Thích Quảng Độ, dissident monk with the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, dies

The monk spent at least 30 years in detention for defending religious freedom. In 2018 he was expelled from a monastery where he was under house arrest. For him, freedom in Vietnam “is like the drawing of a dessert: it looks delicious on paper, but you can't eat it”. State media did not report his death.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Thích Quảng Độ, head of the government-banned Unified Buddhist Church (Sangha) of Vietnam (UBCV), died last Saturday in Ho Chi Minh City at the age of 93.

The dissident monk constantly fought for religious freedom in his country and for this reason was arrested several times, spending more than three decades in detention.

Born in Thái Bình Province, northern Vietnam, Thích Quảng Độ was among the founders of the UBSV, which became controversial after the government seized assets belonging to Buddhist communities in southern and central Vietnam at the time of the reunification (1975).

In 1981 the government dissolved it and replaced it with the state-controlled Buddhist Church (Sangha) of Vietnam (BCV). The UBCV has never recognised the BCV’s authority and has not stopped its own religious activity.

Because of this, many monks have been arrested and convicted, including the Supreme Patriarch Thích Huyền Quang, who died in 2008, and was succeeded by Thích Quảng Độ. In 1982 the  latter was sent into internal exile in northern Vietnam for 10 years.

In 1995 Thích Quảng Độ was sentenced to five years in prison for organising a rescue mission for flood victims in the Mekong Delta. He was released in 1998 as a result of international pressure, but was placed under house arrest in the Thanh Minh Zen monastery in Ho Chi Minh City.

After the government had him expelled from the same monastery in 2018, he retired to Thái Bình for a short period. He later returned to Ho Chi Minh City, staying at the Tu Hien pagoda, where he died three days ago.

In an interview released at the time of his expulsion from Than Minh, Thích Quảng Độ said that freedom in Vietnam “is like the drawing  of a dessert: it looks delicious on paper, but you can't eat it.”

The monk’s death was not reported on state media.