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.

Vietnam seeks Google, Yahoo! help to control bloggers: reports

Students search and play games online inside an Internet shop in Hanoi

Students search and play games online inside an Internet shop in Hanoi

HANOI (AFP) — Communist Vietnam wants Internet giants Google and Yahoo! to help “regulate” the country’s flourishing blogging scene, state media said Tuesday, and stop “incorrect information” being published online.

The government will announce new rules this month, stressing that weblogs should serve as personal online diaries, not as organs to disseminate opinions about politics, religion and society, senior officials were quoted as saying.

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 added.

The proposals follow the jailing in September of the high-profile blogger Dieu Cay — real name Nguyen Hoang Hai — for two and a half years on tax fraud charges. His appeal hearing is set for Thursday, court officials said.

Media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders charged that he was punished for criticising China’s claims over disputed South China Sea islands and called on the court “to acquit this cyber-dissident.”

The territorial issue is seen as highly sensitive by the Vietnam and Chinese governments.

Vietnam’s blogosphere has exploded in recent years, with school children to newspaper editors freely sharing their thoughts in a way that has not been possible in the state-controlled media.

Most users have chatted about lifestyle and personal issues, but some online writers have strayed into sensitive political areas and incurred the wrath of the authorities, with several bloggers, including Cay, ending up in prison.

The director of the state-run Bach Khoa Internet Security Centre, Nguyen Tu Quang, last month said under draft rules being debated, violators could face 12,000-dollar fines and up to 12 years jail.

“This is quite a strict punishment but perfectly suitable for those who intentionally release incorrect information about religion, the political system, state and government of Vietnam,” Quang was quoted as saying.

The OpenNet Initiative, a collaboration by experts from Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford and other universities, warned in a report last year that political Internet filtering in Vietnam is “pervasive.”

“Vietnam’s filtering regime is multi-layered, relying not only on computing technology but also on threats of legal liability, state-based and private monitoring of users’ online activities, and informal pressures such as supervision by employees or other users in cyber-cafes,” the report said.

Vietnam Faces Serious Shortage Of Internet Security Experts

HANOI, Oct 3 (Bernama) — While the information technology industry is developing strongly and internet security is becoming more of a necessity, Vietnam is facing a serious shortage in order to meet public demand in both quantity and quality.

Even if each individual agency requires just one network administration and security expert, the country is estimated to lack tens of thousands of qualified people in this field, the Vietnam news agency (VNA) said in its report.

According to recent research on expert demands and an IT human resource shortage in the Asia-Pacific region conducted by the market study company IDC with the assistance of Cisco Systems, Vietnam currently lacks about 800 professional internet experts. This figure is expected to increase to 1,900 people by the end of 2009.

This shortage is attributed to the fact that Vietnamese universities do not currently offer degrees in information security and, as a result almost all IT graduates do not have the skills to meet businesses information security demands.

To address this problem, many IT training centres have actively launched internet security courses.

The Hanoi University of Technology’s Bach Khoa Internet Security Centre (BKIS) is now offering training courses for all members of the public, instead of only for officers of Ministries of Defence and Public Securities as before.

The Hanoi-Aptech Centre has officially launched an advanced network administration programme for those who want to become senior internet security experts in large organisations and business enterprises.

The establishment of the Vietnam Information Security Association (VNISA) and VNISA’s southern branch recently, aims to offer information on security training to the staff of organisations and businesses.

It also trains individuals, which is considered one of the effective measures being taken to address the shortage of internet security professionals.

In order to raise awareness of the importance of information security among enretprises, VNISA will organise the 2008 Vietnam Information Security Day in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City on November 11.

The event is expected to strengthen the contact between the State, society and enterprises in this field.

According to BKIS, in 2007, Vietnam had over 33 million computers infected with viruses and hundreds of websites hacked, causing a total estimated loss of 2.3 trillion VND (US$140 million).

Vietnam 2.0: Internet revolution brings 20 million people online

By John Boudreau
Mercury News
Article Launched: 06/14/2008 01:30:31 AM PDT

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam – Excitement over the Internet in Vietnam is such that members of the new wired generation wait in line for hours to surf on PCs installed in cafes throughout the dense city.

“I can find any kind of information about jobs, entertainment, my friends. I can go to other countries. And all I have to do is sit here,” said Nguyen Thu Ha, a 20-year-old plucking away at a keyboard at the 8X Game Internet Cafe. She admits to spending as much as seven hours a day in front of a computer.

While the government keeps tight control on traditional media, this generation gets access to relatively unfettered information through the Internet. Some 20 million Vietnamese are now online – up from 500,000 in 2000. And within two years, an estimated 16 million more are expected to join the young Internet masses looking for love, chatting with friends and learning about the world outside Vietnam.

“We are in the middle of an Internet revolution here,” said Henry Nguyen, managing general partner of IDG Ventures Vietnam.

Internet companies must be licensed, and most assign staff to scrub Web sites of sexual and political material sure to draw the ire of communist officials, who do not permit public criticism of their one-party rule.

“We cooperate fully with the government,” said Santa Cruz native Bryan Pelz, chief executive of VinaGame, Vietnam’s most popular online game that is branching out to social networking and other online services.

“We are a local business. That’s what we have to do. We try to be upfront with our users: Don’t use this for anything illegal or culturally inappropriate.”

Internet service providers must have a close relationship with the government, said Ho Quang Khanh, managing director of, a new networking site for Vietnamese professionals.

“You don’t want to have a sour relationship with them,” he said. “They can find a thousand things wrong with you.”

Still, the Vietnam government is far less intrusive than some other countries, including next-door-neighbor China.

“Vietnam has the same policies as China, but Vietnam doesn’t enforce them,” said Henry Nguyen, whose firm backs a number of Internet start-ups in the Southeast Asian country. “There is no great firewall in Vietnam. There is neither the will nor the resources.”

The government censors some content, but it would need to spend huge sums to monitor all Internet communications. Also, it may not feel the need for vigilance because young Vietnamese are generally content and patriotic, say entrepreneurs and bloggers.

Most online criticism of the government comes from abroad, said blogger Thuy Tien. “Harsh views of the government tend to be those of Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) living outside the country,” she said.

Overseas Vietnamese are more critical than locals “because they have the freedom to do so; whereas in Vietnam, you can be sent to jail,” said Duy Hoang, a spokesman for Viet Tan, or Vietnam Reform Party, which has an office in San Jose and is opposed to Communist Party rule.

In November, six of its members were detained. Among them was Sacramento resident Nguyen Quoc Quan, who was deported May 17 after being sentenced to six months in jail on terrorism charges for planning to circulate anti-government pamphlets.

Officials also were riled last year when a sex video of a teen TV star with her boyfriend was posted online, resulting in the arrest of four students and the end to her career. Then in December, a dispute between Vietnam and China over control of the Spratly and Paracel island chains in the South China Sea triggered rare street protests in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City organized by nationalistic bloggers.

Increasingly, though, the government is permitting criticism on an array of local issues, such as traffic and double-digit inflation.

The real test of its tolerance will come if the economy takes a dramatic turn for the worse or something else threatens social stability. Already, there are signs of economic strain as soaring prices have triggered strikes among workers demanding more pay.

“The trick is, what will happen if we go through a difficult situation? I don’t know,” said Ho, of networking site

For now, most young people use the Web as a source of entertainment in a country where TV “stinks,” venture capitalist Henry Nguyen said. “It’s imported shows from China, Korea and retreads of American movies.”

The Vietnam Internet experience lacks the rancorous disputes common in the United States, blogger Tien said.

“It’s more polite,” she said. “Vietnamese don’t want to waste time arguing with someone they don’t know.”

Vietnam 2.0: Internet revolution brings 20 million people online – San Jose Mercury News

Reporters sans frontières – Vietnam

Reporters Without Borders called today for the release of Nguyen Hoang Hai, an independent journalist better known by the blogging pseudonym of Dieu Cay, who was arrested in the southern city of Dalat on 19 April and was subsequently charged with tax fraud.

“The charge is just a pretext to prevent one of Vietnam’s most influential bloggers from continuing to post comments critical of the government,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Dieu Cay’s arrest on 19 April came just a few days before the Ho Chi Minh City leg of the Olympic torch relay for which the government insisted on ‘absolute security’ and sanctions against any ‘trouble-makers.’ We do not think it was a coincidence and we call for him to be released pending trial.”

Dieu Cay had been under close police surveillance since taking part in protests against Chinese policy that took place in Ho Chi Minh City earlier in the year. At one point, the police threatened to let Chinese agents kill him.

The police offered no explanation when they arrested him on 19 April. He was held for two days in a Ho Chi Minh City prison before being charged with “tax fraud” on the grounds that he had not paid any tax on the rent of his office. No date has been set for a trial. In the run-up to the Ho Chi Minh City leg of the Olympic torch relay, several Vietnamese were arrested for demonstrating against human rights violations in China and the Chinese government’s policy in the South China Sea, where China and Vietnam are disputing control of the Spratly and Paracel Islands.

Overseas Vietnamese websites reported that the official Chinese torch relay website showed these two archipelagos as being part of the People’s Republic of China.

According to a government website, Prime Minister Nguyn Tan Dung called on 20 April for “absolute security” during the Olympic torch relay in Ho Chi Minh City and warned against “hostile forces” that might be tempted to try to disrupt it.

Dieu Cay posted entries on his blog about the demonstrations around the world that accompanied the Olympic torch relay. He also posted articles criticising China’s policy in Tibet and its policy regarding the Spratly and Paracel Islands and he called for protests against the torch relay in Ho Chi Minh City. Dieu Cay blog Dieu Cay is affiliated to a group of bloggers known as the Free Vietnamese Journalists Club, some of whose members have been threatened and arrested on several occasions. One, who does not want to be named, was fired from his job at the government’s request and fears he could be arrested on a charge of “divulging information abroad with the aim of overthrowing the government” for giving interviews to foreign news media.

Vietnam is on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Internet Enemies.” The way the government’s management of the Internet is evolving suggests that it is based on the Chinese model. Nine cyber-dissidents are currently detained in Vietnam.

Reporters sans frontières – Vietnam

Vietnam’s Internet decade brings hopes, problems for dissidents

HANOI (AFP) — Ten years after the Internet went live in Vietnam, the number of Web users in the country has soared, with dissidents using it as a podium and others surfing it to learn about the outside world.

Vietnam’s government says around 18 million people, or more than 20 percent of the population, are using the Internet, numbers that thrust the country into the world top 20 in terms of online penetration.

“A new social space has opened up in reality and virtually,” especially for those aged between 14 and 24, said Vietnam expert Carl Thayer of the Australian Defence Force Academy.

Internet cafes in the main cities are packed with young people addicted to online games or chat. But Net access has also increased the sources of information available to the population.

“The Internet has had a great impact on my life… since I know more people, know more about the world, about other countries I have never been to,” said Tran Nguyen Hung, a 17-year-old student in Hanoi.

“I cannot imagine how my life would be without logging onto the Internet at least once a week.”

The Web has also opened a new space for dissidents in the communist country where traditional media are still heavily controlled.

“The Internet was a crucial catalyst in the emergence of Bloc 8406,” Thayer said, referring to a banned pro-democracy group started after 118 dissidents signed an online manifesto urging an end to the one-party political regime.

Bloc 8406 refers to the date they began their initiative: April 8, 2006.

“The Internet has served as a source of information on topics the government deems too sensitive to discuss openly, such as relations with China or a multiparty system,” Thayer added.

Despite the growth of the Internet, its reach is limited to Vietnam’s cities, with the countryside having little access.

The government also tries to keep close tabs on and control what makes it onto the Net.

Authorities try to manage Internet sites and blogs with the goal of “helping people have access to good and useful information” and limiting misuse, Le Nam Thang, vice-minister of information and communication, told the Vietnam News Agency as the country celebrated a decade online last week.

But “technically, it is difficult to predict or prevent all the poisonous information on the Internet, even with strict cooperation” among the ministries of culture and information, and the police, Mai Liem Truc, a former post and telecommunications minister, told the Tien Phong newspaper.

Media rights group Reporters Without Borders is critical of such controls.

“For 10 years, Vietnam’s network has followed the Chinese example,” the Paris-based group said in a statement. “Censorship hardens on Internet sites dealing with politics and religion, and bloggers suffer the same hardships as journalists.”

Reporter Without Borders said it hoped the situation could have improved when the communist country joined the World Trade Organisation in January.

“But this year Vietnam has seen its worst wave of arrests of cyber-dissidents since 2002,” added the group, which registers eight cyberdissidents currently in jail in Vietnam.

About a week ago, two of them, lawyers campaigning for human rights, had their prison sentences reduced by one year on appeal, but they both still face three or four years in jail.