Vietnam Steps Up Persecution of Hmong Christians

Monday, May 2, 2005

Fearing For Their Lives, Center Learns of Christians Fleeing Vietnam

WASHINGTON, DC, May 2, 2005 (Freedom House) -- The government of Vietnam is stepping up its persecution of minority Christians, according to detailed accounts received recently by Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom.

Sources in Vietnam have provided the Center with new accounts of persecution against Hmong Christians, including recent death threats which have prompted many to leave the country in recent months. Hmong Christians have suffered from discrimination at the hands of the Vietnamese government for over two decades.

The persecution is characterized by beatings, torture, arrests, brutality against women and children, and now death threats. The emergence of the new evidence coincides with the 30th anniversary on Saturday, April 30, of the fall of Saigon to communist North Vietnamese forces.

According to the reports, more than 100 Hmong Christians have fled the country over the last two months. The evidence consists of tape recorded interviews, handwritten testimony of Hmong leaders, and documentation identifying the names and positions of many of the Vietnamese officials implicated in the persecution.

“Thirty years after the fall of Saigon, the intensity of the persecution of Hmong ethnic minority Christians clearly indicates that the communist government maintains its hostility to people of faith,” said Center for Religious Freedom Director Nina Shea. “Whatever recent legislative changes Vietnam has announced, they appear to provide no improvement at all for the majority of Vietnam’s Protestants who are ethnic minorities in the northwest provinces and Central Highlands.”

Last September the United States government designated Vietnam a “Country of Particular Concern” for egregious religious persecution under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. The Act requires that the President not only name countries of particular concern, but take specific policy actions within 90 days. The statute also allows for a 90-day extension, which expired on March 15. The United States still has yet to take any action.

The Center urges the U.S. State Department to take concrete action in accordance with its obligations under IRFA, thereby signalling that the United States is committed to the promotion of religious freedom in Vietnam and elsewhere.

In the interest of safeguarding the religious refugees (Vietnamese agents have in the past abducted Hmong refugees from neighbouring countries and brought them back for prosecution in Vietnam), the Center is keeping confidential their names, dates and locations.