Vietnam's Hmong Christians Face Unrelenting Persecution
December 30, 2003
by Center for Religious Freedom
Vietnamese authorities have stepped up their campaign of persecution of minority Christians, in some instances threatening to murder their spiritual leaders, Freedom House reported today.
According to sources in Vietnam, in mid-December—two weeks before Christmas—nineteen police agents destroyed Hmong Christian house-churches in four villages in Ta Tong Commune, located in the Muong Te District of Lai Chau Province.
The Center also received reports that high-level authorities in Vietnam’s northwest Lai Chau Province are openly threatening to “kill all Christian leaders.” Vietnam’s Hmong Christians have long experienced official persecution because of their faith.
Throughout 2003, the Center has reported the beating deaths by police of three Hmong Christians, including a 10-year-old child of a church leader sought for arrest.
“After the numerous incidents of persecution reported against the Hmong Christians this year—culminating with the crackdown against their house-churches and death threats against their leaders just this month—The U.S. State Department should not hesitate to designate Vietnam a ‘country of particular concern’ (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act,” said Center for Religious Freedom Director Nina Shea.
On December 4, the Center for Religious Freedom reported the arrest of Hmong leader Ma Van Bay in the Highlands Binh Phuoc Province. New reports from the Highlands this month indicate his arrest prompted other Hmong Christian leaders in the Central Highlands to go into hiding. Government officials are also reported to be threatening Highland Christian believers with death.
The California-based Christian news service Compass Direct reported that on December 9, police in Ho Chi Minh City staged a motorcycle “accident” in an apparent attempt to assassinate the Rev. Nguyen Hmong Quang, a house church leader and rights activist. The attempt occurred in the city center one hour after Rev. Quang had met with U.S. State Department officer Jean Geran of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Rev. Quang escaped serious injury and fled the scene. However, police assaulted and arrested his colleague, Evangelist Pham Ngoc Thach, who was driving the motorcycle. Evangelist Thach was released the next day after a small group of Christians led by Rev. Quang, staged a sit-in, hunger strike, and prayer vigil in the police station where he was being held.
“The fact that Rev. Quang was nearly killed in a staged ‘accident’ immediately after meeting with a State Department official is a sure signal of Hanoi’s contempt for America’s religious rights policy,” said Ms. Shea. “It is time we sent the Vietnam government our own clear signal through CPC designation.”
Over the last six years, at least 15,000 Hmong Christians have fled Vietnam’s northwest provinces to the country’s central highlands, which afforded some protection until an uprising by ethnic Montagnards in February 2001 invited a harsh government crackdown in the area. Vietnamese troops have uprooted Hmong residents of the highlands without warning and without the opportunity to gather personal possessions, resettling them in barren areas of the country. Many have died as a result of the government’s withholding of internationally donated medicines and vaccines.
Vietnam recognizes two Protestant groups, but bans and persecutes other house-churches. It is harshly intolerant of those who speak out for greater religious freedom.
Click here to view the full list of Press Releases.