and criticism shortly after their release. These reports are produced under huge pressure from far-right forces in the US government(5). In order to raise additional capital for its activities, HRW also took advantage of anti-Israel sentiment to “produce” human rights report under a mechanism conducive to fundraising; For example, these reports focused on criticizing Israel, while kept “mild” attitude toward Saudi Arabia and other dictatorships in the region(6).

Sixthly, serious violation of international conventions and principles on non- interference in domestic affairs of other countries

Specifically, it seriously violated Article 2, the United Nations Charter in 1945 and Resolution 2625 of the United Nations General Assembly in 1970 as well as other international treaties on human rights. Under the Resolution 2625, no state or group of states has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatsoever, in the internal or external affairs of any other states. The intrinsic contradiction of these claims is that, albeit in the name of universal human rights, it does not comply with the governing principle of international human rights law with respect to national sovereignty and national responsibility, such as Article 1. of the two 1966 international conventions on civil, political and economic, social and cultural rights as well as under The Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (adopted by the General Assembly on 24 October 1970). 

Abiding by those principles, Vietnam clearly stipulates in its legal documents that diplomatic missions, foreign consular offices, and representative offices of international organizations in Vietnam and their affiliated agencies must respect the laws and customs of Vietnam; avoid intervening in the internal affairs of Vietnam.

Due to differences in historical circumstances, political regimes, development levels, and traditional values, each country, territory and culture may have different approaches to universal human rights. According to Mr. Lee Kuan Yew (Prime Minister of Singapore), nowhere in the world today are these rights allowed to practice without limitations, for blindly applied these ideals can work towards the undoing of organized society(7).

2. The objective reality of the human rights situation in Vietnam

Firstly, achievements gained in human rights promotion

The work of ensuring human rights during more than 35 years of renovation in the country has gained numerous outstanding achievements such as the universalization of primary education and the standardization of secondary education across all provinces and cities in 2011. By 2019, the unemployment rate among working-age workers was only 2%; in which the urban area is 2.93%, the rural area is 1.55%. Vietnam is internationally recognized for its good implementation of the “millennium goals” of the United Nations (2001-2015). The GINI index on income distribution measurement increased, but was relatively low in the ASEAN region. The rate of poor households according to multidimensional standards decreased to about 6.8%(8). The Human Development Index (HDI) in 2019 reached 0.704 and ranked 117 out of 189 countries and territories, i.e. in the group of upper-middle-class countries(9).

In contrast to sophistry, brazen accusations, the practice of human rights in Vietnam has been vividly attested in the context of the market economy and international integration(10). Between 2020 - 2021, in the face of Covid-19 pandemic rampant around the globe, the Vietnamese government had adopted a series of policies intended for human and social security to ensure food security and minimal living stability for the people, especially the poor. The social security package (worth VND 62,000 billion) in 2020 and a relief package (worth VND 26,000 billion) in 2021 are urgent and timely solutions to mitigating the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on human rights, the people’s right to medical care and livelihood. These measures reaffirmed the position of the Party and State of Vietnam “putting the interests of the people first” and “leaving no one behind” during the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the same time, Vietnam is recognized by the world community as an active member contributing to the respect, protection and promotion of human rights in the world. For example, Vietnam gained a high level of yes vote upon its accession to the Human Rights Council and the membership of a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. In the region, Vietnam’s prestige is reflected in its role as the ASEAN Chair in 2020, as well as the Chairman of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Committee on Human Rights (AICHR). Given joint efforts in promoting and protecting human rights at national and regional levels, ASEAN member countries officially nominated Vietnam as the single candidate representing ASEAN as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, tenure 2023-2025. These act as a big blow to those who criticize Vietnam’s human rights record.

Secondly, attempts to address limitations and challenges

Mr. Peterson, former US Ambassador to Vietnam stated that “It is impossible to assess a country’s human rights situation on the standard of 100% satisfaction. No single country, including America can satisfy that criterion. A 100% human rights satisfaction score is unattainable in one country”(11). In fact, Vietnam’s official reports submitted at the United Nations human rights agencies also do not ignore limitations and challenges that need to be solved. In particular, the legal system is still asynchronous, overlapping, contradictory and has not kept up with reality, leading to difficulties, even misunderstandings, which have affected the assurance of constitutionality, feasibility and transparency. in the process of guaranteeing human rights.

Thirdly, recognition by the international community

The reality of human rights in Vietnam has been perceived and evaluated by many international leaders, politicians, observers and visitors to the country. For example, journalist specializing in Southeast Asian politics David Hutt told BBC News that the CPV acted responsibly and put the people first. The liberationnews.org (USA) admits: A socialist government puts the people above economic interests. Chief Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Vietnam, Caitlin Wiesen emphasized that the country’s successful response to the Covid-19 pandemic is an inspirational story, in which transparency, accountability and social cohesion are the keys to success. The Times of India said that the Vietnamese government had proactively protected people against the disease by ensuring the right to access information about the disease and the right to access Covid-19 treatment, thereby creating a consensus in the society, mobilizing the strength of the entire people in the fight against the epidemic(12). Respecting the health and safety of people’s lives right from the early days of fighting the epidemic is also ensuring one of the highest and most basic human rights, the right to life. In addition to the urgent goal of protecting people’s health and lives, the local Government gives special priority to ensuring social security, human security and people’s right to access basic services, especially when the pandemic seriously affects the economy, causing plunge in people’s incomes, jobs and livelihood lost.

There are untold similar comments from politicians, experts and international media who highly appreciate Vietnam’s success in turning threats into opportunities to realize dual goals: prevention and control of the Covid-19 pandemic and socio-economic development at the same time so that “no one is left behind”. It is reality that brings about the most convincing evidence, demonstrating what the Party and State of Vietnam are respecting, protecting and promoting human rights, which has been fully trusted by the people and recognized by progressive world.

3. The nature of the accusations that distort and deny Vietnam’s achievements in upholding human rights

Those who distort and reject human rights achievements in Vietnam today are mostly the far-right forces in Western countries, mainly in the US, the overseas Vietnamese far-right forces and local Vietnamese bribed and used by foreign far-right forces to undermine the ideological foundation and socio-political regime in Vietnam. Besides, they are those who study theory, partisan political activities in some Western countries and also opportunists, ideologically and politically degraded in Vietnam.

Current allegations are centered around propaganda activities that distort and deny theoretical and practical values ​​of democracy and human rights, such as taking advantage of agreements and foreign-invested projects in hope of sabotaging and deflecting the socialism of the market economy in Vietnam; inciting the issue of ethnic minorities and distorting that the country has “two religious policies”: one that guarantees in theory and the other that does not protect or guarantee the rights of ethnic minorities in reality under the “ask-give mechanism” and the creation of “government-affiliated religions”. In their global reports, they often criticize and misrepresent the Vietnamese Government for preventing freedom of speech, expression of opinions, and freedom of assembly; or distort the so-called “unfair application of the Penal Code”. They believe that Vietnam has a two-sided policy in the detention of political prisoners: publicly, it is considered a crime of “violating the law” but in fact it is a “prisoner of conscience”, “political prisoner”; or distorting statements about the use of torture, coercion and corporal punishment against persons held in custody or temporary detention; arbitrary arrest and trial; upholding the death penalty; accusing the situation of repression, blocking and obstructing the activities of lawyers(13).

In addition, activities of infiltration and incitement aimed at promoting “self-evolution” and “self-transformation” such as demand for satisfying the Western-style standards of civil and political rights (freedom of association, freedom to publish private press, religious activities without state management, etc.) without delay by the local government have been conducted. They associate democracy and human rights with development cooperation, democracy, religion, access to information, and legislative, executive, and judicial activities, among others. In particular, they demand civilization in the field of defense and security, in order to promote the development of civil society. They pay bribes to a number of cadres and party members, especially those at the strategic level and in vital agencies, leading to “self-evolution” and “self-transformation” in order to change the Party’s lines, guidelines and policies, and laws of the State in the direction of denying the leadership role of the Party, and deflecting the socialist direction in ensuring democracy, human rights, and the progress of the Party reform in general.

Hostile activities are made public to incite local individuals and organizations to organize riots and unrest through so-called “peaceful demonstrations”. They even resort to support from foreign organizations and governments in filing lawsuits against Vietnam. For example, UPR cycles I (in 2009), II (2014) and III (in 2019), witnessed rampant allegations about Vietnam’s violation of human rights from some Vietnamese and international NGOs with observer status at United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) (Committee to Protect human rights for Vietnamese people - VCHR, Transnational Radical Party (TRP); or promote prizes awarding to dissidents to create a “flag” against the State of Vietnam. With these “flags”, they incite, entice, gather and develop opposition political forces in the style of “pluralism, multi-party” in the country.

Regarding employed methods of sabotage, reactionary and hostile forces thoroughly utilize the mass media, especially the internet, publish newspapers abroad, produce video tapes and discs, and transfer them back to Vietnam; They also pour money to sponsor some foreign press agencies conducive to anti-Vietnam content (such as VOA Vietnamese, RFA, RFI, BBC Vietnamese, HRW, etc.) to cause distortion and provocation of ideology and politics. They take advantage of errors in state management to distort, incite lawsuits and illegal protests. They organize seminars to review issues related to history. Those activities occur silently but leave long-term consequences. Hostile forces use the guise of “putting words into others ‘mouth”, “wooing”, agitating to prompt panic, skepticism, and deterioration in political thought among some cadres and party members.

Facing the reality, it is required that each and every cadre, party member, civil servant and public employee in the political system and the whole society remain their stance to identify and expose the nature of misrepresentations, denying the achievements of human rights in Vietnam today(14). In essence, the struggle on the theoretical and ideological front on democracy and human rights also reflects the struggle on political - legal ideology between two types of socialist and bourgeois ideological values. This is an essential feature of the fight without physical frontlines, but with mental struggle. Therefore, the people, first of all, each and every cadre and party member, are strong blows to hostile forces in this field. Considering the dialogue method, it is necessary to attach importance to such methods and measures of political ideology as communication and mobilization to raise awareness, and actively prevent and combat “self-evolution”, “self-transformation” and promote the strategy of struggling and cooperating.


Received: January 20, 2022; Revised: February 10, 2022; Accepted for publication: April 22, 2022.



(1) https://www.hrw.org/vi/world-report/2021/country-chapters/377412.

(2) https://www.voatiengviet.com/a/ph%C3%BAc-tr%C3%.

(3) Hong Phu - Nguyen Huan: Beware of tricks of using protests in Cuba to incite chaos and unrest, http://cand.com.vn/, July 19, 2021.

(4) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki.

(5) Lam Son: Human Rights Watch: organization disguised as human rights, https://nhandan.com.vn/, October 22, 2012.

(6) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki.

(7) See: Lee Kuan Yew’s insights on China, the United States and the world, World Publishing House, p.162.

(8) See: Results of the implementation of key socio-economic development indicators in 2019 compared to 2018, https://nhandan.com.vn/, July 11, 2020.

(9) Doan Dan: Vietnam’s human development index increased dramatically, https://nhandan.vn/, December 25, 2020.

(10) Nguyen Thanh Tuan: Impact of market economy and international integration on democracy and human rights issues in our country today, The Communist Review, Online version, April 16, 2014.

(11) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki.

(12) Huyen Chi: Vietnam - an inspiring country for human development, http://cand.com.vn/, January 1, 2021.

(13) Tuong Duy Kien: Countering distorted allegations against the achievements of democracy and human rights in Vietnam today, The Communist Review No. 979 (12-2021).

(14) Nguyen Thanh Tuan: Identifying and fighting against the conspiracy and anti-government activities of hostile forces in the field of human rights in Vietnam today, The Communist Review, Online version, No.409, dated 15-1-2019.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. TUONG DUY KIEN

Institute of Human Rights

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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