Vietnam: Party’s selection of its General Secretary considered “top secret” for ordinary people

Just weeks before the opening of the 13th National Congress of the ruling Communist Party in Vietnam (CPV), the government issued a ranked list of “state secrets” which include the information regarding the party’s personnel and internal affairs, a move that caught the attention of observers.

On December 30, 2020, Vietnam’s state-controlled media simultaneously reported that the party’s human resource plan and the selection of the Secretary-General, the State President, the Prime Minister, the Chairperson of the National Assembly are top secret.

Media said the PM has just issued a decision on the list of state secrets of the party.

Accordingly, the state secrets are strictly confidential to the inspection, supervision and disciplinary enforcement of the Party, including Conclusions, reports, notices, records, official letters of the Central Committee and the Central Inspection Commission on inspection results, verifying when there are signs of a violation, proposing to enforce Party discipline, settling denunciations against members of the Politburo, Secretariat and former Politburo member, Secretariat has not made public.”

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The BBC is informed that this is a not too new decision because PM Phuc issued Decision 1722/QD-TTg dated November 3, 2020, on the List of State secrets of the Party, in which, home secrets Top Secret of the Party.

Including ‘top secret‘ information such as:

– Decisions, conclusions, statements, plans, reports, notices, official letters of the Politburo, the Secretariat, the Subcommittee for the Protection of Internal Politics on the results of inspection and verification of the issue Politics of the members of the Politburo and the Secretariat as well as  former members of the Politburo and the Secretariat which  have not been made public,

– Reports, notices, decisions, conclusions, and official letters of the Central Committee on the preparation process, project and personnel plans for the General Secretary, the State President, the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, the Chairperson of the National Assembly, and Standing member of the Secretariat which has not been public.

This PM’s decision took effect from November 3, 2020.

VnExpress also emphasized that when reiterating a detail that previously, the National Assembly of Vietnam voted to pass “Law on the Protection of State Secrets” on November 15, 2018, this law took effect from July 7, 2020.

Signals for “dramatic” imminent?

On the same Wednesday, three political observers from Vietnam made their comments about the government’s move and things that could be “read out” as the signal from there.

I think there is a real confusion here, the internal affairs of a political party is its own affairs, it is impossible to list those things and call it to state secrets,” Doctor of Science Nguyen Quang A, former Director of the Institute for Independent Policy Review (IDS – was dissolved), told the BBC.

The contents, areas, and objects of security that have been regulated so broadly are the internal affairs of this political party, perhaps, in my opinion, it only has to be bound to the party members of that party, outsiders absolutely cannot get such information so that they can tell people to violate the law.”

General Secretary cum State President Nguyen Phu Trong recently appeared with an unstable image that he was moving with support from other people, due to the stroke he suffered last year. However, in August, the PM also issued a decision that the health information of top leaders is top secret

So, if it’s just about the party members, I don’t discuss it, but if someone outside can overhear somewhere and release information, such as personnel, internally, then it’s very likely to be criminalized for violating the state’s secrets, I think it is very controversial, like the way people intentionally mix into the classification, classify a lot of issues, the content together as reported. The requirements would be widely abused by the state authorities.”

Mr. Nguyen Vu Binh, former editor of the Communist Magazine told the BBC:

In my opinion, this movie proves an embarrassment and tension in the arrangement and selection of senior leaders for the 13th National Congress.

It also reflects the Communist Party’s fear of the leakage of information affecting the election of senior leaders so it is necessary to put the information in the secret list to warn and deter informants as well as commentary information on this matter.”

Mr. Nguyen Huu Vinh, freelance journalist, blogger, former security officer under the Ministry of Public Security, commented to the BBC:

I observed and found that the decision of the PM was signed ‘at the request of the Office of the Party Central Committee.’ It has a very wide scope of adjustment, although the press only gives a summary; but in general related to two issues: the Party Congress personnel and anti-corruption.”

The decision was made very close to the Congress day (along with the 15th Plenum), and there are signs that some high-ranking party officials may be disciplined soon. The intention to tighten information ‘leak’ has a great effect ‘is not as expected.’ ‘Signal’ in my opinion can only say that it promises high ‘drama,’ many surprises on both issues.”

What questions and concerns?

Observers agree that the move by the government and the party through the list of secret information issued by the PM may raise questions and even raise concerns.

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Mr. Nguyen Quang A said:

I think public may raise many questions, even concerns, but I cannot speak for anyone, my own opinion is any organization and any political party has to be transparent and only be transparent, open, then they can have some legitimacy, some trust in the public.”

And given all the very complicated and generous regulations, paving the way for penalties and deterrence for those who do not comply, paving the way for the abuse of politics, power, it is the opposite of transparency and the rule of law and as such, it would cause concerns among the people, the masses and among the members and thus harm the political party itself.”

Mr. Nguyen Vu Binh commented:

The biggest question that the public raises, in my opinion, is why the information of a party (internal work of a party such as staff arrangement, internal fighting …) becomes the state secret. This leads to the concern that there will be many things the communist party defines as state secrets and leads to power abuse.”

Mr. Nguyen Huu Vinh said:

I feel it may have gone back in time before the 12th Congress, with the boiling atmosphere to the point where there were unbelievable phenomena, as an alleged Prime Minister’s document at the time sent to the General Secretary to answer about the Party’s questions regarding him and his family related to corruption allegation.

Now, the situation may not be as ‘hot’ as the previous congress, but there is still information that proves there are other equally dramatic nuances.”

So the Party does not want to repeat the dilemmas when the “behind the scenes” information is being released online to put pressure on personnel.

The picture on the right is a list of supposed political support for the next Politburo. Le Minh Hung (left)) Governor of the State Bank of Vietnam, son of former Minister of Public Security Le Minh Huong leads the list with 150 votes, accounting for 87%. Information is disclosed on Facebook by Facebooker Hoang Dung

Before this phenomenon, I think that perhaps the public opinion is not concerned about anything, but only more curious and interested in watching what will be ‘realized’ here.”

Will the regulation be respected?

In response to the question of whether this new move by the party and government through a newly issued document of the PM is respected, the execution and purpose of the promulgator will be achieved, the observers replied:

I think it will certainly have a deterrent effect on the members of that political party, and on the people, as I said people cannot get that information out, so in principle, the people are not involved at all,” said Dr. Nguyen Quang A.

But if they use these excuses to accuse ordinary people, it is as old as the history that has often been seen in Vietnam since the communist party consigned itself, nothing strange at all.”

Mr. Nguyen Vu Binh stated:

I think the new regulation is very difficult to be applied, the election and personnel arrangement of the Communist Party has been the topic of discussion, the information has always been widely spread. Applying this rule to fine or arrest some cases will not prevent information from being leaked out and widely discussed.”

Mr. Nguyen Huu Vinh said:

In the long term, this new regulation will limit a fair amount of ‘leaked’ information in general. However, I personally think that the personnel issues of the 13th National Congress are not easy to control, mainly because it is too important for people to let leaks for their own purposes, and in a short time difficult to stop or trace the source of distribution.”

With the information related to corruption, it will still be difficult to avoid phenomena such as fleeing before prosecution, or dispersing assets and evidence … because senior officials are the source of information leaking.” (Translated)

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