Vietnam Steps up Persecution of Hmong Christians
Fearing For Their Lives, Center Learns of Christians Fleeing Vietnam
April 29, 2005
by Center for Religious Freedom
The government of Vietnam is stepping up its persecution of minority Christians, according to detailed accounts received recently by Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom.
Sources in Vietnam have provided the Center with new accounts of persecution against Hmong Christians, including recent death threats which have prompted many to leave the country in recent months. Hmong Christians have suffered from discrimination at the hands of the Vietnamese government for over two decades.
The persecution is characterized by beatings, torture, arrests, brutality against women and children, and now death threats. The emergence of the new evidence coincides with the 30th anniversary on Saturday, April 30, of the fall of Saigon to communist North Vietnamese forces.
According to the reports, more than 100 Hmong Christians have fled the country over the last two months. The evidence consists of tape recorded interviews, handwritten testimony of Hmong leaders, and documentation identifying the names and positions of many of the Vietnamese officials implicated in the persecution.
“Thirty years after the fall of Saigon, the intensity of the persecution of Hmong ethnic minority Christians clearly indicates that the communist government maintains its hostility to people of faith,” said Center for Religious Freedom Director Nina Shea. “Whatever recent legislative changes Vietnam has announced, they appear to provide no improvement at all for the majority of Vietnam’s Protestants who are ethnic minorities in the northwest provinces and Central Highlands.”
Last September the United States government designated Vietnam a “Country of Particular Concern” for egregious religious persecution under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. The Act requires that the President not only name countries of particular concern, but take specific policy actions within 90 days. The statute also allows for a 90-day extension, which expired on March 15. The United States still has yet to take any action.
The Center urges the U.S. State Department to take concrete action in accordance with its obligations under IRFA, thereby signalling that the United States is committed to the promotion of religious freedom in Vietnam and elsewhere.
In the interest of safeguarding the religious refugees (Vietnamese agents have in the past abducted Hmong refugees from neighbouring countries and brought them back for prosecution in Vietnam), the Center is keeping confidential their names, dates and locations. Below are excerpts from two prominent Hmong Christians, whose experience is representative of that of several of the others.
Excerpts from the March 2005 report of one Hmong Christian leader cover the last decade up to a few weeks ago when he fled Vietnam.
Mr. “A” writes:
“ I went to Hanoi and was given four Bibles and four hymnals for our church. Our church had 25 households comprising 213 members believing in God. Somebody reported to the local government that we had Bibles and hymnals. This time the persecution was horrible. The border guards came with ropes and handcuffs and they bound together and handcuffed all the women and children and took them to _____Village in _____ Commune, in _____ Province, They all were beaten cruelly for seven days and nights at _____.
“During this time, the border guards came to our houses and killed and ate all our poultry and pigs. They made all of us, adults as well as children, pay a fine of 200,000 VN Dong each…. Many were beaten until their mouths and nostrils bled.
“[The church leaders] were put in shackles, handcuffs and fetters for three days and nights. Their families brought them rice and water but the border guards did not allow them to eat or drink. Each day they allowed them to eat only two small bowls of rice and drink one bowl of water. Even at night they were not allowed to have the shackles taken off. The border guards said, ’They are asking for help from their God, let us see if their God is going to help them or not’
“Later we went to Hanoi to appeal to higher authorities there. Hanoi Police told us that Christianity is not the religion of the Hmong. It's the American religion. We must get out of it or they will put all of us in jail.
“When the people in the local government knew that we went to Hanoi to appeal, they continued to arrest many men, put them in shackles, and poured water into their nostrils. Their goal was to torture us so that we would renounce our belief but we are determined to die if necessary but never will we apostatize….
“All our Bibles, hymnals and worship materials had been seized by the police in 1997. But I still had an old Bible and in July 1998 I took it to the city to make some photocopies for our church. Police caught me photocopying so they put me in jail for seven days. During these seven days I was beaten so badly that my body swelled all over and blood gushed out of my nose and mouth. They seized my Bible and all the photocopies and ordered me to pay a fine of 600,000 VN Dong….
“[In late 2001] Police threatened us and told us that if we refused to abandon our God they would never leave us alone…. Then they forced me to take off all my clothes and stand against a wall with my two hands up. After three hours, they brought in rocks from the road and ordered me to kneel down on the rocks for three more hours then asked if I wanted to abandon my belief or not? I said, ‘I would rather die than abandon my God.’ They were very angry, they put me in prison and continued doing the same torture for seven days but I still refused to abandon my God.
“The Police then took a rubber stick and beat me for hours but I still refused to deny my belief. They took me to jail for three days. They told people in the jail that I was very stubborn, and that they would teach me a lesson…they took ...(words not clear) and they burnt it and let it drop one by one on my legs. It was very painful and I also felt excruciating pain in my stomach for one month. I could not urinate and almost died in prison. They gave me two small bowls of rice and two small cups of water only. My family was not allowed to visit me. Whatever they did I refused to abandon my God. Three months later they let me go. I could not walk but had to move with my hands and buttocks. My body was nothing but bones. The Police told me, "If we do not kill you, someday you will kill us. If we do not find some way to kill you, you will grow stronger, you will rebel against us and call the Americans to invade Vietnam.” They then got enraged and started to beat me again until I was covered with blood from my nose and mouth.”
The second account from a Hmong Christian refugee, hiding in a neighbouring country, was relayed to a Freedom House source in just the last couple of weeks.
Mr. “B,” said,
“During one imprisonment they dripped hot melting plastic on to my penis. I could not urinate for 20 days. They used a heavy sandal to hit my ears- each ear ten blows. I could not hear at all for a month and now have difficulty hearing. I was regularly beaten by the security police and by prisoners who they rewarded because I would not recant my faith in Jesus Christ.”
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