UNITED COUNCIL OF VIETNAMESE IN HOMELAND AND OVERSEAS
Oct. 07, 2016
Presentation to U.S. Department of State
– Mr. Scott Busby, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
– Dr. David N, Saperstein, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for the International Religious Freedom
– Ms. Victoria L. Thoman, Office of the Office of International Religious Freedom
– Mr. Busby,
– Dr. Saperstein,
– Ms. Thoman,
Violation of Human Rights – Specifically Religious Freedom – Presentation
Today we would like to present to you the current situation of religious freedom in Vietnam. The Vietnamese communist government has been controlling all aspects of citizens’ life since they took over Vietnam. There have been no human rights or religious freedom in the country. However, the communist authorities constantly argue the opposite. In fact, one of its main policies is to eliminate all religions in the country. This presentation will explain how they oppress independent religious organisations and citizens who advocate for their rights.
Confiscation of Property and Land of Independent Religions
Case 1: Lien Tri Pagoda
On June 20, 2016, the Vietnamese authorities were going to demolish the Lien Tri Pagoda. However, due to a strong reaction from the Vietnamese community at home and overseas as well as concerns from the International Community about the Vietnamese authorities’ activities violating human rights, the officials delayed the eradication of the pagoda.
On July 8, 2016, the authorities returned to the pagoda to inform Venerable Thich Khong Thanh about the People’s Committee’s decision of An Khanh ward and District 2 to eradicate the pagoda for urban development. The Vietnamese officials plan to demolish the pagoda between July 8 and 20, 2016.
Since the date of the notice, the communist authorities have installed cameras on both sides of the pagoda and the number of police officials have increased. In fact, policemen have surrounded the pagoda to closely monitor the pagoda’s activities day and night. According to Venerable Thich Khong Thanh, the communist authorities said that they would compensate him with 9.7 billion dong (Vietnamese currency). However, in his opinion, there will most likely be no compensation.
On Sept. 8, 2016 about 6:00 am Vietnamese time there had been several hundred communist officials of various agencies and police coming to eradicate the Lien Tri Pagoda.
It is a clear and serious violation of religious freedom by the Vietnamese communist authorities who have ignored the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the will of the Vietnamese people. By demolishing the Lien Tri Pagoda, they have destroyed the historical heritage of the Buddhist Religion which the majority of the Vietnamese people have respected for centuries
Picture on the right side shows the Lien Tri Pagoda was destroyed by the Vietnamese communist authorities on Sept. 8, 2016. It is now only an empty piece of land.
Venerable Thich Khong Tanh at the site of demolished Lien Tri Pagoda
Case 2: Tuy An Temple of the Independent Caodai Religion
On April, 2015, the Vietnamese communist authorities, on the pretext of enlarging Highway A1, demolished Tuy An Temple located in Tuy An District, Phu Yen province, and no compensation was given. Most importantly, the two houses located on each side of the temple stayed intact. This discrimination clearly indicates the Communist authority’s desire to eliminate the independent Caodai religion.
The picture shows the two houses of the Tuy An Temple’s neighbour exist while the Temple was eradicated in April 2015.
Case 3: Catholic Church:
According to Father Phan Van Loi, the Vietnamese communist authorities continues to confiscate land and property of the Catholic Church. Bien Duc Thien An Monastery in Hue and Saint Paul’s Catholic Church in Hanoi are also the victims of confiscation of property and land.
Threat and Isolation of Members of Independent Religions and of the United Council of Vietnamese in Homeland and Overseas (UCVHO)
Case 1: Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam
Most Venerable Thich Khong Tanh, Co-chair of the Interfaith Council of Vietnam (ICV) and of the UCVHO, had been in jail for many years for promoting human rights and religious freedom. After being released from prison and despite being closely monitored, harassed and intimidated, he has continued to advocate for human rights and religious freedom.
Case 2: Catholic Church
Priest Phan Van Loi, Co-chair of the ICV and of the UCVHO, has been under house arrest for many years for promoting human rights and religious freedom. Now he lives in Hue, Thua Thien, Central Vietnam where the Communist authorities are constantly monitoring him. However, Father Loi continues to advocate for democracy and freedom.
Case 3: Members of Pure Central Hoa Hao Buddhist Church
The communist authorities regularly harass and threaten members of Pure Central Hoa Hao Buddhist Temple (PCHHBT) such as the following dignitaries and disciples:
- Le Van Soc, Co-Chair of the ICV and the UCVHO;
- Nguyen Van Dien, President of the PCHHBT and member of the ICV and the UCVHO;
- Nguyen Ngoc Tan, Chief of Communication of the PCHHBT and member of the ICV and the UCVHO.
Case 4: Members of the Independent Caodai
Members of the Independent Caodai religion are also subject to threat and harassment by the Vietnamese Communist authorities:
- Hua Phi, Chief of the Representative Committee of the Popular Bloc of the Caodai Tay Ninh Holy See (RCPBCTNHS) and Co-Chair of the ICV and the UCVHO;
- Nguyen Kim Lan, Deputy Chief of the RCPBCTNHS and member of the ICV and the UCVHO;
- Nguyen Bach Phung, Secretary of the RCPBCTNHS and Treasurer of the ICV and the UCVHO;
- Sub-dignitary Doan Cong Danh, member of the RCPBCTNHS, the ICV and the UCVHO;
The police closely monitor where the leaders and members of the independent Caodai Religion go and what kind of activities they participate in. In fact, the central communist authorities in Hanoi have ordered the police to come to the houses of members of the RCPBCTNHS to scare members away from participating in activities advocating for religious freedom and human rights. Consequently, this impedes in the growth of the organisation.
Case 5: Independent Protestant
Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, Chief of the Vietnamese-American Lutheran Federation, has been imprisoned since 2011 for advocating for religious freedom. He was framed and convicted of a felony: “undermining national unity policy” under article 87 of the criminal code by the Vietnamese communist court. He has been mistreated in jail and was forced to admit his ‘crime’, something he has refused to do until present.
His wife, Ms. Hong, and his four children have been harassed and forced to move out of their home about 23 times. Anywhere they rented houses, the Vietnamese authorities pressured their landlords to expel the family.
Pastor Nguyen Hoang Hoa has also been subject to harassment and threats for defending human rights and religious freedom.
Case 6: Vietnamese People Overseas
Vietnamese people from abroad who support human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam are also being harassed and threatened. When they visit their families in Vietnam, the communist authorities often intimidate them so that they would not associate themselves with organisations or people promoting human rights and religious freedom. One of the techniques used by the communist authorities is blacklisting their families. Consequently, they make it more difficult for them to go to school, to have a business or to find a job. They also reject or make the procedure of sponsoring family members in Vietnam into other countries more difficult.
Cutting off Contact between members of the UCVHO Overseas and in Vietnam
There is usually Internet communication interference when we try to contact members of the UCVHO in Vietnam. We believe that the communist authorities hinder our conversation through their communication technique by preventing us from hearing what members are telling us on the other side of the line. They either cut off the communication line or make noise so that we cannot speak with each other. This usually occurs when members of the UCVHO in Vietnam want to inform us about property and land rights issues or when some members are held in detention or have been beaten.
Deceiving the International Community and Creating Turmoil in Religions
In Vietnam, the Government has taken control over all the religions. Any temple, church or pagoda that is allowed to operate is recognized by the authorities and under State control. The leaders of pro-communist religions are allowed to freely move in and out of the country. For example, Mr. Nguyen Thanh Tam, currently the leader of the Caodai pro-communist in Vietnam, was promoted as Cardinal of the Caodai religion pro-communist. He gets support from authorities. He and his group are allowed to participate in international events to prove that religious freedom exists in Vietnam. However, in reality, they work alongside with the Vietnamese Communists to deceive the International Community. Whenever he and his group travel, communist officials come along to keep him under close watch. We believe that religion controlled by the Communists in Vietnam acts as an unofficial government agency. Mr. Nguyen Thanh Tam and his group went to many countries such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
This picture was taken in Sept. 2016 when the state-controlled religious delegation sisited the U.S.A.
Mr. Nguyen Thanh Tam and Mr. Tran Quang Canh (wearing white cloths) participated in Peace Conference on Sept. 14, 2014 in Seoul, South Korea.
The delegate of the Caodai pro-communist was allowed to participate in Peace Conference on Sept. 14, 2014 in Seoul, South Korea.
However, when Sub-dignitary Hua Phi was invited to participate in the Religious Conference in Bankok, Thailand in September 2015 by the International Jurist Commission, the communist authorities did not allow him to go and confiscated his passport at the airport. They have kept his passport until now.
In addition, the Vietnamese Communist Party have also tried to create chaos in religions abroad. They send spies or recruit them abroad and try to infiltrate religious organisations overseas. For instance, for the Caodai religion, Mr. Tran Quang Canh, recently promoted as Priest in the Caodai religion by the Communists and in charge of Caodai overseas, live in the United States along with some other people. They often go to Vietnam to work with Mr. Nguyen Thanh Tam. They can freely travel in and out of Vietnam while members of Caodai Independent religion in Vietnam are not allowed to travel out of the country. In the case of Independent Caodai followers abroad who are actively fighting for religious freedom, if they were to return to Vietnam, they may be detained and have their passport confiscated or worst, they could be framed and put in jail.
We respectfully request the US Government to:
- Designate Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC);
- Help release Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh and other religious and political prisoners unconditionally;
- Regularly visit members of independent religions in Vietnam and help independent religious organisations in Vietnam have a means to develop their religion without the communist authorities’ interference;
- Pressure the Vietnamese communist authorities to return the land to the Lien Tri Pagoda and to compensate Venerable Thich Khong Tanh at a proper price. The Pagoda is indispensable for Venerable Thich Khong Tanh’s religious activities and his charity works
- Stop all foreign aid to the Social Republic of Vietnam because aid has been used to support a regime that violates human rights and religious freedom and to benefit individual leaders as well as the communist party to remain in power. The Vietnamese people as a whole do not benefit from the aid.
- Compel the Vietnam government to respect religious freedom and other freedoms.
We sincerely thank you for your promotion of human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam.
Sub-dignitary Viet Hung Tran
Sub-dignitary Viet Hung Tran, MPPA, Vice-Chairman, Executive Committee.General Secretary of the United Caodai Tayninh Holy See Overseas.Phone: 514-299-0015 (Direct line)Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Dr. Hoi Van Do, Chairman, Executive Committee.Phone: 407-234-3596 (Direct line).Email: email@example.com