Two Christian pastors in Vietnam claim that they were kidnapped, stripped of their clothes, robbed and beaten with metal rods by security officers as they tried to make their way to the town of Ba Đồn to meet up with fellow activists subjected to recent police violence.
Protestant clergyman the Rev. Nguyễn Trung Tôn told Radio Free Asia in a recent interview that he and his colleague, the Rev. Nguyễn Việt Tú, were abducted in late February by who they believe to be plain-clothes security officers after they arrived at a local airport, as reported by AsiaNew.It .
Tôn, a pro-democracy activist in the Asian communist country who had previously been imprisoned for his activism, explained that the men were on their way to meet up with other activists in the Quảng Bình province when they encountered a group of men, who punched them and forced them into a van.
According to Tôn's account, the abductors covered their heads so they couldn't see where they were being taken. Eventually, they arrived at a secluded wooded area on the Hương Khê mountain, where they were beaten with a metal bar, stripped and robbed.
After the beatings, the abductors left the scene, leaving the pastors to suffer without any help. Fortunately, the pastors were later aided by local residents who discovered the wounded men.
With the help of the residents, the two men were able to make it back to the home of one of the pastors.
"Vietnam ratified the UN Convention against Torture with great fanfare in 2015, but the base acts entrusted to police officers or hired thugs are blatantly acts of torture," Võ Văn Ái, president of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR), said, according to AsiaNews. "Vietnam must put an end to such practices and bring those responsible to justice."
Being a pro-democracy advocate, Tôn was previously arrested in 2011 and sentenced to years in prison after being charged with undermining the state and promoting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
AsiaNews reports that Tôn faced numerous instances of harassment from security officials after his release from prison. He and his family also received death threats.
Vietnam ranks as the 17th worst country in the world when it comes to the persecution of Christians, according to the Open Doors USA 2017 World Watch List.
"Historical Christian communities experience arrests and land-grabbing by the authorities. Converts to Christianity from Buddhist or ethnic-animist backgrounds face the strongest persecution, which comes not only from the authorities, but also from families, friends and neighbors," an Open Doors factsheet on Vietnam states. "Protestant Christian believers tend to gather in house-churches, and their members face discrimination at various levels of society."
Last November, Vietnam's communist government enacted a new "Law on Belief and Religion." Human rights activists fear that the law will limit freedom of religion in the country.
"Whereas there are a few sections in which the new law can be considered to be an improvement for Christians, the regulations on registration in particular will definitely cause churches great difficulties," Thomas Muller, an Open Doors analyst, told World Watch Monitor. "The broad notion of the term 'foreign' may well lead to arbitrary interpretations and actions by the state. It is particularly interesting to see that ASEAN lawmakers have also criticised the new law. Since it is highly unusual that ASEAN publicly criticises another member country, this will certainly give the authorities in Vietnam something to think about."