(BP) -The communist government of Vietnam responded angrily Sept. 20 to its designation as a country of particular concern by the U.S. State Department. In a statement issued from Hanoi , Vietnam s Ministry of Foreign Affairs described the State Departments findings on religious persecution in the Southeast Asian country as erroneous. Foreign Minister Nguyen De Nien also sent a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell to protest the decision of the United States to place Vietnam on its persecution watch list. The foreign minister was reported to have complained that the State Departments report on the deteriorating human rights situation in Vietnam was based on biased information and was an inaccurate reflection of Vietnam s actual situation. But information has poured out of Vietnam since 2001 that ethnic minority or Montagnard Christians in the Central and Northwest Highlands of the country have endured severe persecution for holding church services in homes, acts that the government claims are subversive. Several ethnic minority Christians have been beaten to death for refusing to recant their faith and divulge the identities of other Christians.