The wife of recently sentenced Vietnamese Mennonite Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang, has been repeatedly harassed and threatened with arrest by authorities, beginning with the period immediately before her husbands trial on Nov. 12, and culminating last Sunday, Nov. 21, according to the Freedom House Center for Religious Freedom.
Since her husbands arrest on June 8, Le Thi Phu Dung has been operating the house church in Ho Chi Minh City that Nguyen had ministered, the Center for Religious Freedom reported.
The revelation of the blatant harassment of [Nguyens wife] in the days leading up to and following the trial of her husband is evidence of heavy-handed tactics intended to intimidate Mennonite believers in Vietnam and shut down churches it does not approve of, said Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom.
Witnesses told Freedom House that, during a so-called community evaluation meeting, 16 community representatives appointed by officials used a bullhorn to publicly harangue Le and her family for being troublemakers and disturbing the public order. They ordered her to stop Christian worship services in her home as she and her husband have done for the past six years, to remove the church sign over their gate, and to expel the students living at the property. Le, however, was not present at the session, as she was meeting with her husbands defense counsel in anticipation of his trial two days later.
The day after the public humiliation session and again on Nov. 13, the delegation of community representatives, reportedly went to Les home, berated her for not attending, and informed her of the ban against the house church, according to the Compass News. She was warned that if she did not comply, she and her children would be forced from their home.
According to information received by Freedom House, Le asked whether there was a law against holding worship servicesto which she was given a letter later that day signed by chairman of the wards peoples committee stating: The State always guarantees freedom of religion and religious belief of all citizens, but it must be according to the law.
The letter also quoted articles 7 and 19 from the 1999 Decree on Religion No. 26, which state that religious activities can only occur in a place of worship approved by the state, and be led by religious leaders authorized by the state who have asked and received permission to lead religious activities.
Despite the contents of the letter, the congregation met again for worship at Les home on Sunday, Nov. 14. In response, two-dozen police officers reportedly surrounded and raided the home the next evening, issuing a summons to Le and the resident students warning that if the students did not leave they would be arrested. The summons also accused Le of illegally harboring people in her home.
According to the Center for Religious Freedom, on the following Sunday, Nov. 21, 40 public security police disrupted the church service at Les home and formally cited everyone present for meeting illegally and continuing to use the premise for religious purposes.
The kangaroo court trial of Rev. Quang, in combination with the persecution of his wife, point to a concerted effort by Vietnamese authorities to repress the religious freedom of independent Christian believers, and are a reminder of why the country was designated a country of particular concern by the U.S. State Department, under the International Religious Freedom Act, two months ago, Shea concluded.
Nguyen, who was the secretary general of the Mennonite Church and an active member of the Vietnamese Evangelical Fellowship, was sentenced to three years in prison for inciting people to obstruct officials from carrying out their duties after a half-day trial at the Ho Chi Minh Citys Peoples Court on Nov. 12.