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In Vietnam, crackdown on blogs benefits bloggers

HANOI — Vietnam’s government has vowed to crack down on three dissident blogs, a move that appeared to backfire Thursday as record numbers of people visited the sites and the bloggers pledged to keep up their struggle for freedom of expression.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s order for police to arrest those responsible for the websites reflects growing unease within the Communist Party over the emergence of blogs and social media accounts that publish dissenting views, independent reporting, and whistle-blowing. The party does not allow free media and it fears criticism or discussion of its failings on the Internet could lead to social instability and ultimately, the loss of its power.

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“Nobody can shut our mouth or stop our freedom of expression,” said a member of the team that administers one of the targeted blogs, Danlambao. The blogger chatted over the Internet with the Associated Press on condition his name and location not be published because of the risk of arrest.

Danlambao, or Citizens’ Journalism, is one of the most prominent of several dissident blogs that have started in the last two years.

It has attracted thousands of viewers in recent weeks because of its reporting on suspected power struggles among the ruling elite that it says may have been behind the arrest of a banking tycoon last month. It has speculated that the detention of Nguyen Duc Kien, said to be close to the prime minister’s daughter, was the result of tensions between the premier and the president.

Late Wednesday, the government said Danlambao and two other sites had been ‘‘publishing distorted and fabricated articles’’ against the leadership. It said that Vietnamese state employees were forbidden from visiting the sites.

It is not illegal for Vietnamese to visit the targeted sites, and the government’s firewall blocking many sensitive websites is fairly easy to get around.

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‘‘This is a wicked plot of the hostile forces,’’ a government statement said, adding that the prime minister had ordered police to arrest those associated with the sites.

The statement led to a surge in visitors to the sites as curious Vietnamese wanted to see what they had been publishing.

The Danlambao blog said it was on course to have more than 500,000 page views Thursday, more than double its normal amount, thanks to what it called the unintended public relations coup handed to it by the government.

Another targeted site, Quanlambao, or the Officials’ Journalism blog, said Dung’s threat was meant to lay the legal groundwork for a campaign of arrests against bloggers.

‘‘They provide us the bullets and we shoot — because they can’t,’’ the blogger said.