Vietnam shuts down Web site in dispute with China

HANOI, Vietnam (AP): Vietnam has shut down a Web site it ran jointly with China, officials said Monday, as diplomatic tensions escalated over islands claimed by both countries.

The two sides created the Web site in 2006 amid great fanfare in order to promote bilateral trade. But it became embroiled in their dispute over the Paracel islands in the South China Sea, over which both countries claim sovereignty.

The dispute over the Web site began when China posted an article blasting Vietnam’s claim to the Paracels. The article was posted by the Chinese Ministry of Trade, which ran the site with Vietnam’s trade ministry.

The episode has aroused nationalist passions in Vietnam, which has fought several wars with neighboring China.

Monday’s edition of the Labor newspaper chided the Chinese statement, saying it was “untruthful, doing harm to Vietnam-China relations.”

The Web site was launched at a 2006 ceremony attended by Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nong Duc Manh, President Nguyen Minh Triet and Chinese President Hu Jintao, who was in Hanoi for a regional economic summit.

Tran Huu Linh, an official at the Vietnamese trade ministry, confirmed Monday that the Web site has been closed, but declined to give more details.

Officials at the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi could not be reached for comment.

The Paracel Islands consist of more than 30 islets, sandbanks or reefs over an area of nearly 6,000 square miles (15,000 square kilometers). The dispute over their ownership dates back several decades.

http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2009/5/18/apworld/20090518140443&sec=apworld

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Vietnam suspends newspaper over China reporting

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Authorities in Vietnam have shut down a newspaper for three months over controversial articles on a territorial dispute with neighboring China, state media reported Thursday.

The Ministry of Information and Communication shut down the biweekly Du Lich (Tourism) for its “serious violation” of Vietnam’s press law, the Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper said.

Authorities accused the paper of publishing untruthful information as well as inciting violence and sowing hatred among nations, Thanh Nien said.

The report did not specify the information in question.

The shutdown took effect Tuesday, and the ministry also ordered the newspaper to reshuffle its leadership, Thanh Nien reported.

Communist Vietnam maintains strict control over all local media.

Ministry officials and newspaper executives were not available for comment Thursday.

In its Lunar New Year edition earlier this year, the newspaper ran a series of articles supporting anti-China protesters, praising them for their “pure patriotism.”

Thousands of demonstrators, mostly university students, gathered in late 2007 near the Chinese diplomatic missions in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to protest China’s policy toward three archipelagos in the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands.

China had announced a plan to create a symbolic administrative region called Sansha to manage the disputed territory.

The largely uninhabited islands and surrounding waters are believed to have large oil and natural gas reserves. They straddle busy sea lanes and are rich fishing grounds.

Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei also claim sovereignty over all or some of the Spratlys.

Although Vietnam’s communist government opposes China’s policy in the Spratlys, it wants to maintain friendly relations with its powerful northern neighbor.

But the Spratlys issue has struck a nationalist chord in Vietnam, which has fought several wars against China. The protesters took to the streets even though Vietnam’s government generally prohibits public protests of any kind.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5h5m1-ar5BJVs-atMLb_J1fC8UgOwD97JBEJ00

Vietnam paper banned over China

By Nga Pham
BBC News

A newspaper in Vietnam has been banned for three months for publishing controversial articles on China.

The Ministry of Information and Communication decided to suspend the Du lich (Tourism) bi-weekly for “serious violations of Vietnamese Press Law”.

In a rare display of patriotism, Du lich ran a number of articles on the subject of territorial disputes between Vietnam and China.

The offending articles were in the paper’s Lunar New Year issue.

A story written by Trung Bao praised the “courageous spirit” of those who participated in anti-China demonstrations in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh last year.

Thousands of people joined the protests against the Chinese government’s policies in the South China Sea.

The paper was accused of “writing untruthful information” and “inciting violence, causing hatred between nations” – charges that Du lich’s deputy editor-in-chief denied.

Nguyen Trung Dan told the BBC that the newspaper only reflected “the people’s wishes”.

“Being a Vietnamese, I did not think twice when I approved those articles. Isn’t it a good thing to encourage patriotism among the public?”

The Ministry of Information said it would consider reshuffling the paper’s editorial leadership in order to “improve its management”.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8000399.stm

Vietnam police to shut down Vietnamese American’s website

Hanoi – Vietnamese police plan to soon shut down a popular website run by a Vietnamese-American entrepreneur for violating rules on copyright and political content, a police official said Wednesday. “The leaders of the company have admitted their wrongdoing,” said Dinh Huu Tan, deputy head of the Hanoi Police Department for Ideological and Cultural Security.

The search portal, timnhanh.com, belongs to VON, a company owned by Paul Nguyen Hung.

The newspaper Hanoi Security quoted police sources Wednesday as saying the website had hosted pornography as well as “misleading information” about the Vietnamese Communist Party and government policies.

VON, or the Vietnam Online Network, was licensed in 2007 by Vietnam’s Ministry of Information and Communication to operate websites with a commercial purpose.

It operates 13 sites, including the job search sites kiemviec.com and hrvietnam.com, and the automobile sales site xe.timnhanh.com. Those sites would continue to operate.

But Vietnamese media reported Wednesday that timnhanh.com had instead become an electronic news portal and had reprinted information from other news sources in violation of copyright laws and had published unauthorized political content.

Tan said authorities would employ only administrative punishments because they had not gathered enough evidence for a criminal case against VON.

Under Vietnam’s Communist system, all domestic news organizations must be affiliated with the government.

The government has strengthened its control over the media during the past year, prosecuting two reporters who pursued corruption stories aggressively and firing editors at popular newspapers such as Tuoi Tre (Youth), Thanh Nien (The Young) and Dai Doan Ket (Great Unity).

In December, the government also introduced regulations on what types of information private bloggers may include in their blogs.

http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/255224,vietnam-police-to-shut-down-vietnamese-americans-website.html

Owl and the Sparrow: A Look Inside Vietnam

by Melody Erhuy
Feb 02 2009

The Beatles passionately fantasized about this, Cassavetes’ “The Notebook” (2004) was purely based on this, and Cinderella found this when she located her missing shoe. Can you figure it out?

As the only universal bond that can break the barrier of language and culture, this less-than-three phenomenon, labeled love, is the most wanted item on everyone’s lists. Responding to this trend, director Stephane Gauger’s “Owl and the Sparrow” (2007) is a sophisticated, simplistic take on the classic love story, but it’s done like you have never seen before.

“The movie was shot in Saigon, Vietnam, the city of my birth. I wrote the film as a love letter to the city,” Gauger said.

Flight attendant Cat Ly, zookeeper Le The Lu and runaway Pham Thi Han are all missing the same things in life: love and family. These solitary characters meet by chance in modern-day Saigon, where their lives collide and transform to become one in the course of five days. Through their experiences together, they find the purpose for the rest of their lives – each other.

“The movie wasn’t about the plot,” said Hannah Moshier, a second-year English major. “I didn’t sit there and think ‘what’s going to happen next?’ I knew what was coming, but I was still enthralled in the movie for the characters. So much of it was shown more than said; I loved every minute of it. Everyone should see this movie.”

Gauger also stated that “the film is about how Saigon has opened up in the last 10 years through economic and social changes. The zookeeper represents old, traditional Vietnam, while the flight attendant characterizes new Vietnam. Both of them are brokenhearted souls. The small, [runaway] child bridges together the new and the old world.”

The film was awarded the Crystal Heart Award in the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival, while also receiving a nomination for the John Cassavetes Award for film in the Independent’s Spirit Awards. The Big Apple Film Festival named the film as Best Feature Film, and both the Los Angeles Film Festival and the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival honored the film with the title of Best Narrative Feature.

Gauger added, “I wanted to be able to show the film internationally [by placing] universal themes of love and family that anyone can relate to. I originally intended the film to be seen by a European audience, the critics were a bonus.”

Gauger was raised in Garden Grove in Orange County, California, but he frequented France over summers with his relatives.

“Growing up in the suburbs is great as a kid, but the European influence on me [unleashed] my creative side,” Gauger said.

This creativity has appeared to pay off as there has been a general positive reaction to the film.

“It was so touching to see life and love through the eyes of a child,” said Rachel Han, a first-year Spanish major. “This movie made me think, laugh, cry, smile and sigh an extended ‘awwww.’ I think that the whole audience felt some sort of attachment to the characters. It was beautifully made and wonderfully enjoyable.”

This was the first feature film for actress Pham Thi Han, the runaway Thuy. Gauger believes that she exceeded expecetations.

“Two days before we started shooting, she was cast, and yet she was able to memorize everything. She completely immersed herself into that role, which made people believe who she was. We were very lucky,” Gauger said.

MTV personality Tila Tequila, star of “A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila,” “lent herself for a promo [for the film] so her fans could support a Vietnamese movie being shown in America. She wanted to bridge the gap with the youth,” Gauger said.

Gauger also explained that ‘“Owl and the Sparrow” is a vision of Vietnam usually unseen.

“Vietnam is portrayed in historical films that focus on wars and such; people don’t get to see Saigon in the present,” Gauger said. “I wanted to be able to take the audience on a journey to see the beauty of Vietnam. Making films, Vietnamese or English, helps me speak to a general audience and tell them a universal story. It’s a really special film and I’d love students to see it.”

“Owl and the Sparrow” is currently showing at Irvine Westpark 8.

http://www.newuniversity.org/main/article?slug=owl_and_the_sparrow%3A177

Test for Vietnam government: free-speech bloggers

By BEN STOCKING

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Last fall, when police clashed with Catholic protesters over confiscated church land, the Vietnamese public didn’t need to rely on the sanitized accounts in the government-controlled media. They could read all about it on the blogs.

The photos and translated Western news reports about last September’s outlawed prayer vigils were posted in a Vietnamese blogosphere where anything goes — from drugs, sex, marriage and AIDS to blunt criticism of the communist government.

Until now the government has generally taken a hands-off attitude. But officials at the Ministry of Information and Communications appear to be losing patience. They say they are preparing new rules that would restrict blogs to personal matters — meaning no politics.

Blogs and unlicensed news Web sites have taken on added weight since a crackdown on journalists cast a chill over Vietnam’s mainstream media.

In June, two journalists who had aggressively covered a major government corruption case were arrested and one of them was sentenced to two years in prison. Four others had their press cards revoked after running front-page stories decrying the journalists’ arrests.

The bloggers were quick to react.

“We fought two wars to free ourselves from the shackles of imperialism and colonialism, all in the hope of having basic human rights,” wrote Vo Thi Hao, a novelist and painter, on her self-titled blog. “Even the French colonial government allowed private media, opposition parties and free expression.”

Such sentiments would never appear in Vietnam’s state-controlled media, which are dominated by admiring stories of the country’s leaders or dull accounts of the bureaucracy at work.

In the reporting of the vigils organized by the Catholic Church to demand the return of lands seized decades ago, the state media portrayed the protesters as lawless, while the bloggers portrayed them as principled and brave.

“I get information from the blogs that I could never find in the state media,” said Nguyen Thu Thuy, a blogger who delves into her religious beliefs and family life. “Everybody has the right to free expression,” she said in an interview.

Roughly 20 million of Vietnam’s 86 million citizens use the Internet, according to the latest government figures. While high-profile bloggers are concentrated in the big cities, cyber-cafes can be found in all but the most remote corners of the country.

Any public criticism of the government would have been unthinkable a few years ago, but today’s bloggers are sometimes scathing.

A popular Ho Chi Minh City blogger known as Osin recently chided Vietnam’s top-ranking officials for chartering airplanes to fly to international meetings.

“A head of state should not use a chartered plane to show off,” he wrote, pointing out that when the prime minister of Thailand visited Vietnam, he came on a commercial flight. “A politician’s reputation does not depend on whether he can fly around in a big plane. It depends on whether he values the taxpayers’ money.”

Information and Communications Ministry officials did not reply to an interview request from The Associated Press.

Vietnam has yet to go as far as neighboring China does in suppressing undesirable Internet content. It blocks some Web sites run by overseas Vietnamese that the government views as a political threat. But it has not hindered access to Yahoo 360, a blogging platform that is extremely popular with young Vietnamese.

“It’s interesting that they’ve chosen not to block it,” said Rebecca MacKinnon, a professor at the University of Hong Kong who has written about China’s Internet policies. “One assumes it’s because they don’t want to deal with the blowback it would cause.”

Still, the government occasionally tries to make an example of those who go too far.

A blogger known as Dieu Cay was charged with tax evasion after encouraging people to protest at the Olympic torch ceremonies in Ho Chi Minh City shortly before the Beijing games last summer. He criticized China’s policies in Tibet and the Spratly Islands, an archipelago in the South China Sea that is claimed by both China and Vietnam.

Vietnam’s government is particularly sensitive to anything it regards as fomenting public protests, and also is wary of upsetting its giant northern neighbor.

Vietnamese bloggers often write confessional postings that have nothing to do with politics.

One named “Sun’s Secret” recently wrote about her upcoming marriage and her fears that she was rushing into it too quickly. “Sometimes I feel like I just want to run away from this relationship,” she confided.

Sun’s Secret also confessed to feeling remorseful because she introduced two friends who slept together and later found out that they were HIV positive.

“Is it my fault?” she asked. “I introduced them.”

Some bloggers say the government has failed to keep up with the spread of blogging, and think it’s too late to roll it back.

“The government doesn’t have the technology or the manpower to control all the bloggers,” read a posting on TTX Vang Anh, a popular self-styled citizens’ “news agency.”

The Associated Press: Test for Vietnam government: free-speech bloggers

AFP: Vietnam court upholds blogger’s jail term

The Ho Chi Minh City Peoples Court

The Ho Chi Minh City People's Court

HANOI (AFP) — An appeals court in communist Vietnam on Thursday upheld a blogger’s two-and-a-half-year jail sentence for tax fraud in a case media watchdog groups have said was politically motivated.

The Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court confirmed the September verdict and sentencing of Nguyen Hoang Hai, who uses the weblog name Dieu Cay and is a member of the online Free Vietnamese Journalists Club.

“After several hours of debate with his lawyers, the court upheld the first instance sentence of two-and-a-half years imprisonment for Nguyen Hoang Hai on the charge of tax fraud,” court official Phan Tanh told AFP.

Hai — who has taken part in anti-Beijing demonstrations about a sensitive sea territory dispute with China — was arrested in April, days before the Olympic torch passed through the southern city, formerly called Saigon.

“The authorities are trying to silence this blogger,” said media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in a statement before the hearing.

“Dieu Cay should be freed at once,” said the Paris-based group which has called the weblog writer a “cyber-dissident.”

“We call on the foreign embassies in Vietnam to defend free expression by urging the Vietnamese government to release him.”

RSF said that, according to Hai’s son, he had been under close police surveillance since joining street demonstrations early this year against China’s claim over the Spratly and Paracel Islands.

The protests backed the government stance that the islands belong to Vietnam, but they also embarrassed the leadership which received a stern rebuke from China for allowing the rare street protests to take place.

“The police are harassing his family, his property has been seized and close colleagues have been threatened and arrested,” the RSF said.

Vietnam will issue new rules against “incorrect information” on blogs this month, state media reports said this week, quoting government officials.

The regulations aim “to create a legal base for bloggers and related agencies to tackle violations in the area of blogging,” said Information and Communication Deputy Minister Do Quy Doan, according to the Thanh Nien daily.

The ministry “will contact Google and Yahoo! for cooperation in creating the best and the healthiest environment for bloggers,” he reportedly added.

AFP: Vietnam court upholds blogger’s jail term