In a report to the International Buddhist Information Bureau dated January 15, 2011, The Most Venerable Thich Vien Dinh, Vice-President and General Secretary of the Institute for the Dissemination of Dharma, the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), detailed evidence of police harassment and meddling with activities organized by member of the (UBCV).
The following is a summary of the report:
In Buddhist tradition, early weeks of December, lunar calendar, are the time for annual grand Ancestor ceremonies to commemorate the Order’s Founders, Patriarchs, Martyrs, and Benefactors . In that sacred spirit, Giac Hoa Temple, the location of the UBCV General Secretary’s Office in Binh Thanh District, Saigon, organized the Ancestor ceremony on January 13 1011 (December 10 lunar calendar). On this occasion, the Leading Body of the Vietnamese Youth Buddhist also organized a dharma studying camp Van Hanh.
However, on January 11, 2011, the head of Internal Affairs Bureau at Binh Thanh District had requested the abbott of Giac Hoa Temple for a “working” session. The next day (January 12, 2011), Chief Police at the 7th commune and Chief Political Police at Binh Thanh District went to the temple and ordered “The temple is forbidden to allow the Leading Body of the Vietnamese Youth Buddhist to organize Van Hanh camp. We know Mr. Le Cong Cau is on his way (to join the dharma studying camp).
The morning of January 13, 2011, the day of the annual Ancestor’s ceremony, a delegation consisting of all district and county offices showed up to “request the temple to only have a swift ceremony and forbid anyone from criticizing the government.”
At noon, while the monks and Buddhists were having lunch, government’s officials came in and ordered “It is enough to have morning ceremony. Afternoon ceremony is forbidden!” Everybody at the temple was shocked by the morality taught under Communist regime where religions had to proceed just like a fast-food restaurant.
On January 14, the Venerable Thich Vien Dinh again received a written request to come to the People’s Committee of Binh Thanh’s District to “work”.
For days before and after the Ancestor’s ceremony, the police used their vehicles as barricades blocking the temple’s entrance. The day of the main ceremony, in addition to the numerous police standing outside or in the front gate of the temple, there were from 30 to 40 police occupying the temple from the main hall, Ancestor Hall, to the lower hall.
At the “working” sessions which were in reality police interrogations, authorities presented the Most Venerable Thich Vien Dinh with 4 demands:
- The temple had to submit the list of attending guests
- The temple had to submit the list of ceremonies
- Organizations not recognized by the government were not allowed to participate
- The temple had to register for temporary residence guests from other locations
Offering incents during the Ancestor ceremonry at Giac Hoa Temple.
From left to right: The Most Venerables Thich Vien Dinh,
Thich Thien Hanh,Thich Quang Do, Thich Nhu Dat
during dharma studying camp Van Hanh