Rights group CIVICUS Monitor report shows civic space remains ‘closed’ in Vietnam as majority of countries in Asia repress civic freedoms

Civicus, December 8, 2020


  • Around 90% of countries in Asia restricting civic freedoms
  • Philippines downgraded from ‘obstructed’ to ‘repressed’
  • Concerns about attacks on press and vilification of human rights defenders


In Asia, the assault on civil society and fundamental freedoms has persisted amid the global pandemic. Data released today by the CIVICUS Monitor shows that out of 25 countries in Asia, four – including China, Vietnam, Laos and North Korea – are rated  ‘closed’, nine ‘repressed’ and nine ‘obstructed’. Civic space in South Korea and Japan is rated as narrowed, while Taiwan is the only country rated open.

People Power Under Attack 2020, an annual report from the CIVICUS Monitor, a global research collaboration that rates and tracks respect for fundamental freedoms in 196 countries, shows that basic freedoms are backsliding across the globe: 87 per cent of the world’s population now live in closed, repressed or obstructed countries. This trend is reflected in Asia, where civic rights are declining:

“Our research shows that civic freedoms, including the freedoms of expression, assembly and association, continue to be violated across the region. The percentage of people living in Asian countries with closed, repressed or obstructed civic space is nearly 90 percent,” said Josef Benedict, Asia-Pacific Civic Space Researcher for CIVICUS.

In Vietnam, where civic space is rated ‘closed’, the CIVICUS Monitor has documented in 2020 that the authorities continues to harass those who criticise the one-party regime. Scores of individuals were arrested or jailed after summary trials under an array of restrictive laws for ‘abusing democratic freedoms’ and ‘anti-state propaganda’, including activists, bloggers and Facebook users. Most recently. the Vietnamese authorities arrested human rights defender Pham Doan Trang – one of the nation’s most prominent independent journalists.

The persecution against independent publishers, The Liberal Publishing House has continued in 2020 after a brief pause due to the pandemic. Members of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN) – the last independent journalist organisation in the country – have also been arrested and prosecuted. Human rights groups raised serious unfair trial concerns and allegations of torture in the Dong Tam trial which has led to convictions. Many activists were kept under surveillance, or detained for months without access to legal counsel and subjected to abusive interrogations