Vietnam Christian Politician In Hiding Amid Police Crackdown

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

By BosNewsLife News Center

HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife) -- An influential Christian politician was in hiding in Vietnam Tuesday, April 24, after being harassed by Vietnamese security forces who also attacked other dissidents planning to meet US officials, a leading human rights activist confirmed to BosNewsLife.

Tran Van Hoa, "an active Christian" and member of the anti-government People's Democratic Party was "constantly harassed" by Quang Ninh (province) police, said the activist, Tran Nam, who has close knowledge about the situation.

"Under such unbearable intimidation and terror tactics, Mr. Hoa is no longer living in his home town. He has left his wife and children and gone into hiding," he told BosNewsLife. "Similar to Mr. Hoa's situation, Mr. Truong Quoc Tuan, brother of detainee Truong Quoc Huy and Mr. Le

Tri Tue, an active member of an independent labor union, also went into hiding," he added. Dissidents said they are both reportedly staying in neighboring Cambodia and seeking refuge there.

It came as US officials were about to investigate reports of a new crackdown in Vietnam on political dissidents and Christians, BosNewsLife learned. On Monday, April 23, activist Vu Thuy Ha was on her way to meet United States Ambassador to Vietnam, Michael Marine, to discuss the situation, but she was "hit by a car with plain-clothed police," Tran Nam said. Her health condition was unknown Tuesday, April 24, and Vietnamese officials were not immediately reacting to the latest developments.


In addition, police have set up checkpoints near the home of Vu Minh Khanh, the wife of detained human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai.."Khanh was told not to go seeing Ambassador Michael Marine as well. At 2:00 pm (local time) police had set up signs "no cameras" and "no foreigners" around Khanh's house to prevent anyone from entering her residence," Tran Nam explained.

Just two days earlier, on April 21, writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was reportedly detained by Hanoi police. Dissidents said she was handcuffed and taken away from her family on charges of violating Article 88 of the Criminal Code apparently for “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” which carries a sentence of up to 20 years imprisonment. Thanh

Thuy's whereabouts were not immediately known Tuesday, April 24. Last week, April 18, Vu Van Hung, a high school teacher in Ha Tay province was arrested in front of his students, Tran Nam added. "Police surrounded the school where Binh was teaching and then took him home for a house-search as he is a democracy supporter. His detention location is unknown," he said.

Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups say Vietnam's Communist authorities are involved in the most severe crackdown in decades apparently for fear of losing their power base at a time when people, emboldened by economic reforms, are searching for alternatives to the Communist ideology.


In one of the most prominent recent cases on March 30 a court sentenced dissident Catholic priest Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly to eight years in prison on charges of anti-government activities during dramatic proceedings in which the church leader openly condemned the Vietnamese Communist leadership.

The 60-year-old Ly was sentenced by Thua Thien Hue Provincial People’s Court in the city of Hue which claimed he had distributed materials "intended to undermine the government" and has communicated with "anti-Communist groups" overseas. Analysts said Ly, who spent a total of 14 years in prison since 1983 on charges of acting against the Communist state, upset officials by resuming his political activities after he was freed from jail in a 2005 amnesty, and placed under house arrest.

The priest is member of the outlawed "Bloc 8406" pro-democracy coalition, named after its April 8 launch last year, and one of the founders of the banned Vietnam Progression Party. Authorities claim Ly was "plotting" to merge with overseas democracy activists to form a new political umbrella group called "Lac Hong."

Independent churches have also expressed concerns that they will become targets of harassment. It comes at a time when the US is under pressure to add Vietnam once again to its list of Countries of Particular Concern regarding religious freedom violations. Washington recently dropped Vietnam from the list shortly before the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Hanoi. (With BosNewsLife Research, Stefan J. Bos and reports from Vietnam).

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