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Washington, D.C. (January 24, 2010)–International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned of a private US embassy cable recently published by Wikileaks in which the US Ambassador to Vietnam says that the US should dismiss recent attacks against Christians in Vietnam as “land disputes.”  The ambassador’s position is yet another example of the State Department being lax in its assessment of religious persecution in Vietnam.

In the cable, US Ambassador to Vietnam, Michael Michalak, said that a recent government destruction of a crucifix in Dong Chiem does not meet the threshold of religious persecution “and should not divert our attention from the significant gains in expanding religious freedoms that Vietnam has made since the lifting of CPC designation in November 2006.” In the Dong Chiem event, Vietnamese police claim they “removed” a cross. In actuality, they used explosives to blow up the cross to make a lesson of public displays of faith. Those who protested the event were assaulted and arrested.

“The Ambassador’s cable is in contradiction to many events,” stated ICC’s Regional Manager, Logan Maurer.

  • K’pa Lot, a Montagnard Christian died on March 11, 2010, from internal bleeding after a long period of abuse and torture. He had been in prisoned since 2007 for publicly expressing his Christian faith.
  • In Con Dau, a town outside of Da Nang, on May 4, 2010, the city’s Communist Party Secretary ordered several hundred police along with hired thugs to brutally attack innocent people attending the funeral of Christian Nguyen Ba Thanh. In the ensuing arrests and interrogations, at least one Christian–Nguyễn Thành Năm– was beaten to death. Pregnant women were beaten as well, intentionally forcing miscarriages.
  • Leading up to Christmas, 2010, the Vietnamese government declared Christmas celebrations a political threat, and labeled gatherings illegal. Decorations were confiscated and destroyed while villagers were beaten.

Many events cases are not reported as Vietnamese officials have stopped labeling Christians as “religious” prisoners, and now term the offense as “political.” This alteration makes it easier to hide such prisoners from human rights and religious groups.

These events are only the latest in a long string of truly outrageous state abuses of Christians in Vietnam by the State  that have occurred in the wake of the US removing Vietnam from the  Country of Particular Concern (CPC) list in 2006. However, the US Ambassador believes the persecution of Christians is not a pressing issue. “The widespread, systematic religious persecution that existed prior to Vietnam’s designation in 2004 does not exist anymore. Post therefore recommends that the Department not re-designate Vietnam [as a Country of Particular Concern],” he said in the embassy cable.

ICC’s Regional Manager, Logan Maurer, stated, “the Wikileaks information shows us that the official US opinion of Vietnam’s progress in regard to religious freedom does not reflect reality. Instead, the Vietnamese government is once again attempting to hide its persecution, and their apparent success with US officials is discouraging. While Vietnam has made positive strides in regard to religious freedom in the lowlands, the situation in the Central Highlands remains dire for Christians where ICC has seen increasing persecution.  We urge the US and other governments to exert all influence on Vietnam, including designation as a CPC, to improve its treatment of religious minorities.”