01/02/2004, 00.00
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Persecutions and threats against Christians and Buddhists

Washington (AsiaNews) – In its review of the year 2003, Freedom House, a US-based human and religious rights organization, made strong accusations against the government in Hanoi. It cited a series of persecutions carried out by local authorities toward Hmong Christians. 

At the beginning of December, 19 policemen destroyed Christian churches and homes in 4 villages in Ta Tong (province of Lai Chau) in the district of Muong Te. In the very same province, the organization reports, top local authorities openly threatened all Christian leaders with death. In addition to the threats, in 2003 police had beaten 3 Hmong Christians to death, one of which was 10 year-old child. 

Compass Direct, a California-based press agency quoted by Freedom House, reported that on Dec. 9 2003 in Ho Chi Min City police staged an accident with the intent of killing Rev. Nguyen Hmong Quang. The pastor was coming out of meeting with Jean Geran, an official from the US State Department. He managed to save himself and escape, despite being seriously wounded. Police arrested, however, his colleague, evangelist Pham Ngoc Thach, who was driving the motorcycle struck in the accident. Thach was released after a group of faithful, led by Rev. Quang, went to the police station to conduct a sit-in and prayer vigil.

 "The fact that Rev. Quang was nearly killed in a staged "accident" immediately after meeting with a State Department official is a sure signal of Hanoi's contempt for America's religious rights policy", said Nina Shea, director of Freedom House. "It is time we sent the Vietnam government our own clear sign through CPC (country of particular concern) designation", she said. 

Criticism of the Hanoi government also comes for the Buddhist world, sometimes in a dramatic way. On Dec. 24 Thich Chan Hy, a 74 year-old Buddhist monk, set himself on fire in front of a Buddhist temple in Charlotte, North Carolina. The monk, who had spent many years in a prison camp in Vietnam, came to the United States in 1991. In a letter made public by the International Office of Buddhist Information, he explained himself: "I hope that Vietnam can enjoy freedom of religion and belief. I hope it can open itself to human rights and democracy. I feel so helpless and inadequate; I therefore make the offering of my body, and pray that the my appeal will be heard."  (VFP)
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