By James Pearson
HANOI (Reuters) - In a rare ideological denunciation of one of its members, Vietnam's ruling Communist Party has publicly criticised a prominent and outspoken academic for publishing translations of books it said were critical of socialism and one-party rule.
Chu Hao, a former vice minister of science, is accused by party investigators of abusing his position as director of an academic publishing house to produce Vietnamese translations of the offending volumes.
"Documents and evidence collected by the party's Central Inspection Commission revealed that Comrade Hao has deteriorated in his political ideology, morality and lifestyle," said a statement on the commission's website, published on Wednesday.
Despite presiding over sweeping reforms and an increasingly open market-orientated economy, the Communist Party of Vietnam tolerates little criticism.
Hao "seriously violated party discipline" by criticising the party's monopoly on power and describing its attempts to build a market economy alongside socialism as "unrealistic", the statement said.
As an outspoken critic of the party, Hao had largely escaped punishment because of his family's closeness to founding president Ho Chi Minh, and his positive contributions to Vietnam's science and technology sector.
From 2005-2009, the statement said, Hao's publishing house released Vietnamese translations of books which contained content that was "politically and ideologically wrong".
According to the Central Inspection Commission, those books included translations of Friedrich Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom", which warns against the dangers of the state's control over the means of production, and an introduction to Karl Marx by Australian philosopher Peter Singer.
All of the books cited in the statement were no longer available on Hao's publishing house website as of Thursday.
It is not clear why Hao is being targeted now - although the party investigation comes amid an intensified crackdown on political dissidents in Vietnam.
It also follows the merging of the general secretary and presidential roles in the Southeast Asian country.
Nguyen Phu Trong, a 74-year-old party ideologue who has also presided over the crackdown on corruption, became the first leader since Ho Chi Minh to hold the two titles when he was made president last month.
"He deliberately committed his violations despite being reminded not to do so," the statement said of Hao's continued publishing of works viewed as wrong by the party.
"It can therefore be concluded that his violations were deliberate and systematic".
(Editing by Nick Macfie)