USCIRF Releases Vietnam Country Update

In June, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom released an update on religious freedom conditions in Vietnam, with special focus on religious prisoners of conscience among the Hoa Hao Buddhists, Christians, and Catholics, who are detained for a multitude of reasons including failure to register religious activities under the strict Law on Belief and Religion or refusal to “participate in government-approved religious associations due to fear of persecution or concern for their independence, leading to both government-sponsored and independent organizations competing to represent the religion.”

Hoa Hao Buddhist Bui Van Trung had been holding prayer services in his personal home, but when he refused the government’s demand to register his home as a religious building, he was detained and sentenced to four years in prison. Following his release, he was arrested again in 2017 for protesting the government’s crackdown on a Buddhist funeral service for the anniversary of his mother’s death, and sentenced to six years in prison on the charges “disrupting public order.”

Another Buddhist Sect, the An Dan Dai Dao Buddhists, have also been routinely persecuted In 2003, when the An Dan Dai Dao Buddhists created an ecotourism company that doubly functioned also as a worship center, the Vietnamese government arrested An Dan Dai Dao Buddhist leader Phan Van Thu along with tens of regular members of the faith community, and charged them with “plotting to overthrow the government.”

Pastor A Dao of the Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ was detained upon his return to Vietnam following his participation at the Southeast Asia Freedom of Religion or Belief Conference in 2016. He was sentenced to five years in prison for the ridiculous charge of “helping individuals to escape abroad illegally.”

Patriarch Thich Quang Do, one of the most respectable religious leadrs in Vietnam, had been repeatedly monitored and eventually arrested for his activism in promoting religious freedom and criticizing the government’s tight control on religious participation. After many years under house arrest, he was eventually expelled from Thanh Minh Zen Monastery and transported to Ti Hieu Pagoda where he lived out the rest of his life until his death on February 22, 2020.

Other notable prisoners of conscience in Vietnam include:

  • Nguyen Bac Truyen: Hoa Hao Buddhist, lawyer, religious freedom advocate
  • Nguyen Van Dai: human rights lawyer and religious freedom advocate [released]
  • Nguyen Nang Tinh: Catholic music teacher and social media activist
  • Le Dinh Luong: Hoa Hao Buddhist environmental activist

Original report

For more information on prisoners of conscience, visit USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project