The government of Vietnam is stepping up its persecution of minority Christians, according to detailed accounts received recently by Freedom Houses Center for Religious Freedom.
Sources in Vietnam have provided the Center with new accounts of persecution against Hmong Christians, including recent death threats which have prompted many to leave the country in recent months, the Washington, D.C.-based human rights group said in a statement released Friday.
According to the reports, more than 100 Hmong Christians have fled the country over the last two months. The new evidence consists of tape recorded interviews, handwritten testimony of Hmong leaders, and documentation identifying the names and positions of many of the Vietnamese officials implicated in the persecution.
The emergence of the new evidence coincides with the 30th anniversary on Saturday, Apr. 30, of the fall of Saigon to communist North Vietnamese forces.
Thirty years after the fall of Saigon, the intensity of the persecution of Hmong ethnic minority Christians clearly indicates that the communist government maintains its hostility to people of faith, said Center for Religious Freedom Director Nina Shea. Whatever recent legislative changes Vietnam has announced, they appear to provide no improvement at all for the majority of Vietnams Protestants who are ethnic minorities in the northwest provinces and Central Highlands.
The Center reports that Hmong Christians have suffered from discrimination at the hands of the Vietnamese government for over two decades. The persecution is characterized by beatings, torture, arrests, brutality against women and children, and now death threats.
Last September, the United States government designated Vietnam a Country of Particular Concern for egregious religious persecution under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998 that requires that the President not only name countries of particular concern, but also take specific policy actions within 90 days. The statute also allows for a 90-day extension, which expired on Mar. 15. The U.S. has yet to take any action.
The Center is urging the U.S. State Department to take concrete action in accordance with its obligations under IRFA, thereby signaling that the United States is committed to the promotion of religious freedom in Vietnam and elsewhere.