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02/21/2020 Vietnam (International Christian Concern) – On February 19, Human Rights Watch (HRW) submitted recommendations to the EU, asking the entity to focus on five priority areas regarding the dire human rights situation in Vietnam, during the 9th European Union-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue, held in Hanoi the same day.

The five areas include, 1) political prisoners and detainees; 2) repression of freedom of speech, association, assembly and movement; 3) repression of freedom of information; 4) repression of the right to freely practice religion; and 5) police brutality.

HRW reports that the Vietnamese government restricts religious practice through legislation, registration requirements, harassment, and surveillance. Religious groups are required to gain approval from and register with the government as well as operate under government-controlled management boards.

While authorities allow many government-affiliated churches and pagodas to hold worship services, they ban religious activities they arbitrarily deem contrary to the “national interest,” “public order,” or “national unity.” The government labels Dega Protestant, Ha Mon Catholic, Falun Gong and a few other religious groups as ta dao (evil religion).

Unrecognized independent religious groups face constant surveillance, harassment, and intimidation, and their followers are subject to public criticism, forced renunciation of faith, detention, interrogation, torture, and imprisonment.

HRW mentioned how Father Nguyen Dinh Thuc has been prevented by the police to conduct Mass since last August, and continued to be harassed as recent as last month in Ho Chi Minh City.

The mostly-Christian Montagnards ethnic group in the Central Highlands are subjected to constant surveillance and other forms of intimidation, public criticism, arbitrary arrest, and mistreatment in security force custody. In March 2019, a court in Gia Lai province put Ksor Ruk on trial for following an unrecognized Dega Protestant sect and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. Ksor Ruk served a six-year prison sentence between 2005-2011 for the same violation.
In August, Rah Lan Hip was convicted by the same court to seven years in prison, also for being involved with Dega Protestantism.

HRW recommends that the EU should publicly and privately call on the Vietnamese government to take appropriate measures, such as stopping persecution against religious minorities, and ensuring all domestic legislation addressing religious affairs is brought into conformity with international human rights law, in order to uphold religious freedom in the country.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].