USCIRF: Place Vietnam on the CPC list!

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Place Vietnam in the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) for violations of religious freedom, that is a recommendation by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

According to the USCIRF 2012 report, the Vietnamese government dramatically increased systematic and egregious oppression against religious groups and individuals who advocate religious freedom. This goes hand in hand with general deterioration of Vietnam’s human rights records, most clearly after the country was granted membership in the World Trade Organization in 2007. Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister even ordered heavy handling of religious issues that were considered challenges to the regime’s authoritarian ruling.

Buddhists who visit temples affiliated with the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) have been facing intimidation and serious discriminations. Individuals who call for religious freedom, including Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly, have been imprisoned, harassed, brutalized, and even murdered. Religious leaders, “including UBCV leader Thich Quang Do and other UBCV leaders, Catholic Father Phan Van Loi, Hoa Hao leader Le Quang Liem, Protestants Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan, and Mennonite leader Nguyen Thi Hong”, have been placed under indefinite house detention.

On the UBCV, the USCIRF reports:

The UBCV is Vietnam‘s largest religious organization with a history of peaceful social activism

and moral reform. The UBCV has faced decades of harassment and repression for seeking

independent status and for appealing to the government to respect religious freedom and related

human rights. Senior UBCV monks, including the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, with whom

USCIRF delegations met in 2007 and 2009, remain under some form of administrative probation

or arrest in their home or pagoda.

Local authorities continue to prevent monks from organizing UBCV provincial boards or

carrying out charitable activities. Police routinely question UBCV monks and monitor their

movement and activities. Foreign visitors to UBCV monasteries have been assaulted and

harassed. Government officials have taken steps to make sure that government-affiliated

monasteries do not affiliate overtly with the UBCV. Routine systematic harassment of UBCV

monks and affiliated pagodas occurs in the provinces of Quang Nam-Danang, Thua Thien Hue,

Binh Dinh, Khanh Hoa, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Dong Nai, Hau Giang, and An Giang.

There are continued reports of harassment and disbanding of religious ceremonies and other

activities conducted by UBCV monks. Police routinely interrogated the Venerable Thich Vien

Dinh and other monks from the Giac Hoa Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City and issued fines for

minor building code violations. Officials also have prevented them from holding festivals on

Vesak (Buddha‘s Birthday) and the Lunar New Year.

During Buddhist festivals in May and August 2011, Da Nang police blocked access to Giac

Minh Buddhist pagoda and interrogated the pagoda‘s abbot, who is the provincial representative

of the UBCV. Police monitored the Vesak celebrations on May 28 at the Giac Hoa and Lien Tri

pagodas in Ho Chi Minh City but did not intervene. UBCV officials claimed attendance by

followers at the celebrations was lower than normal due to the increased police presence. Some

followers stated that they were questioned by police officers after celebrations at the Lien Tri

pagoda.

UBCV adherents also experience harassment and intimidation. During its visits to Vietnam,

USCIRF learned that the Vietnamese government‘s Religious Security Police (cong an ton giao)

routinely harasses and intimidates UBCV followers, warning that if they continue to frequent

known UBCV pagodas, they may be arrested, lose their jobs, or see their children expelled from

school. The government has actively sought to suppress the activities and growth of its

Buddhist Youth Movement.

The USCIRF noted that “Religious freedom was an agreed part of the renewed annual U.S.-Vietnam human rights dialogue. ”, and that the U.S has committed to give Vietnam over $125 million dollars for the current fiscal year. Therefore, based on evidence of blatant disregards for human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam, the USCIRF recommends the Obama administration to place Vietnam in the CPC list.

(Source: http://www.uscirf.gov/images/Annual%20Report%20of%20USCIRF%202012(2).pdf)