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(ANS) – Two months after Prime Minister Phan Van Khai banned religious persecution, local authorities in northern and central Vietnam are still exerting heavy-handed pressure on Protestants to renounce their faith, Protestants from both regions have told Radio Free Asia’s Vietnamese service. In separate interviews, Protestants from Lao-Kai, Thai Binh, and Gia Lai provinces have described incidents in which local officials either harassed or assaulted church members or failed to intervene when others did so, according to a story monitored by ASSIST News Service (ANS). An article with original reporting by Viet-Hung for RFA’s Vietnamese service, written and produced for the Web by Sarah Jackson-Han, says local authorities interviewed by RFA reporters denied that any beatings had occurred, and the Vietnamese central government rejects allegations that it sanctions harassment or persecution based on religious beliefs. The article says Prime Minister Khai’s order instructed officials to “ensure that each citizen’s freedom of religious and belief practice is observed [and] outlaw attempts to force people to follow a religion or to deny their religion.” It claims that the New York-based Human Rights Watch said while registration requirements are looser, only churches that have conducted “pure religious activities” since 1975 can register for official authorization — eliminating Montagnard house churches in the Central Highlands, most of which started up in the late 1980s and early 90s.

To read the full story, click here: VIETNAMESE PROTESTANTS REPORT ABUSE, DESPITE PREMIER’S ORDER