The Communist party boss, Nguyen Phu Trong, has called for total party control over all aspects of police work, as he steps up campaigns against corruption and political dissent.
In a display of his rising confidence as Vietnam’s top leader, he made a bullish demand for full loyalty as the special guest at a national security conference in Hanoi this week.
“Our main mission is to secure the direct and absolute leadership of the party over the police force,” said Mr Trong in his address to the assembled ranks of police officers and their political masters.
He called for the police to redouble their efforts to crush the activities of government critics, saying that their steps to prevent and neutralise opposition groups were still limited.
The call will alarm civil society organisations which have felt the brunt of the party’s crackdown on free speech over the last two years.
Mr Trong evoked the memory of the hardline former party leader, Le Duan, who had described the police as the “sharp weapon” of the party entrusted with its protection.
His list of priorities included a wide range of police work, including the current anti-corruption campaign, which has also targeted party insiders associated with a rival leadership faction.
But Mr Trong was keen to stress the seriousness with which he takes the activities of independent bloggers and other government critics who have been trying to push back restrictions on free speech.
He said the police must disable “conspiracy, sabotage activities of hostile and reactionary forces” and prevent them forming political organisations in the country.
Mr Trong put an end to a brief period of relative tolerance when he was reappointed as general-secretary of the Communist party in January 2016.
A number of leading bloggers have since been arrested, including Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, who blogged as Mother Mushroom, who received a ten year jail term.
Mr Trong is keen to associate himself personally with the crackdown as he empowers the national security establishment to take the initiative.