USCIR Urges U.S. Government to Put Vietnam into CPC List
Defend the Defenders
April 28, 2017
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended that the U.S. Department of State against designate Vietnam, together with 16 other countries as “country of particular concern” or CPC for its severe religious freedom violations, according to USCIRF Release 2017 Annual Report.
The recommendation was made as the USCIRF found that there is a “disconnect” between the Vietnamese government’s “overtures to improve religious freedom conditions” and “ongoing actions taken by local officials, public security, and organized thugs to threaten and physically harm religious followers and their houses of worship or other religious property”.
The report said “the Vietnamese government either directs or allows harassment and discrimination against unregistered, independent religious organizations, particularly those that also advocate for human rights and/or religious freedom.”
Many individuals and groups are targeted by the Vietnamese government because of their faith, ethnicity, advocacy for democracy, human rights or religious freedom, or desire to main independent of the government’s control, USCIRF reported, citing the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), independent Cao Dai, Hoa Hao and Khmer-Krom Buddhists, Montagnards, Hmong, Falun Gong practitioners and followers of the Duong Van Minh sect.
USCIRF expressed concern for the plight of several detained religious figures, including UBCV Patriarch Thich Quang Do, Christian human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, Khmer Krom Buddhist Venerable Thach Thuol and Lutheran Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh.
Not only religious organizations but also lawyers, bloggers, activists and civil society are the target of repression, said the report. USCIRF observed that “in general, the Vietnamese government continues to crack down on anyone challenging its authority”.
While acknowledging positive new language in Vietnam’s new Law on Belief and Religion, USCIRF cited serious concerns raised by critics of the law.
In its report, USCIRF suggested it could consider moving Vietnam to its Tier 2 list (an improvement on CPC designation) if the government implements the new law “in a manner that ensures the rights of religious organizations and religious believers”.
Russia, Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan (already on the CPC list), Central African Republic, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Syria are other countries recommended to be designated as CPCs by the USCRIF this year.
The U.S. State Department designated Vietnam as a CPC in 2004 and 2004, but removed it in 2006. In a 2016 report marking the 10-year anniversary of Vietnam’s removal from the CPC list, USCIRF regretted that the U.S. had lifted the designation too soon, resulting in backsliding and continuing abuses of freedom of religion or belief by the Vietnamese authorities.
Created under the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan government advisory body that monitors religious freedom worldwide and makes policy recommendations to the U.S. President, Secretary of State, and Congress. Under the International Religious Freedom Act, the U.S. may impose a series of measures, ranging from travel restrictions to economic sanctions, on countries designated as CPCs.