Vietnam tries to whip Communist Party into shape with tough new anti-dissent rule

By Hoang Thuy   December 7, 2017 | 06:40 pm GMT+7

Expulsion is the harshest penalty facing members who do not toe the Party line.

Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party will expel any members that insult, damage its reputation or try to encourage others to do so in any form, including social media.

Party members have also been forbidden from denying, rejecting or disagreeing with Party policies under an updated rule to regulate its members.

The previous regulation, issued in 2013, stated that members would be expelled if they distorted Party or State policies, or denied or rejected Marxism-Leninism and Ho Chi Minh ideology. They also faced expulsion if they rejected the principles of democratic centralism, social democracy, socialist rule-of-law or the socialist-oriented market economy tenet.

The same punishment, which is the most stringent facing renegade Party members, also applies for those who call for separation of power among the legislature, executive and judicial branches of government.

Party members who accept bribes in return for hiring staff or granting pay rises, promotions or bonuses also face the same punishment. 

vietnam-tries-to-whip-communist-party-into-shape-with-tough-new-anti-dissent-rule

Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong (C) is spearheading a corruption crackdown that has been making the biggest headlines in Vietnam this year. Photo by Reuters

Vietnam has tightened its crackdown on "toxic" content on social media and corruption this year. 

In January, the country issued a circular asking Facebook and similar sites with more than one million Vietnam-based users to collaborate with authorities to block “toxic” content, ranging from ads for banned products to anti-state propaganda.

While the government encourages the development of social media, “it has to go hand in hand with political stability, and not distort, defame, divide or disseminate content that goes against the policies of the Party, the State and Vietnamese culture,” said Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam last month at a National Assembly meeting.

But it's the corruption crackdown that has been making the biggest headlines.

In August, the Party set out rules for top officials with an emphasis on fighting corruption, avoiding nepotism and living modestly.

State-owned energy and banking firms are at the heart of the crackdown, which has seen a number of prominent Party members sacked from their government jobs.

Runaway oil executive Trinh Xuan Thanh has been dominating the headlines and will stand trial in January for alleged embezzlement and economic mismanagement that caused losses of around VND3.2 trillion ($147 million) at state energy giant PetroVietnam. 

The investigation into Thanh’s wrongdoings has ensnared scores of government officials and corporate executives. Chief among them was Dinh La Thang, who was removed from the Communist Party's elite Politburo, the group at the pinnacle of Vietnamese power, in May. He was later fired from his position as the top leader of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s biggest city and commercial hub.

Last month, the disgraced top leader of Vietnam's central city of Da Nang Nguyen Xuan Anh was voted out of the municipal legislature, essentially hammering the final nail in the coffin of a once-rising political star's career.

Anh lost his roles as both chairman and member of the People's Council two months after being fired as the city's all-powerful Communist Party chief.

Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong admitted last year that immorality is eroding the ruling Communist Party, chipping away at public trust and threatening the political system.

Trong highlighted that deviation from socialism could take place in the process of “self-evolution” or “self-transformation” among Party cadres and government officials. “This could lead to collaboration with sinister and hostile forces to sabotage the Communist Party," he said.

In 2016, Vietnam had more than 4.65 million Party members. The country’s population is now nearly 93 million.