Attention to Vietnam’s handling of COVID-19 has increased in recent weeks, for good reason. With just over three-hundred cases and no deaths reported, Vietnam is on track to have one of the best pandemic response records in the world, despite the fact that the country borders China and has a population of over 97 million. Observers have begun looking for “lessons to be learned” from Vietnam, calling it the “coronavirus-fighting champ of the world.”
But there is another side to the story. Vietnam’s apparent success is built on an extensive system of surveillance and control that “few other countries have, or want to have.” Censorship in all its forms has reached unprecedented levels. And those who are already most marginalized are bearing the brunt of the government’s increasingly abusive policies.