Prominent Hmong Christian Leader Arrested, Extradited

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Observers Fear Ma Van Bay Will Face Abuse in Police Custody

Special to Compass Direct

LOS ANGELES, December 3 (Compass) -- On November 29, Vietnamese authorities extradited Ma Van Bay from Binh Phuoc province in the Central Highlands to his former home in Ha Giang province on the China border. Christians who know the brutality of government authorities in Ha Giang fear Bay, a key Hmong Christian leader, will face serious abuse.

On July 1, police in Ha Giang beat to death another Hmong Christian leader, Vang Seo Giao, and disposed of his body in a river. Compass sources have received a taped interview with Giao’s brother about the murder.

A journalist in Hanoi who questioned Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs about this charge, based on an October 1 Freedom House press release about the murder, was informed that Giao had died because he “drowned crossing a stream while drunk.”

Bay was arrested on November 17 in Bu Dang district of Binh Phuoc province. Having become a Christian in the early 1990s after hearing the gospel on FEBC Radio, Bay soon became a leader of the rapidly growing Christian community in his province.

During one round of oppression in 1997, Bay, then a church elder responsible for his congregation’s modest collections, was accused by the authorities of “stealing money from the citizens for personal gain.” He was also charged with illegally following the Christian religion and propagating it.

Badly beaten after his arrest and facing up to 12 years in prison on the charges, Bay escaped custody and became one of the first of thousands of Hmong to flee to Vietnam’s Central Highlands. He was given help and local “witness protection” by Christians of another minority group, and after a time, his family was brought down to join him.

Bay became a key leader among the many Hmong Christians who fled to the Central Highlands. A gifted translator, he also translated urgently needed Christian literature from Vietnamese into the Hmong language.

A Compass source who talked to Bay’s colleagues in Vietnam this past weekend quotes them as saying, “Ha Giang police came to Binh Phuoc to extradite him to the Bac Quang district prison in Ha Giang province on Saturday. We are very concerned that he will be severely tortured by the police there.”

They requested prayer that Bay not be abused, and also for his wife and three children.

Hmong Christians in Vietnam reported that about 30 public security police descended on Phi Va village, Cam Te commune in Muong Lay district, Lai Chau province on October 21 to try to force people to sign papers renouncing Christianity. When the believers refused to sign, police became abusive and beat one woman until she was unconscious.

The incident is part of a wave of anti-Christian persecution in Vietnam’s northwest provinces. Sources tell Compass that police and soldiers are being sent to all villages in Lai Chau where there are Christian believers. Security forces carry out surveillance and badger Christians to sign statements agreeing to give up their faith and re-establish traditional ancestor worship.

In addition to such official persecution, Hmong Christians in both northern Vietnam and southern China have recently been targeted by the Eastern Lightning cult, noted for its brutal kidnappings and brainwashing. Christian radio producers are reportedly working feverishly to prepare programs in the Hmong language which will help people resist the cult.