Emboldened by pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, Vietnamese activists are rallying for demonstrations against government plans to hold an elaborate celebration marking the 60th anniversary of Hanoi’s liberation from French rule.
The government has organized fireworks displays in 30 districts of Hanoi as part of the celebration on Friday evening.
But activists say the celebration should not be held at a time when the country’s economy is reeling from a slowdown due to weak demand and a high levels of bad debt in the banking system.
“In the context of the dismal economy, we have seen so many children who cannot go to school, especially ones in remote areas,” blogger Pham Thanh Nghiem told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
“Many people don’t have access to clean water, many companies have gone bankrupt, and the unemployment rate has been high.”
“It would be very inconsiderate and unsuitable for us if we have to spend a huge amount of money from the state budget—money paid by the people—on a fireworks show,” she said. “Instead, we should invest that money in education or health care, which are essential for life.”
Signs of demonstrations
Vietnamese authorities are moving to block any demonstrations against the Hanoi anniversary celebrations in the wake of the pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong, and have questioned some activists on the issue.
Blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh told RFA that local officials had come to his home to tell him not to join any such demonstrations in Vietnam.
“But I protested,” he said. “I told them that democracy was the first value recognized by our national emblem, which refers to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.”
“Such behavior shows their confusion and concerns ahead of a turning point in the world’s democracy movement, which is having a huge effect on Vietnam,” he said.
Nghiem said plain clothes police have guarded her home and followed her after bloggers across Vietnam launched an online campaign in early September demanding that their authoritarian government keep the people informed about national and foreign policies.
The “We Want to Know” campaign quickly spread on the Internet through Facebook and other social media sites, but did not call for any demonstrations, she said.
“The government is always worried about people expressing opinions that are opposite of its own,” she said. “They are afraid of demonstrations, especially peaceful ones.”
A deep awareness
Meanwhile, nearly two dozen Vietnamese activist groups issued a statement Tuesday expressing the hope that the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement would serve as inspiration for freedom-loving people in their one-party communist state.
The statement, entitled “Hong Kong today, Vietnam tomorrow...,” backed the peaceful civil disobedience campaign by students and other protesters in Hong Kong over the last 10 days, saying it would boost the democracy movement in Vietnam.
Signed by representatives from 22 groups, the statement featured an image of an umbrella, the symbol of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
“We wish Vietnamese youth to have a deep awareness of democracy, great courage and a broad spirit of unity, and would like to see many committing themselves to changing the status quo, which is a thousand times more undemocratic and hostile to human rights than it is in Hong Kong,” the statement said.
Last week, Le Phu Khai, a journalist who used to work for Vietnam Television, told RFA that the widespread coverage of the Hong Kong protest in the Vietnamese media indicated that Hanoi did not feel threatened by the example the event set for the Vietnamese people.
But he did not rule out a clampdown on the coverage in Vietnam if the Hong Kong protest continued to grow.
Reported by An Nguyen for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.