Vietnam - A report on religious freedom and petition of church leaders

FromChristian Solidarity Worldwide

 

PRESENTATION OF THE REPORT OF VIETNAM

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: ARTICLE 18 OF THE ICCPR

 

The State of Vietnam declares that its national provisions on religious freedom are in conformity with international standards. It stated in its Addendum to the Second Periodic Report (23rd April 2002), “freedom of belief and religion is respected and protected by the State of Vietnam” (paragraph 193). However, serious limitations remain on religious communities’ freedom to worship and practice their faith without restrictions. For example, destruction of church buildings, beatings and imprisonments, forced conversions and renunciations, and prohibition of public meetings are frequent.

Particularly important as well is the issue of registration, as Vietnam recognises six religions only: Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Cao Dai, and Hoa Hao. In many cases, including in Protestantism and Buddhism, the majority of believers are excluded from legal recognition. Particularly egregious abuses of Vietnam’s one million Protestants are widespread. The 7-8 million Vietnamese Christians face restrictions and harassment on a day-to-day basis from security forces and local government authorities.

Observers must be careful not to construe evidence of religious activity as religious freedom.

 

1. Legal Protections

The Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance raised a number of concerns, following his visit to Vietnam in October 1998. He recommended that the provisions of the existing legislation be put in conformity with international law. To achieve this, he stated that it would be necessary to relax or lift the limitations placed on the exercise of the right to freedom of religion or belief, and to eliminate the use of vague, imprecise expressions, in order to formulate and define clearly the conduct to be punished. These limitations still exist after the adoption of Decree No. 26/1999/ND-CP in April 1999, which has retained the most contentious aspects of the previous decree governing religious practices (Decree No. 69/HDBT). While Article 1 of Decree 26 protects the right to freedom of belief and religion, as well as the freedom not to believe or adhere to a religion, the subsequent provisions undermine this protection. Even the minimum guarantees in Article 1 are not adhered to in practice.

Of particular concern is article 5 of the Decree, which catalogues a number of activities, including “superstitious activities” which are punishable by law. Such activities range from “all activities using religious belief in order to oppose the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” to activities that “go against the healthy culture of our nation”. The ambiguously worded decree leaves a wide margin for interpretation and grants both the local authorities and security services implementing the policies remarkable powers in determining the legality of religious activities. Rather than affording protection for religious freedom, repression and religious restrictions are justified by the claim that the activities are in breach of Decree 26.

Article 70 of the 1992 Constitution is equally ambiguous. Whilst it does recognise freedom of religion, it also states “no-one can misuse beliefs or religion to violate the law”. As the government continually denies granting legal recognition to church organisations, most churches are thus engaged in “criminal activities”. 

 

2. Persecution against Protestant Groups

Although there is overlap and significant relationship among these groups, it is helpful to consider the Protestant movement as having four major branches. These are, (1) the Evangelical Church of Vietnam - ECVN North and ECVN South, (2) the House Church movement made up of many organisations, (3) the Montagnard Protestant churches in the four provinces of the Western Highlands, and (4) the Hmong movement in Vietnam’s northwest provinces.

 

1 (a). The ECVN (North)

The small ECVN (North) church has had legal recognition since 1958. However, it is facing opposition since the authorities are still seeking to secure effective control over the movement. In a petition to the authorities dated May 7th 2002 (see first annex), the leaders of the church raised the fact that they have been prevented from holding their annual General Assembly (for conducting business and spiritual edification) since 1988. In consequence, the life and work of the church have encountered many serious difficulties. The leaders of the church also point to the fact that they have had complications in appointing a provisional leader for their executive committee. In a letter dated August 27th 2001, the National Bureau of Religious Affairs announced that it did not accept the results of the meeting of the executive committee of the church held on August 8th. Therefore, the normal work and the specific problems of the church cannot be dealt with. Finally, the petitioners mention in their petition that the church organisation had a church building constructed 70 years ago, in the city of Vinh, Nghe An Province. For a number of years, the building had been occupied, and the central government had consistently refused to return the church to the congregation, despite many petitions and negotiations. Eventually, on April 17th 2002, the church building was completely destroyed. A statement from the congregation comments, “ Our church building in the city of Vinh had withstood two horrible wars without a scratch, but it was destroyed, razed, at a time when our country has peace, independence and freedom”

The senior pastor of the main Hanoi congregation is named in a communist document as a “bad element”. He has been charged and fined for various infractions, so as to make him “criminal” and ineligible to run for church office. The northern church is not permitted to run a seminary, print necessary materials and others essentials rights. It has been forbidden to relate to the Christian Hmong community to which it has proximity and affinity.

 

1 (b). The ECVN (South)

A major development on the Protestant front was the government’s granting of legal recognition to the ECVN (South) in April 2001. Though potentially hopeful, this move has not so far resulted in any expanded freedoms. Leaders have already realised they will have to continue to do quietly the things they learned to do during the 25 years the church did not enjoy legal recognition. At the same time, they are trying to obtain new freedoms from the authorities. In particular, the ECVN (South) is allowed no effective relationship over the churches in the Central Highlands to which it is historically related. There have been no breakthroughs in terms of the church’s first priority, the establishment of a theological training school. Therefore, the church is forced to continue underground training. No confiscated church properties have been returned, and no permissions have been granted for producing Christian literature. In addition, leaders have not felt free to officially attend international Christian events to which they have been invited.

Under the arrangements for the legal recognition of the ECVN (South), each province is to have a small “provincial representative committee” made up to two or three pastors appointed by the church.  In reality the provincial Bureau of Religious Affairs is installing these committees province by province. The bureau has vetoed a number of the churches’ appointments and installed such committees for only a third of the provinces.

The ECVN (South) tried to exercise its historical relationship with the Montagnard churches by the appointment of 158 “functional pastors”, a clear provision of the new church constitution. Pastor Chau Van Hong testifies that on May 6th 2002, the district security police searched his house and confiscated 273 Christian books and Bibles, claiming that he was “storing literature which has the purpose of resisting and overthrowing the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”. The Pastor was summoned by the police to discuss five points in violation of Decree 26: his ordination as a functional pastor by the national church body (along with a class of 158 students), his performance of religious ceremonies, his family and his neighbours worshipping the Lord, having and storing Christian literature, and selling a video-cassette called “The Life of Christ” (in violation of Decree 31). This case demonstrates how Decree 26 is used to “prevent and prohibit” and to repress religious activities rather than promote religious freedom (see second annex).

 

2. The House Churches

The entire house church movement, which numbers around 250,000, in 30 separate organizations, is still considered illegal, although its existence and activities are well known to the authorities. Mr Nguyen Chinh, the former Deputy Director of the central Bureau of Religious Affairs, and now a special advisor to the Prime Minister, has recently engaged house church leaders in a dialogue, and holds out hope that they could receive legal recognition. He has distributed a survey form to house church leaders, soliciting information. Church leaders, who have long experience of harassment and betrayal, remain understandably dubious. Authorities randomly raid house church meetings. Charges are written up, people are mistreated, materials are seized and fines are levied, all on the grounds that all house church activity is illegal.

It is not only for “meeting illegally” or “following religion illegally,” that house churches suffer official abuse, but also for helping the poor and challenging injustice. On August 17th 2001, house church leader Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and his colleagues were arrested, questioned and mistreated for running a day school for very poor children in Ho Chi Minh City. 

In a petition to the authorities dated April 2002, members of the Baptist General Conference house church organisation, testified: “On 20/03/2002 and on 31/03/2002 the cadre of Dak La Commune, Dak Ha District called meetings in Dak R Chak Village (Hamlet 10) to discuss the matter of Mr Quang and his wife Y Thet being Protestants and how to force them to give up their faith”. The couple were beaten and their house damaged. Villagers in Dak R Chak Village were incited to beat, and damage the motorbike of, Pastor Dinh Van Truc (of the Hre ethnic minority) whenever they saw him come to visit the family of Quang and Y Thet. Pastor Dinh was severely beaten, fearing for his life. During the two meetings in March, some of the officials became abusive and tried to force Quang and Y Thet to give up their faith. In the second meeting, they were again beaten for following the Protestant faith. They were told that if they persisted, they would no longer “enjoy the protection afforded by the law”.

 

3. The Montagnard Churches in the Central Highlands

Highland minority Christians, numbering some 500,000, are the largest Christian group in Vietnam. Considered illegal since 1975, they are suffering a wave of oppression and persecution that has driven hundreds to neighbouring Cambodia and hundreds more have fled their homes to the forests in Vietnam. Denied effective association with the ECVN (South), the future remains bleak for tribal Christians. A favourite method of attacking Christians is to try to force them to give up their faith, and a ceremony called “Repenting of Following Christianity” has recently been widely used in Dak Lak Province.

On March 2nd 2002, Cambodian forces forcibly repatriated 63 predominantly Christian Montagnards from Vietnam who were seeking asylum in Cambodia. They also repatriated 61 refugees from a UNHCR camp who reportedly had “volunteered” for return. But Cambodian and Vietnamese authorities refused to allow the UNHCR any role, thereby rendering null and void an agreement they had signed on January 21st. In its Concluding Comments on Vietnam (August 15th 2001), the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged “the State party to protect the rights of all refugees in Vietnam, including the rights of Vietnamese repatriated from Cambodia” (paragraph 419). However, late last year, more than a dozen Montagnards in Vietnam, received harsh prison sentences for allegedly leading demonstrations or arranging for others to flee to Cambodia. Authorities relentlessly interrogated Christian leaders and organised meetings at which Christians were told to sign affidavits renouncing their faith. Christians have also reported a significant number of disappearances.

 

4. The Hmong Movement

For years Hmong have been sending petitions to Vietnam’s authorities asking for freedom to follow Christianity based on constitutional guarantees of religious freedom. Official replies deny their requests. Hmong Christians are sometimes forced to participate in the destruction of their own homes if they refuse to recant their faith. Hmong continue to flee into the forest and to Dak Lak province.

Anti-Christian measures were revealed in top-secret government documents, published in July 2001. Some 50 pages of Party and Government documents on the anti-Christian campaign in Bao Thang and Bac Ha districts in Lao Cai Province have been published. They establish that a special bureaucratic infrastructure is operating to “deal severely with anyone who has illegal beliefs”, “restrict to the lowest possible limit any prayer meetings” and to “stop any new manifestations of religion which recently appeared illegally”.

One document is a “Bulletin” of the Communist Party of Vietnam of Bao Thang District.  It is stamped ‘secret’ and is signed by the district’s Deputy Party Secretary, Mr Truong Kim Minh. The document outlines the steps for an expansion phase (called 03-BCD) of Plan 184. It is a comprehensive national plan for dealing with the Christian phenomena that includes directing harsh measures against minority believers, including the Hmong, to force them to abandon the Christian faith. Authorities arbitrarily decided that the Christian movement is illegal for these groups because Christianity came to the region recently.

In summary, the Bulletin instructs officials not to allow the spread of Christianity from the Hmong to other minority groups and to “step by step, reduce the number of villages, families and individuals who follow Christianity illegally”. The method is to organize seminars for the Christians, during which they are enjoined “to sign pledges to follow their traditional customs and beliefs and to resist the useless, socially deplorable, out-dated, backward and confused people who follow Christianity illegally”. They are to be educated “to tell right from wrong so that of their own volition they will abandon their religion”.

A prisoner list of 12 Hmong pastors, updated on May 30th 2002, is attached (see third annex). However, due to secrecy and tight security, it is difficult to obtain accurate information or data on prisoners. The Hmong, who make up a quarter of Vietnam’s Evangelicals, are completely denied the right of religious freedom.

 

3. Conclusions and Recommendations

Vietnam’s public pronouncements indicate that the authorities consider that they can cover up religious human rights abuses by persistent disinformation and denial. However, consistent credible information emerging from Vietnam proves that religious freedom is not truly protected. It is impossible for Vietnam to legitimately speak of having freedom of religion when normal religious practice is not only outlawed, but official practice allows and supports harsh, extra-judicial measures to get Christians to abandon their faith.

Vietnamese authorities should be reminded that the religious communities do not enjoy freedom of religion, as supposedly guaranteed by the Vietnamese constitution, partly because Vietnam’s laws do not support religious freedom as provided for in international standards. The present system is entirely inadequate for ensuring that Vietnam meets its international obligations to respect religious freedom. Minor amendments and new decrees are insufficient to ensure protection of religious freedom. A new law on religious freedom, drafted in accordance with Article 18 of the ICCPR, is required to make progress towards the immense and necessary changes required to bring law and practice into line with Vietnam’s international obligations.

 

4. Summary

Specific issues which need to be addressed regarding religious freedom for Protestants in Vietnam can be summarised as follows:

ECVN North

-refusal to allow the general assembly to be held since 1988

-denial by the authorities of the result of the meeting of the church / difficulties in appointing a provisional leader for the executive committee

-destruction of the church building in Vinh

-prevention of the senior pastor of the main Hanoi congregation running for church office

-prohibition on running a seminary and printing necessary materials

ECVN South

-prohibition on having any relationship with the churches in the Central Highlands

-refusal to establish a theological school

-confiscated church properties have not been returned

-no permissions have been granted for producing Christian literature

-leaders have not been allowed to attend international Christian events

-the Bureau of Religious Affairs has vetoed a number of the churches’ appointments, and has installed provincial representative committees in only a third of the provinces

-273 Bibles and Christian books have been confiscated at the house of Pastor Chau Van Hong

House Churches Movement

-meetings are raided

-arrest, questioning and mistreatment of Pastor Quang for running a day school for poor children

-mistreatment of Pastor Dinh Van Truc

-mistreatment and coercion to convert Mr Quang and his wife Y Thet

Montagnard Churches

-prohibition on associating with the ECVN South

-Christians forced to renounce to their faith, by organised ceremonies to repent from Christianity, recently used in Dak Lak province

-mistreatment of Christians who flee to Cambodia and are then repatriated to Vietnam

-disappearances of Christians

Hmong movement

-official policy in trying to eradicate Christianity, including directing harsh measures against minority believers, reducing the number of villages, families and individuals who follow Christianity, organising seminars for Christians where they are to sign affidavits renouncing their faith.

 

 

FIRST ANNEX 

 

SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM

Independence  - Freedom  - Happiness

Evangelical Church of Vietnam - Northern Region

 2 Ngo Tram Steet, Hanoi

Hanoi, May 7, 2002

PETITION

To: Mr. Phan Van Khai, Prime Minister:

Cc: - Mr Truong Quang Duoc, Director of the Policy Committee of the Central Committee of Communist Party of Vietnam           

- National Bureau of Religious Affairs

Dear Prime Minister, honourable sirs and government committees,

We, the ordained pastors, evangelists, and members of the executive committee of the Evangelical Church of Vietnam – Northern Region (ECVN – North), would like to respectfully report to you, Prime Minister, honourable sirs and committees, the following:

1)      Because of the historical circumstances of our country, the General Assembly of the ECVN (North) was established on 19 March 1955.  For many years thereafter we enjoyed the attention and help of the government, especially during the time when Ho Chi Minh was alive and many favourable requirements were provided for the churches’ activity.  The ECVN (North) was accepted as one of the four main religions of Vietnam, and the constitution and by-laws of the ECVN (North) were approved by the government in 1963.  All church leaders and ordinary Christian members of our church body have strictly adhered to the churches constitution and laws of the land, and have positively contributed to the common cause of our nation in times past as well as the present, “Worshipping God and loving people”.  With our fellow citizens we contribute to building the nation so that “Citizens will be prosperous, the nation strong, our society just and educated”. These are the heart’s desires of the Vietnamese citizens who follow the Evangelical Protestant Faith in general, and those of us who are responsible for the administration of the ECVN (North) in particular.

In spite of this, from 1988 until now the life and work of the ECVN (North) have encountered many severe hardships because we have not been allowed to convene our annual General Assembly (for conducting business and spiritual edification) according to the constitution of the ECVN (North) – particularly since the top leaders of the church have passed away. The Rev. Bui Hoanh Thu, Vice President and General Secretary, died in 8/96 and the Rev. Hoang Kim Phuc in 7/01. 

While our church was still in mourning after the funeral ceremony for our president, the Rev. Hoang Kim Phuc, Mr Nguyen Thanh Xuan (deputy head of the Bureau of Religious Affairs) urgently instructed the executive committee of the General Assembly, and three pastors to meet the Bureau of Religious Affairs at 6:00 PM on July 24, 2001, and directed us, “Concerning your leadership personnel, act according to your constitution and call a meeting of your executive committee and elect somebody to serve as provisional leader, temporarily in charge of the church”. 

 According to that spirit, the four remaining members of our executive committee (the oldest is 96) met and elected Pastor Ly Tien Luu, 53 years of age (the youngest and only remaining ordained pastor of the executive committee to be the officer in charge) and, along with the support of the rest of the executive committee members and pastors and evangelists of the church, to take care of the regular business of the church and to prepare for the 32nd General Assembly of the ECVN (North). 

 Then, for reasons that are not at all clear, the National Bureau of Religious Affairs wrote a letter, number 510, dated 27 August 2001, announcing that it did not accept the results of the meeting of the executive committee of the church held on 8 August 2001. They rejected the results of a legal meeting of our church leadership. This renders the executive committee of our church being unable to administer the affairs of local congregations and in other work of the church, we have experienced long delays. (For example, in the beginning of August 2001, our General Assembly office received a petition from 120 members of the Hai Phong church. A team of five, including members of the executive committee and pastors and evangelists, was appointed by the General Assembly to go to solve the problem.  This team was detained by local authorities who summoned them to the office of the peoples committee in Trai Cau, Le Chan District, Hai Phong Province, and wrote up charges against them and prevented them from doing what the General Assembly office had asked them to do.)  And so, if we of the leadership committee of the ECVN (North) are not recognized, the normal work and the special problems of our church that come up cannot be dealt with.  So how can our church organization carry out its religious and social responsibilities, and how can we prepare for the 32nd General Assembly of our church according to the wishes of the government?  

2)         In the city of Vinh, Nghe An Province, our church organization had a church building constructed 70 years ago.  However, because of the circumstances of war the Christians had to flee.  When they returned they found that their church building had been occupied by some agencies – an office for local officials, a warehouse for medical supplies, etc.  During the last decade, the Christians of Vinh have established a reasonably secure life and livelihood, and would very much like to have their church building returned in order to normalize their spiritual lives according to the teaching of the Word of God, and the laws of the nation.  Our central ECVN (North) office and the congregation at Nghe An have sent many petitions to the central government and to local officials asking that the building be returned to the Nghe An congregation, but it has not.

             On 17 April 2002 we became alarmed when we heard that the church building which was in complete and whole condition, had been destroyed. The site in not just a vacant lot!  Our church building in the city of Vinh had withstood two horrible wars without a scratch, but it was destroyed, razed, at a time when our country has peace, independence and freedom. 

 This is a serious spiritual attack on the congregation of Vinh and the believers of Vietnam in general, and at the same time a clear violation of the constitution and the laws of the Vietnamese nation.

 We urgently request that you, Prime Minister, and competent authorities quickly investigate and reconstruct a church for the congregation in Vinh, so that they will have a place to worship. 

We take this opportunity to request you, Prime Minister, to also allow us to reconstruct the church in Thanh Hoa which has long been in bad condition, so that the local congregation will have a place to worship – according to the provisions of the laws of our nation. 

 3)      All of us leaders (ordained pastors and evangelists) are very concerned about the long-term welfare of the ECVN (North). From 1988 until 1993, the government granted us permission to train only one class of pastors and evangelists (15 students) to give leadership to the congregations of the ECVN (North) in the future.

When they finished their course in June 1993, although they were assigned to positions by the ECVN (North) leaders in various churches, until now the majority of them have not been allowed to accept their positions, such as Evangelist Ly Tien Luu (Lang Son Province), Evangelist Nguyen Huu Mac (Thai Binh Province), Evangelist Nguyen Duc Dong (Hanoi City), and Evangelist Hao Xuan Truc (Nghe An Province). 

In recent years the government has given permission to our church organization to repair two damaged church buildings (the So Thuong Church In Hanoi and the Phuc Yen Church in Vinh Phuc Province). The repairs were completed six years ago but until now no activities could be started in these churches because we are not allowed to assign a pastor to provide leadership. In Hai Phong City, Pastor Bui Van Trieu was for many years prevented from serving.  Our church has requested government authorities to restore this pastor to service, but this has not been approved. And the result is that many complications arose at this church location, because there is no pastoral leadership.  We respectfully ask that you, Prime Minster, look into the matter of ordaining and assigning pastors.  We still suffer from a serious shortage of pastors in our churches.

             Above are some of the most urgent problems of the ECVN (North).  We hope that you, Prime Minister, and the relevant leaders and government departments will look into and solve these problems.  We ask this in order that the activities and the organization of the ECVN (North) may soon be made more secure, so we can resume normal activities and meet the spiritual and morale needs of citizens who have religious faith, and at the same time provide encouragement for them to be good citizens of Vietnam, with the nation and with the people.

 THE EVANGELICAL CHURCH OF VIETNAM (NORTH)

Ordained pastors, evangelists, and members of the Executive Committee of the General Assembly

Signed,

Dao Ngoc Hue, Ly Tien Luu, Vu Quang Huyen, Nguyen Gia Huan, Hoang Van Luan, Bui Van Nghia, Bui Van San, Bui Van Trieu, Le Khuc Duoc, Nguyen Huu Mac, Au Quang Vinh, Hoa Xuan Truc, Phung Quang Huyen,Nguyen Duc Dong

 

 

 

 

 

THE EVANGELICAL CHURCH OF VIETNAM

EVANGELICAL CHURCH OF NGHE AN

 

Nghe An, 25 April 2002
A REPORT OF THE NGHE AN CHURCH

To:            Executive Committee of the ECVN (North)

Cc:       All pastors, evangelists and elders committees of all churches of the Lord in Vietnam

             On behalf of the Church at Nghe An we respectfully report to the General Assembly an urgent problems, as follows: 

             The Nghe An Church was established in 1927. The church building was constructed in 1936, with the contributions of local believers.  The church was constructed of bricks and tile and has lasted nearly 70 years, and it has withstood two wars – against the French and the Americans- and remained in original condition, without a scratch.  The church was located in the Truong Thi ward of the city.  After the war stopped in 1954, and the pastor was killed, his wife and children tried to return to the church but it had been confiscated for use by ward officials, and so they would not let Mrs. Tien nor her children stay there for security reasons.  Even though Mrs. Tien was a war widow, she had to go to another place.  In 1964 with the war against the Americans underway, the city again became a war zone, and the church was used as a warehouse for medical supplies until 1987 when it was used by the Red Cross.  Everyone in the city knew that the building was a Protestant Church.  In the front of the church was a sign saying “Protestant Church”, but government officials painted the Red Cross sign over it in 1987.

             The national churches General Assembly leaders began relating with Nghe An officials in 1991.  In 1993 the national church office began sending paperwork about this matter to both the central government and Nghe An province, and the Nghe An congregation also sent petitions to various government offices from the central to the local levels.

             From 1993 until 2002, both the national church office and our congregation sent letters asking for the return of our church to have a place to meet and worship the Lord.

             It is highly regrettable that we had not a single reply to these requests.  The whole time our congregation and the national church headquarters maintained faith in the religious policies of our government.  We hoped that some day the government authorities in Nghe An would restore our church building to us. 

             While we were waiting, on 17 April 2002, the government officials of Vinh city issued an order for Truong Thi ward to tear down our church, and then people hauled off the bricks and tiles to use in other places in the ward.  It was extremely painful for us to find this out as our church had survived two terrible wars, and now our country was at peace, secure and our church is destroyed.  Those of us who are Christian believers are shocked and those who live in the area where this happened, and witnessed it, are very angry.  In this place government officials give no consideration to the needs of people of religious faith, and they do not implement the religious policies announced by our government.  Every citizen is supposed to enjoy religious freedom, and places of worship are the sacred property of religious organizations, and so why is it that government authorities break the law, destroy the church and give us no reason whatsoever. 

            Our church respectfully reports this news to you esteemed leaders and to all the churches, so that you will pray concerning the problem of the church destroyed in Vinh city.  We pray that the Lord will have mercy on us and help us to overcome this tragedy.

 On behalf of the Nghe An Church

 Evangelist Hao Xuan Truc 

X  - signed

 

 

SECOND ANNEX

 

Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Independence – Freedom – Happiness

 

Evangelical Church of Vietnam

Eakar Church – Dak Lak

P.O. Box 55, Krong Pak

Phone 050 523 870

Dak Lak

22 June 2002

To:            (recipient omitted in this translation)

Re:       To report the activities of Krong Pak District authorities against our ministry.

Dear friends,

On behalf of the Christians in our church, we respectfully send to you our greetings and love in the name of our Saviour Jesus. May our Lord bless you abundantly.

We send you this letter to explain to you hardship we are experiencing in the work of the Lord, and I personally am experiencing, at the hands of government officials, as follows:

On May 6, 2002 at 18:20 hours, at a time when I was seriously ill in the hospital in Khanh Hoa, and my son went to the district hospital to visit a Christian who had been hurt in an accident, authorities of Krong Pak District, Dak Lak, came to my house.  Their names are:

Nguyen Tan Chuc                Deputy secretary of the district

Ho Trung Chinh               District chief of security police

Ngo Quoc Viet             Deputy commander of district military unit

Pham Van Trac                        District security police investigator

Dang Quang Sang                 District security police official

Ho Van Lung                            Chief security of police of Krong Buk Commune

Nguyen Q. Tri                          Legal representative of Krong Buk Commune.  

Nguyen Tan Hung                District security police

Truong Van Phuoc               Security policeman     

Vo Ta Ha                                 Witness

To came to serve and urgent search warrant issued by the district security police, number 01/6.5.2002 about the violation of “Storing literature that has the purpose of resisting and overthrowing the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”.

Although we were not home, the district security police implemented the search and confiscated 273 Christian books and Bibles (according to the record of the police on file in the district office).  When I returned home at 20:00 hours, it was all over already.  The police had left a record of their visit signed by the people listed above, and there was nobody at home.

Until 13 May 2002, the police summoned us for investigation to the security office of the public security police in Krong Pak District to be interrogated by Le Duy Dung, Dang Phuong and To Van Thang.  Here the district security police discussed five items.

1)                  About my ordination as a functional pastor by the national church body, along with a class of 158 students – this is said to be a violation of Decree No. 26.

2)                  About stopping me from performing religious ceremonies, because performing such ceremonies is a violation of the government Decree on Religion No. 26.

3)                  About my family and my neighbours worshipping the Lord – this is a violation of Decree No. 26.

4)                  About having and storing Christian literature and Bibles that the security police confiscated - this is a violation of governmental Decree No. 26 and Decree No. 31.

5)                  About selling a videocassette called “The Life of Christ” which had an official stamp of the Ministry of Information.  But as I had no business license I was said to be in violation of governmental Decree No. 31.

During many sessions of interrogation the security police pressured me to write a confession for the five infractions above which violated Decrees No 26 and 31 and the constitution of the Evangelical Church of Vietnam (South).  But I wrote that the five things I was accused of were not wrong, but legal.  This made the police feel I was resisting them so they shouted many very threatening injurious words at me.

Until 18 June 2002, the security police continuously summoned me for interrogation, and pressured me to admit the five violations above.  But I refused to admit that I had broken any laws.  They pressured me to sign an agreement that I would no longer do the five things listed in the charges.  I was unwilling to sign such an agreement, because if I did I would be admitting that I had violated these things in the past.  And so, because of this, they made me sit there from 8:00 to 11:00 AM and from 1:30 to 4:30 PM every day until I would agree to admit my law breaking and sign. Because they pressured me beyond my ability to resist, I fainted on the floor of the interrogation room. Then the security police took me by Honda to the district hospital.

We respectfully ask you, ________, to look at the five charges levied against me and tell me if you think I am a counter-revolutionary fighting against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and am guilty of violating the constitution of the Evangelical Church of Vietnam, in order to help us in a time of hardship, and so that you will pray that the Lord will give us strength and wisdom to withstand the terrible pressure of the government and the police.

We respectfully thank you and pray the God will grant you blessings and spiritual strength.

Most sincerely,

(signed) Pastor Chau Van Hong. 

 

 

 

THIRD ANNEX

IMPRISONED EVANGELICAL PASTORS IN NORTHERN VIETNAM

 

(Updated May 30th, 2002)

1-                 VANG SUA GIANG: Chong Chay hamlet, Tham Mu village, Yen Minh district, Ha Giang province. He has been in Thanh Ha prison, Phuc Yen province since 8/00.

2-                 SUNG SEO SI:  Bac Quang district, Ha Giang province. Has been in Thanh Ha prison, Phuc Yen province since 16/3/01. He has 8 children, from 3 to 20 years old.

     3-                 SUNG SEO SANG:  Bac Quang district, Ha Giang province. Has been in Thanh Ha prison, Phuc Yen   province since 16/3/01. He has 4 children, from 2 to 12 years old.

4-                 LY A HU:  Huoi Chan hamlet, Ang To village, Tuan Giao district, Lai Chau province. Arrested in 9/98 and has been sentenced for 7 years in Thai Nguyen province prison. He has 5 children, from 5 to 16 years old.  His wife is reported to have mental problem since he was been imprisoned.

5-                 THAO SEO CHONG:  Lang Ma village, Xin Man district, Ha Giang province. Arrested in 3/01 and has been in Thanh Ha prison, Phuc Yen province. He has 3 children, from 1 to 3 years old.

      6-         THAO SEO SAO:   -Same as above -  He has 8 children, from 1 to 21 years old.

       7-         SUNG A CHOA:  Lam Phong village, Xin Man district, Ha Giang province. In Thanh Ha prison, Phuc Yen province since 8/00. He has 8 children, from 2 to 21 years old.

 8-                 MA SEO PHU: Yen Minh district, Ha Giang province. Arrested 12/01 and now in Thanh Ha prison, Phuc Yen province.

       9-         VANG SEO SENH:  -Same as above-

 10-      LU A CHUNG:  Khan Ha village, Phong Tho district, Lai Chau province. Arrested on 26/12/01 and now in Lao Cai province prison.

       11-      PHAN PHU THIN: Hoi Lech village, Muong Te district, Lai Chau province. Arrested on 27/12/01 and now in Lai Chau province prison. Pastor of the Dao tribe.

 12-       CHAU QUAY PHAN:   -Same as above-

 

Available from: http://www.csw.org.uk/vietnamreligfree.htm