Update on Prominent Vietnam Dissidents Still Detained Amid Crackdown On Christians
By Stefan J. Bos,
2/5/07 Vietnam (BosNewsLife) A group of activists, including Lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, a founder of Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam and Lawyer Le Thi Cong Nhan, a spokesperson for The Progressive Party, were detained early Sunday, February 4 along with Engineer Bach Ngoc Duong or the Vietnam Human Rights Committee.
Most detainees were later released but it was believed that the three pro-democracy were still behind cars at a police station in Hanoi . The arrests have been linked to their involvement in demanding more political, religious and other legal rights in the Communist-run nation but official charges were yet filed, activists said.
“To protest the “abusive oppression and illegal arrest,” the lawyers began a hunger strike,” said Cong Thanh Do, better known as Tran Nam, a co-founder of the anti-government Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“Attorney Le Thi Cong Nhan, Engineer Bach Ngoc Duong and Attorney Nguyen Van Dai were still being interrogated at the Bui Thi Xuan police station. In her case, Le Thi Cong Nhan did not have an opportunity to visit the toilet in two days since her arrest” on February 4, said dissidents of the International Movement for Democracy and Human Rights in Vietnam .
Since their detention, police also conducted “an illegal search” at lawyer Nguyen Van Dai s office, seizing his computer and “many personal documents,” Nam added.
It came shortly after the government began to crackdown “hard on dissidents who raised their voices asking the government for more tolerance on human rights. Last week, security forces arrested “Mr. Nguyen Phong, a leading member of The Progressive Party,” he said.
Phong was apparently released three days later and forced to return to Hue city, his original residence, away from his working place in Ho Chi Minh City , also known as Saigon .
In August last year, authorities also arrested other leading members of the People’s Democratic Party, including “Dr. Le Nguyen Sang, Journalist Huynh Nguyen Dao and Mr. Le Trung Hieu,” Nam said. There whereabouts were not immediately clear Monday, February 6.
In addition, authorities detained last month Tran Quoc Hien, a spokesperson of a newly formed organization, the United Workers-Farmers Organization of Viet Nam (UWFO), Nam reported. “Since his January 12 detention, Hien has remained “incarcerated in prison
Seven other pro-democracy activists have been held in Ho Chi Minh City and nearby Dong Nai prison since November 2006, according to fellow dissidents. The arrests came as authorities are carrying out a policy of banning groups not recognized by the government, including parties and non recognized churches.
The Communist authorities have “intensified their terrorizing suppression on religious leaders and their families such as staging [a recent] hit-and-run accident on Mennonite [Pastor] Nguyen Cong Chinh’s 4-year-old son. They have destroyed two times Mennonite Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang’s private residence which has been also used as his small modest chapel,” said the International Movement for Democracy and Human Rights in Vietnam .
There were also reports that Christian schools, including Mai Khoi elementary school in Hue , religious monasteries, social services agencies and “many other Church-owned properties,” in Nha Trang and other provinces across the nation have been nationalized.
“In northern Vietnam , they [recently also] kicked [missionary] Thich Thien Man out of his pagoda. In Nha Trang, they confiscated people’s private land and immediately rented it out to fisheries companies,” claimed the International Movement for Democracy and Human Rights in Vietnam .
Authorities also crackdown on the Buddhist Hoa Hao Church and missionaries by setting up alternative ‘churches’, the group added. With reports of ongoing persecution of dissidents, including Christians, and other human rights activists, it has questioned the sincerity of last month’s historic meeting between Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican .
Vietnam ‘s government has denied human rights abuses. The United States removed Vietnam from its list of “Countries of Particular Concern” regarding religious rights abuses, a move that has angered human rights groups and several Christian leaders.