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Center for Religious Freedom

NEWLY LEAKED DOCUMENT SHOWS LOCAL VIETNAMESE COMMUNIST PARTY ADOPTS GOVERNMENT STRATEGY TO “FIGHT RELIGION” AND “ERADICATE” PLACES OF CHRISTIAN WORSHIP

WASHINGTON , D.C. , October 28, 2005 – Vietnam officials in tribal areas vow to “fight religion” in leaked document, said Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom today.

A secret document issued earlier this year by a local Vietnamese communist party branch, and obtained by the Center, reveals an official policy of forcing Hmong Christians to give up their faith and of “eradicating” Christian meeting places.

The document, from the Muong Nhe District Party Office (Task force 184, No. 30-KH/184, in Dien Bien Province ) dated February 25, 2005, describes a comprehensive campaign by Party and government officials, in partnership with the police and military, that was scheduled to have been waged from March 2 through June 30, 2005. Because of the remoteness of the rural district, it has not yet been confirmed whether the campaign was implemented.

The document calls for “mobilizing the masses to fight and resist religion and religious belief, and eradicate places complicating public security.” These “places” are an obvious reference to Christian house churches. Cadres will “get the people to give up their religion and return to their traditional beliefs and customs… and inspect the areas not yet infiltrated with the Vang Chu [the Hmong term for God] religion so it does not “infect other places.”

Village leaders would be required to “to develop regulations and pledge forms” to be signed by those pressured to give up their faith. As the Center has reported previously, dozens of Hmong Christians have been summoned to “re-education” where they have been told to give up their faith and have been harassed, beaten, forced to drink wine until intoxicated, and to sign pledges renouncing their faith.[i]

“This document indicates that the situation in Vietnam can be summed up as repression as usual,” said Center Director Nina Shea.

This local campaign appears to be intended to carry out Plan 184, first revealed in Freedom House’s November 2000 publication Directions for Stopping Religion. It began three months after Vietnam ‘s “Ordinance on Religion” effective November 15, 2005, and three weeks after the Prime Minister issued the “Special Instructions Regarding Protestantism” decree on February 4, 2005, both of which were touted by Hanoi as liberalization of state control over religion.

The document gives no consideration to the fact that Hmong Christians are identified with the legally-recognized Evangelical Church of Vietnam (North), and that the church had issued certificates of acceptances to 981, mostly Hmong, ethnic minority congregations as of September 30, 2005. It indicates that despite Vietnam ‘s public propaganda claiming that it has changed its policy; it continues its religious repression.

In May, John Hanford, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, announced an agreement that Vietnam would release twelve prisoners of conscience, fully implement Vietnam’s November 15 legislation on religious freedom and its February 4 “Special Instruction Concerning Protestantism,” and ensure that local authorities “strictly and completely adhere to the new legislation,” especially with respect to the practice of forcing prisoners to recant their faith.

However, Vietnam ‘s repression of Protestantism has continued since the agreement. Leaders of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) continue to be harassed and detained, and there is no legal framework for the UBCV, the Hoa Hao, Cao Dai, and others to register with the government and operate independently with leaders of their own choosing. There are an estimated 100 religious prisoners in jail or under some form of house arrest for religious activity and hundreds of churches, home worship centers, and meeting places remain closed.

“While the State Department placed Vietnam on its 2004 list of ‘ <http://www.state.gov/g/drl/irf/c13281.htm> Countries of Particular Concern’ under the International Religious Freedom Act, it has not recommended any sanctions against it,” said Ms. Shea. “Instead, it has tried positive inducements for Vietnam to change its repressive ways. It is now time to implement the Act’s sanction provisions.”

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