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ICC Note: Recent attack on ethnic minority Hmong Christians in Vietnam’s northwestern highlands shows a deterioration in religious freedom. 24 recent converts were attacked by a mob, leaving four hospitalized. These types of attack have multiplied in recent years, according to rights group.

03/20/2018 Vietnam (Radio Free Asia) – An incident early this month in which 24 Hmong Christians in Vietnam’s northwestern highlands were attacked by a mob led by a village chief in a violent attempt to make the them renounce their faith underscores a deterioration in religious freedom in the communist state, critics said on Tuesday.

On March 1, 24 Hmong villagers who had recently converted to Christianity were attacked by a mob, leaving four hospitalized with injuries to their heads and arms. The attack followed warnings from local authorities that they would be expelled from the village if they did not renounce their faith, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) said in statement.

“Such attacks and acts of harassment against religious communities have multiplied recently in Vietnam, despite the introduction of the new Law on Belief and Religion in January,” VCHR said in a statement.

“The authorities are invoking the law to criminalize legitimate religious activities, creating a climate of impunity for a wide range of violations of freedom of religion or belief,” added the group

In remarks accompanying the statement on the March 1 attack, VCHR President Vo Van Ai said: “Religious persecution is a growing phenomenon” despite freedom of religion or belief being enshrined in the Vietnamese Constitution.

According to VCHR, about 300,000 of the one million Hmong in Vietnam are Christians.

“These small Christian groups in the remote highland areas are being forced to join the larger, state-registered denominations,” it said. “This is not only impractical – the churches are based in the large towns – but local Christians also object that state-registered churches have compromised on religious practices in order to obtain registration.”

“Those who do not conform to these demands risk harassment and persecution, as in the case of the Hmong,” it said.

VCHR said conditions for believers in Vietnam have worsened since the implementation in January of the Law on Belief and Religion, which requires mandatory registration and imposes tight controls on religious activities.

Groups who chose not to register under the law have become “extremely vulnerable,” it said, citing troubles faced by the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam the independent Hoa Hao group, whose members have received stiff prison terms.

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For interviews with Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org