Vietnam Cracks Down on Unsanctioned Hoa Hao, Cao Dai Religious Groups
Authorities in Vietnam have cracked down on two unrecognized churches in recent
days, according to worshippers who said they were harassed, forbidden from
holding religious services and had assets seized by the state.
Secretary general of the Interfaith Council of
Vietnam Le Quang Hien, who is a follower of Hoa Hao Buddhism, told RFA’s
Vietnamese Service Friday that authorities had recently blocked his sect’s
preparations to mark the March 22 anniversary of founder Huynh Phu So’s death.
“About 10 days before the anniversary, one
person claiming to be police captain Viet of the An Giang provincial police told
us that there was an order from above forbidding us to hold the ceremony,” Hien
“Additionally, on March 18, Ha Van Duy Ho
[another follower] was told by the Nhon My village authorities to visit their
office for a talk and ordered him not to organize a ceremony or else they would
take measures against him.”
According to Hien, Hoa Hao followers voiced
their frustration by holding a sit-in at their homes while holding banners that
read, “Protest the order of Vietnam’s Communist Party.”
“Some followers still held a ceremony [on March
22 to mark the founder’s death] at their homes, but local authorities deployed
security personnel to confiscate the banners they displayed,” Hien said.
Rights groups say that authorities in An Giang
routinely harass followers of unapproved Hoa Hao groups, prohibiting public
readings of Huynh Phu So’s writings and discouraging worshipers from visiting
Hoa Hao pagodas in An Giang and other provinces.
Cao Dai church
Authorities also disrupted a group of
unsanctioned Cao Dai adherents in Dong Thap province’s Tam Nong district in
recent days and seized their church for use by an officially recognized sect of
the religion, according to the building’s administrator Duong Ngoc Re.
Re told RFA that provincial and district
authorities, as well as those from local Phu Thanh A village, ordered him to
meet with them twice on March 16 and 19 to force his group to follow a
sanctioned Cao Dai sect, but he refused.
Early on March 20, Re and two other followers
saw a group of uniformed and plainclothes police officers cut the lock to the
door of their church and begin taking items out of the building.
“I asked them, ‘These are our legal assets—why
have you cut the lock and entered,” he said, noting that his community had built
the church in 1952.
“I protested, but they went ahead with what they
The following day, Re said, around 100 of his
group’s adherents returned to the church to find it locked with a notice posted
on the door claiming the building now belonged to the state-sanctioned sect.
Vietnam’s government officially recognizes the
Hoa Hao and Cao Dai religions but imposes harsh controls on dissenting groups
that do not follow state-sanctioned branches.
Just last month, several high-ranking members of
the Interfaith Council of Vietnam were attacked by security officers on their
way from Vietnam’s economic capital Ho Chi Minh City to the countryside to visit
religious leaders of unsanctioned Hoa Hao and Cao Dai churches for the Tet Lunar
Two Cao Dai followers were also beaten and
robbed by plainclothes police, a source told RFA at the time, adding that the
authorities often hire thugs or plainclothes officers to beat and harass
activists when they lack evidence to arrest them.
Reported by Hoa Ai for RFA’s Vietnamese
Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.