Vietnam | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017



Freedom Status: 
Not Free

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Press Freedom Status: 
Not Free
Net Freedom Status: 
Not Free

Vietnam is a one-party state, dominated for decades by the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). Although some independent candidates are technically allowed to run in legislative elections, most are banned in practice. Freedom of expression, religious freedom, and civil society activism are highly restricted. The authorities have increasingly cracked down on citizens’ use of social media and the internet in general to spread uncensored information and galvanize dissent. 

Key Developments: 
  • In January, the ruling CPV held its 12th Party Congress and chose new leaders in a highly opaque manner.
  • Legislative elections were held in May. Most independent candidates were prevented from running, though a handful managed to win seats.
  • In April and May, large protests erupted over alleged pollution of Vietnamese waters by a Taiwanese-owned steel mill. The government eventually forced the company to pay a fine, but protests continued, and hundreds of demonstrators were detained.
  • In July, an international tribunal ruled against China on its territorial claims in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese government attempted to quell celebratory anti-China demonstrations in response to the ruling.
Executive Summary: 

Nguyễn Phú Trọng was reelected as general secretary of the CPV at the 12th Party Congress in January 2016, while Trần Đại Quang was nominated to become state president and Nguyễn Xuân Phúc to become prime minister. The latter two were confirmed in office by the National Assembly in April. None of the three officials have expressed public support for a shift toward political reforms.

Vietnam held mostly pro forma legislative elections in May. Although the CPV dominated the new legislature, a handful of independent candidates were allowed to participate.

Also in May, U.S. president Barack Obama visited Vietnam in a sign of closer strategic ties between the two countries. Obama met with several civil society activists in Hanoi, but a number of prominent figures were barred from attending. Throughout 2016, the authorities continued to arrest and imprison well-known dissident bloggers, ordinary internet users who posted critical content, and members of religious groups that operate outside of CPV control.

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