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(Freedom House) WASHINGTON , D.C. , April 4, 2006 – Documents and information released for the first time today by Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom show that, despite its claims of liberalization, the Government of Vietnam is continuing its repression of Hmong Christians in the northwest provinces of Vietnam .

Reliable sources in Vietnam provided the Center with an official document titled The Plan on Assigning Forces to Fight and Control the Individuals Who Lead Illegal Religious Propagation, dated December 9, 2005, from Bac Quang District in Ha Giang Province. It lists the names and addresses of 22 Christian leaders being sought by local authorities.

The Center also received reports that, in certain places in the northwest provinces, Hmong Christians are denied important family registration papers if they write “Christian” in the religion space on the application form. In registration papers issued in November 2005 to Christians in Ma Sao Village, Bat Xat District, Lao Cai Province , the religion blank was marked “TLTP,” meaning “Illegal Protestant.”

In mid-March 2006, Giang A Thenh, a Hmong Christian from Vi Lau Hamlet, Trinh Tuong Commune, Bat Xat District, in Lao Cai Province , reportedly wrote to the legally-recognized Evangelical Church of Vietnam (North) in Hanoi naming officials and border guards who were threatening him in order to force him to recant his faith. When he resisted this order and refused to re-establish his ancestral altar, he was driven from his home and land.

One of those he named was Vu A Mang, the Secretary of Trinh Tuong Commune, who, he said “destroyed our house and confiscated our land for the sole reason that we did not abandon our Christian faith.” He appealed for the church’s help and asked that his petition be forwarded to the government’s central Bureau of Religious Affairs.

These reports, as well as recent events in Dien Bien Province (see Center for Religious Freedom’s October 28, 2005 and November 3, 2005 Press Releases), show that Vietnam continues to violate the Prime Minister’s February 4, 2005 “Special Instruction Regarding Protestantism” that specifically “outlawed attempts to force people to follow a religion or deny a religion.” This was also a key commitment Vietnam made in its May 2005 agreement on religion with the United States .

On March 16, U. S. Ambassador to Vietnam Michael Marine, citing reports of improvements in religious freedom, said the U.S. was considering removing the designation of Vietnam as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act.

“These reports contradict Vietnam ’s assertion that it has stopped religious repression,” said Paul Marshall, Senior Fellow at Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom. “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.”