Decree 92: Hanoi chooses Chinese model and clamps down on religious freedom
Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Christian and Buddhist religious leaders and faithful, are "concerned" about the consequences of Decree 92, which has been approved by the Vietnamese Government and will be in force as of 1 January 2013. It legislates "severe restrictions" on freedom of worship in the country. As pointed out by a senior government official, the leaders of the Communist Party seem to be following the "Chinese model" for future decisions in matters of faith. A radical departure from the policy promoted until the recent past - one that included dialogue between the Holy See and Hanoi - that had also met with Vatican approval in the context of regional diplomacy (see AsiaNews 13/11/2012 Vietnam-Holy See relations, a model for China-Vatican talks).
A young Catholic from Hanoi, who has asked to remain anonymous, points to a recent meeting between the Chinese delegation and senior officials of the Vietnamese government. At that time, the Vice-President of Parliament, Tong Thi Phong stressed that "Vietnam will increasingly model itself on China in matters of religious policies." And, adds the faithful, "I do not understand the meaning of these statements," given that Beijing's legislation in matters of worship "is the most draconian in the world."
A priest based in the capital also voices concern, who describes Decree 92 as "backward" and calls on the government to "respect the rights of citizens", starting from the principle of religious freedom. His words are echoed by Peter Sang, a faithful of the parish of Thai Ha, who believes that the executive "is looking for a way to control and restrict the freedom of religion." He also recalled the practice, often used in the past to recruit violent thugs to target anyone who affirms their faith and desire to practise their faith.
Decree 92, which has already alarmed the Buddhist community, consists of five chapters and 46 articles. The third rule of the "religious organizations" and the fourth the "religious activities": these are the two elements of particular concern among the faithful. They have in fact "vague" terminology and express "ambiguous" concepts, which leave a wide margin for interpretation and can be exploited to launch "generic" accusations. Under the norm religious will be forced to undergo to an "educational program" on the history of Vietnam and its legislation, sponsored and held by representatives of the ministries of Interior, Justice and Education. Finally, members of the clergy are required to prepare a specific request in the case of foreign travel for conferences and ask authorities' "permission" in the case of transfers to a different area of the country.
So far there has been no official comment from the Vatican regarding these regulations that will come into force next year in matters of worship. What is certain is that they represent a backward step in the progress of the recent past that had caused the prefect of Propaganda Fide to include the Holy See - Hanoi model as a basis for future dialogue with China. Cardinal Fernando Filoni (see AsiaNews 25/10/2012 Card Filoni: Pope's Letter to the Church in China still waiting for an answer) called for " a new way for dialogue, a dialogue that is even more open and carried out on a more equitable basis" with Beijing "for example, the Holy See and Vietnam - said the cardinal - have found a modus operandi et progrediendi."