Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews/EDA) Fr. Chan Tin, an 83 year-old Vietnamese Redemptorist, issued a report on the status of freedom of religious and human rights in his country. The text, entitled "A Refection on the Religious Status of the Catholic Church in Vietnam", was to be presented to the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom visiting Vietnam this month of January.
In his report Fr. Chan Tin reports the underhanded policies of the Vietnamese government, which has said it guarantees human rights and freedom of religion to its citizens. But in realty, it commits serious violations. Whoever expresses political opinions different from those in power is persecuted, imprisoned or killed. Those that are sentenced to death have no right to a fair trial, since they are neither tried nor have a right to a lawyer.
One hundred death sentences were issued in 2003 alone. Over the few last years Vietnam has limited the use of the internet and continues to arrest web surfers, accusing them of espionage or spreading criticism of the government over the internet.
In Feb. 2002, Le Chi, a young computer science teacher, was condemned to 4 years in jail for sending an email abroad from an internet cafe. The situation has grown especially critical, as Le Chi is sick and cannot get the treatment he needs for his illness while in jail.
In terms of religious of freedom, the government says it backed by the constitution and is respected. But Fr. Chan Tin amply exposes in detail the strategy employed by the Vietnamese government to repress and persecute religion in general, particularly various religious groups within the Catholic church. He underscores in his report the state's meddling at the heart of Catholic Church affairs, attempting to undermine it and control its internal issues.
Bishops were forced to ask for state approval for the nomination, formation and moving of priests to other churches and parishes. Seminarians were obliged to study Marxist-Leninist philosophy. Religious minority Christians from mountainous areas (montagnards) and the country's northwest provinces were persecuted as well. In 2003 the repression of ethnic minority Christians increased in the country's mountainous regions. Last October, four persons pertaining to ethnic minorities groups were sentenced to 13 years in prison for having protested against the government. Even Church property is often confiscated, as was the Benedictine monastery of Thiên An and the La Vang sanctuary in Huê.Fr. Chan Tin has asked bishops to be strong in not complying with government measures and not falling into the trap of the Vietnamese fake sense of liberality. The entire version of Fr. Chan Tin's report will be published in the AsiaNews print version this March 2004 (MR)