A leaked Vietnam government memo reveals the communist country’s plan to continue cracking down on Hmong Christians, while Hanoi openly supports religious freedom, according to Freedom House.
The document titled, "The Plan on Assigning Forces to Fight and Control the Individuals Who Lead Illegal Religious Propagation," came to the Washington D.C.-based organization from "reliable sources" in Vietnam.
The oldest U.S. human rights advocacy group released the documents, Tuesday, reporting that Vietnamese security forces have not relented from its suppression of Hmong Christians in the country’s northwest provinces.
Last month, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, Michael Marine, said that the United States may remove Vietnam from its list of Country of Particular Concern, citing the release of religious prisoners and reopening of previously banned churches.
The leaked documents, if valid, contradict the Feb. 4, 2005 "Special Instruction Regarding Protestantism" by Vietnamese Prime Minister, Phan Văn Khải, which "outlawed attempts to force people to follow a religion or deny a religion" – a key agreement with the United States on religion in May 2005.
The group also reported that Hmong Christians were routinely denied essential family registration papers should they write "Christian" while filling out the religion section on their application form.
Ominously, registration papers given to Christians in Ma Sao Village, Ba Xat District, and Lao Cai Province, were marked "TLTP" or "Illegal Protestants" in the space marked religion, November 2005.
At around the same time, Freedom House released photos of Hmong Christians showing serious cuts and bruises, reportedly inflicted by Vietnamese authorities forcing them to renounce their Christian faith.
"These reports contradict Vietnam’s assertion that it has stopped religious repression," Paul Marshall, Senior Fellow at Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom, stated.
"Until Vietnam actually follows through on its promise to stop forced recantations, punishes officials who violate this commitment, and extends legal recognition to the hundreds of Hmong churches in the northwestern provinces. The State Department should resist attempts remove Vietnam from the CPC list," Marshall concluded.
Hmong Christians live in relatively remote villages in China, Vietnam, and Laos. Before their encounters with overseas missionaries, many Hmong tribesman practiced ancestral and animal worship. The Hmong, known as the "Miao" in China, is the 5th largest of 56 ethnic groups recognized in China. It is also one of 54 ethnic groups in Vietnam.