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Once inside the WTO, Hanoi recommences it’s repression of civil and religious rights

By Nguyen Hung
5/21/07 Vietnam ( — The repression of people with democratic ideals diverse from the Party recommence, with trials and arrests. The US congress has asked for the unconditional release of the condemned. Some weeks ago the president of the Bishops conference had spoken of the bishops intervention in favour of religious freedom and of the governments opposition to his nomination as bishop to Hanoi .

Once entrance to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was safely obtained at the beginning of the year, the Hanoi government has begun once again to tighten its grip on political and religious freedom, a grip it had been forced to loosen during entry negotiations. Thus the arrest of people with diverging political ideals to the Party has begun once more. As in the case of Fr Nguyen Van Ly condemned to 8 years in prison and the lawyer Nguyen Van Dai who is waiting his trial. Both are part of the so called “8406 Block”, a democratic movement which first appeared in April of last year.

404 members of US Congress have voted unanimously for resolution number 243, calling on Vietnam to unconditionally free both men along with all politic prisoners. “ Vietnam ’s government – comments an elderly Hanoi citizen – should greatly improve human rights conditions. Instead it hasn’t freed anyone, in fact its preparing other arrests”.

Christopher H. Smith, member of the US chamber of representatives told the lower house that he had sent an important message to Vietnam ’s government accusing it of seriously violating basic human rights. This is not able to acceptable, he said and should deeply shame the Vietnamese government.

Some foreign companies note that Vietnam has been admitted to the international organism for economic development but that it has failed to make itself more open to political and religious development, instead it has returned to the systematic repression of all those who “have violated Vietnamese laws”, through intimidation, arrests and penal charges. As a result many people in the country today are afraid to speak of human rights, freedom of speech or religion.

Msgr Nguyen Van Hoa, bishop of Nha Trang and president of the Nation’s bishop conference had spoken of the bishops defence of religious freedom April last. In an interview with US based “Vietcatholic News”, he had said that the bishops had brought up the question of religious freedom with the government highlighting the moral and cultural problems in relation to young people,

Msgr. Hoa the underscored that the Catholic bishops conference is the only example within Vietnamese society of an organisation that has the courage to openly face these questions with the State. He also referred to his own personal experience: “many people know that the Holy See wanted to appoint me bishop of Hamoi but that this nomination was never accepted. This is a clear example of how I had to persevere in maintaining my position.”

While criticising Fr Ly’s choice of becoming involved in politics – “a priest should work for everyone and not for one group against another” – the bishop affirmed that everyone should have the right to express their opinion regarding justice and truth in the best interest of society.