Vietnamese police harass religious groups commemorating confessional victims — Radio Free Asia
Dozens of religious communities across Vietnam marked the “International Day of Commemoration for Victims of Violence Based on Religion or Belief”, but the day was marked by a new crackdown in some communities.
In 2019, the United Nations designated August 22 as an international memorial day for victims of persecution based on their religion or belief.
This day is special for independent religious communities in Vietnam who have fought hard to remain independent from government control.
Suppression of Cao Dai
On Saturday, police from Binh Khanh district of Long Xuyen city, An Giang province visited the religious pilgrimage group Cao Dai Binh Khanh, forcing the members gathered at the home of group leader Nguyen Thi Thu Cuc, to disperse.
A clergyman of the independent Cao Dai sect, Nguyen Trong Tieng, said other believers gathered at Cuc’s house to mark the memorial day after morning worship.
At 8 a.m., as the group was hanging banners, a group of four led by a local policeman arrived and told them to cancel the memorial and stay until 5 p.m.
“As soon as people took out banners to hang them, the police came to arrest them and took files,” Tieng said.
“Ms. Cuc’s family had to inform her comrades not to come… The supporters and the police argued and finally Ms. Cuc agreed to sign a written undertaking not to organize this memorial ceremony.
Tieng said he decided not to attend the memorial when he heard about the police harassment. Still, the police met Tieng on the afternoon of August 22 to question him about the event.
The police asked Cuc to sign the document on her behalf, but she refused.
RFA contacted Cuc’s family but they declined to provide further information.
The reporter also contacted the people’s committee of Binh Khanh district, using the number on the district’s website, but could not reach. RFA emailed the office but received no response.
Two years earlier, the Cao Dai community in An Giang held an uneventful memorial ceremony.
Other Cao Dai communities under police control
Nguyen Ngoc Dien, deputy administrator of another Cao Dai community in Long Xuyen town, said this year his group was allowed to commemorate the event under the watchful eye of local police who did not intervene.
1926 Cao Dai is a separate group from 1997 Cao Dai that was formed under government pressure to show loyalty to the Communist Party of Vietnam. He suffered years of persecution from the authorities and the other Cao Dai group, who tried to pressure members to change sects.
Protestants questioned by the police
Some Protestant communities in the central highlands have also been harassed by police this year. Religious activist Y Quynh Buon Dap, who is currently a refugee in Thailand, told RFA: “The police came to threaten [people in] several places, and said they were going to summon some for questioning. At Ako Dung village in Dak Lak, police summoned six people for brief questioning.”
Some Religious Communities Abandon Commemoration Attempts
Cao Dai community leader Nguyen Bach Phung in Vinh Long province said there were no memorial services where she lives because the local government constantly monitors them.
The abbot of Phuoc Buu Pagoda of the United Buddhist Church of Vietnam in Xuyen Moc, Ba Ria-Vung Tau province, told RFA that he was aware of the memorial day. However, Thich Vinh Phuoc said his temple has no human resources to hold the event due to long religious persecution.
In the southern coastal province, there are two pagodas, Phuoc Buu and Thien Quang, belonging to the Buddhist Church and built before 1975 when the Vietnam War ended.
Both have been pressured by local authorities to join Vietnam’s Buddhist Sangha – a member of the government-aligned Vietnamese Homeland Front.
Phuoc said local authorities have sought to intimidate Buddhists by installing cameras on the way to Phuoc Buu Temple and trying to build ditches to narrow the entrance to the temple.
Government pressure is even stronger at Thien Quang Pagoda.
Recently, the authorities used the pretext of building a ditch to block the entrance to the temple and occupy a large part of its land.
“There are three factors for local government pressure on this pagoda,” Phuoc said.
“The first is that its leader Thich Thien Thuan is my disciple. The second is that his temple is independent of the Vietnamese Buddhist Church. And third, the pagoda has hosted thousands of traditional Buddhists many times.”
Vietnam Inter-Religious Council Lists Victims of Religious Persecution
Thich Khong Tanh, co-chairman of the Vietnam Interfaith Council, said last weekend the council held a meeting on Remembrance Day. He decided to issue a statement listing religious repressions and a specific list of victims of religious persecution over the past year.
United Church also under pressure
The abbot of Ho Chi Minh City’s Lien Tri Pagoda in District 2, which was demolished by the local government in 2016, said the national government was pressuring two establishments of the United Church of Vietnam, the Son Linh Pagoda in Kon Tum and Thien Quang. in Ba Ria-Vung Tau. Thich Khong Tanh said the government aimed to force them to give up their independence and agree to be ruled by the Buddhist Church of Vietnam.
“On the last Seen Lan [wandering spirits] festival, Son Linh Pagoda held a gratitude ceremony, but police and local authorities came in and harassed monks and Buddhists,” the abbot said.
He added that other religions such as traditional Cao Dai, pure Hoa Hao Buddhism or Protestantism were also persecuted and harassed.
Foreign groups monitor religious freedom in Vietnam
The American NGO Boat People SOS, which specializes in monitoring the situation of religious freedom in Vietnam.
According to Chief Executive Nguyen Dinh Thang’s Facebook page, last week dozens of religious communities in Vietnam, including churches in the Central Region, Central Highlands and South, successfully held memorials for the victims. of religious persecution. He said the groups included pure Hoa Hao, traditional Cao Dai, Protestant and Catholic communities.
Thang said his organization would monitor and report to the international community any harassment by Vietnamese authorities at the memorials.