The overly broad and vague draft cyber security law was passed on June 12, 2018 by 423 by 43, that is 86%. 96% MP of the Vietnam’s National Assembly are communist members.

The government and the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam have a long record of arbitrary persecutions against organisations and individuals under the rationale of protecting national security. All 26 Vietnam’s dioceses and archdioceses, and most ecclesial institutions and movements have Web sites. But most of them are hosted outside Vietnam to avoid being prosecuted for sensitive content.

“It’s worthy to note that most Catholic social doctrines on matters of human dignity and common good in society that address oppression, the role of the state, subsidiarity, social organization, concern for social justice, and issues of wealth distribution have been seen by the ruling Communist Party as unacceptable and radically contradicted to its doctrines,” explains Father Paul Van Chi Chu, of Sydney Archdiocese, spokesperson of The Federation of Vietnamese Catholic Mass Media.

In a press release, Fr. Van Chi criticises Vietnam’s national laws of lacking meaningful protections for privacy. The draft law gives the authorities wide discretion to determine when expression is considered “illegal” or even worse, “violating national security”.

“The provisions in the cyber security law could make it easier for the government to identify and prosecute people for their peaceful online activities,” he warns.

Now and there, here and there, Catholic sites, including Asia News, Catholic News Agencies, Catholic World News and VietCatholic have been firewalled. Vietnam Internet users, however, still can reach beyond the firewall system by first visiting anonymous sites. That practice is now strictly prohibited by the new law and may cost the offenders years in prison.

The new law bans internet users in Vietnam from organising people for “anti-state purposes” and contains sweeping language under which users would not be allowed to “distort history” or “negate the nation’s revolutionary achievements”. The overly broad and vague cyber security law seen by many as a pretext for arbitrary arrests.

Vietnam cyber security law, in effective next year 2019, will also force tech companies to store their data locally.

Protesters, who staged demonstrations protesting the law and the draft law on special economic zones, said the new requirements would allow communist authorities to access private data, spy on users and erode the limited freedoms of speech on Facebook, Google, and other social networks.

Tech companies will also be required by the new law to provide users’ data to the public security ministry at the government’s request in cases where it believes the law is being violated. They would be complicit with government censorship if they did so.

Amnesty International this week warned that the law would effectively make foreign tech companies “state surveillance agents” by giving Vietnam’s government the ability to force them to hand over users’ information.

“The government can now ask companies managing the internet or social media to disclose all information about accounts,” said Lê Công Định, a political activist, who had been arrested in 2009 for publishing articles demanding human rights. In 2010, he was convicted and sentenced to 5 years in prison on “national security charges” under article 88 of Vietnam's criminal code.

Foreign investors also criticise that the new law undermine their confidence and stunt the growth of the country’s digital economy. Foreign tech companies, most of them operate from regional hubs in Singapore or Hong Kong, would be required to open a Vietnam office and store their data there.