Ongoing Persecution of Vietnamese Christians

( [email protected] ) Jan 02, 2004 11:53 AM EST

WASHINGTON – The Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom reported an increasing persecution of minority Christians in Vietnam. According to the Dec. 30 statement, the highest authorities in Vietnam openly threatened to “kill all Christian leaders,” especially those living in the Lai Chau Province.

In mid December, 19 police agents destroyed Hmong Christian house churches within the province. Earlier in the year, police beat three Hmong Christians, including a 10-year-old child of a church leader sought for arrest, to death.

Nina Shea, director of Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom, said in a news release, "After the numerous incidents of persecution reported against the Hmong Christians this year -- culminating with the crackdown against their house churches and death threats against their leaders just this month - the U.S. State Department should not hesitate to designate Vietnam a 'country of particular concern' (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act."

On Dec. 4, the Center for Religious Freedom reported the arrest of Hmong leader Ma Van Bay in the Central Highlands' Binh Phuoc Province. Later reports from the region in December indicate his arrest prompted other Hmong Christian leaders in the region to go into hiding. Government officials also are reported to be threatening Central Highlands believers with death.

Additionally, on Dec. 9, police in Ho Chi Minh City reportedly staged a motorcycle "accident" in an apparent attempt to assassinate house church leader and rights activist Nguyen Hmong Quang. The attempt occurred in the city center one hour after Quang had met with U.S. State Department officer Jean Geran of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

Quang escaped serious injury and fled the scene. However, police assaulted and arrested his colleague, evangelist Pham Ngoc Thach, who was driving the motorcycle. Thach was released the next day after a small group of Christians led by Quang staged a sit-in, hunger strike and prayer vigil in the police station where he was being held.

"The fact that Rev. Quang was nearly killed in a staged 'accident' immediately after meeting with a State Department official is a sure signal of Hanoi's contempt for America's religious rights policy," Shea state. "It is time we sent the Vietnam government our own clear signal through CPC designation," she reiterated.

Over the last six years, at least 15,000 Hmong Christians have fled Vietnam's northwest provinces to the country's Central Highlands, which afforded some protection until an uprising by ethnic Montagnards in February 2001 led to a harsh government crackdown in the area.

The Freedom House news release stated, "Vietnamese troops have uprooted Hmong residents of the region without warning and without the opportunity to gather personal possessions, resettling them in barren areas of the country. Many have died as a result of the government's withholding of internationally donated medicines and vaccines.

"Vietnam recognizes two Protestant groups, but bans and persecutes other house churches. It is harshly intolerant of those who speak out for greater religious freedom," Freedom House stated.