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Vietnam: The ongoing persecution of Hre Christians

September 19, 2005
This posting on the ongoing persecution of the Hre Christians in
Vietnam comes from our Vietnam expert. This report exposes the
strategy of the Communist Party of Vietnam to erect a wall around
the nation – a wall made beautiful on the outside by a facade of
propaganda and deceit. The hands of the Party and State stretch
through the wall, extending open palmed to the world in search of
materialistic wealth. Behind the wall, in the suffocating dampness
and darkness of its long shadow, Christians continue to suffer
systematic persecution. This report is one more attempt to expose
and break through that wall.

- Elizabeth Kendal
rl-research@crossnet.org.au

-----------------------------------------------------
THE ONGOING PERSECUTION OF HRE CHRISTIANS IN VIETNAM
- by a Vietnam expert.
------------------------------------------------------

In late July 2005, authorities in Son Tinh District, Quang Ngai
Province destroyed the homes of ten Christian Hre families because
they would not give up their faith. On 21 August, authorities in Son
Ha District incited the burning of the home of Evangelist Dinh Van
Hoang, also because he would not sign a paper denying his Christian
faith.

These very recent Vietnam government actions against Christians of
the Hre minority in Quang Ngai Province, and their defence and
cover-up by the State\'s propaganda organs, lead to the inevitable
conclusion that the entire Vietnamese system, the Party and the
State, still support the persecution of Christians. These events are
particularly troublesome in light of Vietnam\'s recent promulgation
of legislative measures supposed to support greater religious
freedom, and specifically outlawing forced religious conversions and
re-conversions.

HRE CHRISTIANS
- and the persecution of evangelist Dinh Van Hoang

The number of Hre Christians increased from some 500 in 1991, to
around 6,000 in 2005, chiefly in Quang Ngai Province. In recent
years persecution has been intense, especially in Son Tinh, Son Ha,
Minh Long and Ba To districts which have prided themselves on their
revolutionary history.

The discrimination and persecution which is long-running and
widespread was particularly focussed on a Hre Evangelist named Dinh
Van Hoang (aka Dinh Minh Hoang). In 2003 he recorded what had
happened to him and his family since 1999.

Because he was a Christian and a zealous Christian Evangelist, Dinh
Van Hoang:

* had to do forced labour,

* was, on several occasions, humiliated in a public "peoples\'
trial" where he was mocked and beaten before fellow villagers,

* was imprisoned without trial,

* was, on several occassions, forced to abandon his home and move
his family,

* was, along with his wife and children, beaten when his home was
invaded,

* was, along with his wife, forced to participate in pagan practices,

* twice lost his home after officials ordered that it be burnt down.

Excerpts from his testimony read as follows:

"On Sept 11, 1999 the government officials of the district led us
away. Mr. Tin, secretary of the district, ordered that a pig be
confiscated from someone’s pen and forced us to worship spirits and
drink the pig’s blood. My wife, Dinh Thi U became very ill and
passed out (it appeared she had died) because of severe stomach
pain. Then I, Dinh Van Hoang, prayed to God and he heard my prayer
and immediately healed my wife. All the cadre were surprised by what
they witnessed, but they did not believe."

"On Oct. 18, 2001 two soldiers of the Son Tay District unit,
forcefully invaded my house at 6:00 p.m.. Two of my children were
knocked unconscious, one left with an eye protruding. Then my wife,
and our children and I prayed, and the wounds they had caused were
healed."

"On May 16, 2002 we were again summoned. And all the villagers
elders and war veterans were there. Before they began their
interrogation, the officials drank until some were stone drunk. They
asked my wife and me if we were ready yet to abandon our Christian
beliefs. My wife, Dinh Thi U answered, \'No!\' And I, Dinh Van Hoang
answered, \'No\' ! Then they beat me and my wife until there was
blood flowing all over the place. In spite of this, my wife and I
and our children faithfully believe in the Lord and we asked him to
help us and heal our wounds."

"On July 6, 2002 the entire people\'s committees of two hamlets (came
out), led by Dinh Van Viet, commune chairman . . . Then Mr. Cao
Trong Tin, secretary of Son Tay District . . . ordered my house be
burned. It was burned clean to the ground – not a thing left. While
they burned our house they cheered, \'Burn the house! Burn the house!
This is the Christian religion. . .\'"

"After our house was burned there was nothing left – absolutely
nothing. Then two officials, Dinh Van Cung and Dinh Van Vo, again
asked my wife and me if we were now ready to abandon our faith. I,
Dinh Van Hoang, answered, \'Absolutely not. I will not abandon my
faith in God. . . I, my wife and children will accept death before
we deny our Lord.\' Then Dinh Van Vo, commune cadre and deputy
commander of the local militia, incited young thugs to drive us away
and to not let us live in Son Tinh Commune anymore. So we returned
to a plot of land in Son Thuong Commune, my wife\'s native place."

"But the cadre of Son Thuong Commune also did want us to stay there
and build a home. Until now (2003) we have no home and have not been
granted legal residence anywhere."

--------------------

Dinh Van Hoang did manage to build yet another home in Nuoc Nua
Hamlet in Son Thuong Commune, Son Ha District, though he was never
given official registration. He continued his Christian activity.

On the morning of Sunday, 21 August 2005, the commune public
security police chief, Mr. Dinh Van Hoanh and his deputy Mr. Thai
Mai Quan came to tell him that Christian believers were not accepted
in this location and warned he would have to give up his religious
faith or face the destruction of his home. Evangelist Hoang, as he
had always done, said he could not give up his faith. According to
Mr. Hoang\'s 23 August report, "Right after, a mob forced its way
into my house destroying a wall. Once more they demanded that we
give up Christianity. My wife and I answered that we would not given
up the faith we had help for a long time. So they burned our house
and all our property." The mob included war veterans, local defence
forces, young people and even hamlet chief Mr. Dinh Van Xoa. This
was the third time Hoang’s home had been burned!

This sad event came on the heels of another, in which, on 26 and 31
July 2005 in Suoi Hut Hamlet, Son Tinh Commune, Son Tay District of
Quang Ngai Province, officials ordered the destruction of ten
Christian Hre families because they would not give up their faith,
according to hand-written reports from the affected families.

REPLACING FACT WITH FICTION

On 28 August 2005, Radio Free Asia (RFA) broadcast an interview with
Hre Evangelist Dinh Tan Vinh. Evangelist Vinh told RFA the facts of
the story recounted above. He is an evangelist of the legally
recognized Evangelical Church of Vietnam (South).

On 31 August, Vietnam News Service (Thong Tan Xa Viet Nam) countered
with a posting which appeared in a Vietnamese language newspaper and
in the English language Vietnam News on 5 September 2005.

Whereas once Vietnam would dismiss such charges as a "complete
fabrication by forces hostile to Vietnam", the State propaganda
organ quotes the charges in detail and then tries to refute them
with a "complete fabrication" of its own.

The article says that Evangelist Vinh was "not a representative of
the legally recognized General Confederation of the Vietnam
Protestant Church (Southern Region)", usually called the Evangelical
Church of Vietnam (South). In fact, the President of the ECVN (S),
the Rev. Thai Phuoc Truong, confirmed on 8 September that Evangelist
Vinh was indeed an official worker of the church and had wide
responsibilities for the Hre churches. The government, however,
refuses to recognize the Hre congregations and workers which the
legally-recognized ECVN (S) says belong to it. The Rev. Truong
raised these issues with the Protestant section of the Bureau of
Religious Affairs in Hanoi during the last week in August, without
result.

The director of the indigenous Vietnam Good News Mission that has
long supported the Hre Christian movement, also intervened on behalf
of the persecuted Hre. On 29 July he appealed for help in the matter
of the destruction of the homes of Hre Christians by petition to the
central government\'s Inspection Bureau and the Policy Branch. He
also copied the Party office and People\'s Committee of Quang Ngai
Province. Investigators who were sent to see what had happened,
warned perpetrating officials against such actions. But they were
told that the action had been carried by order of the district\'s
Party chief. The Party always trumps the government.

Vietnam News Service also falsely defamed Evangelist Hoang. The
State article says, "Hoang was not a good citizen and was kicked out
of the community several times." In fact he is a law-abiding citizen
but his commitment to Christianity is unacceptable to the State so
local officials have with impunity chased him from his home several
times.

The State account says, "Hoang abused educational limitations of the
local ethnic minority groups to preach illegally. He was advised
several times not to lure people to blindly believe in nonsense and
refuse to work". It says he "continued to incite people not to
work". In fact, Evangelist Hoang effectively shared the orthodox
Christian message that encourages diligent work and social
obligations, not forbids it.

The State article accused Hoang of living "without official
registration". In fact Hoang has many times applied for official
registration but has always been refused because of his Christian
belief and activities. The English article falsely accuses Hoang of
destroying a traditional cemetery. The Vietnamese version in the
same place says his fellow villagers considered him to be "a wild
animal". "His behaviour," the English article states, "tested the
patience of the community forcing them to burn his house."

The official explanation for the destruction of the ten Christian
Hre homes in July is equally ingenious. It purports that new homes
in a better location were being prepared for the families, but they
would not move voluntarily. In fact there were no new homes prepared.

Another report from Son Thuong Commune by Dinh Van Giao and Dinh Van
Tru dated 15 August 2005 describes strong pressure to abandon the
Christian faith. When these men refused to write a statement denying
their faith, the authorities wrote one instead and forced the men\'s
hands to make their fingerprints on the document.

CONCLUSION

Long-lasting and widespread persecution of the Hre minority in Quang
Ngai province continues until the present day. It is not happening,
as some would like to believe, merely at the behest of local
officials. Government investigators found it was ordered by district
Party officials. The government has not denied the events but has
fabricated alternative stories to explain them. The stories,
complete fabrications and cover-ups, emanated from the propaganda
branch of the State of Vietnam. They were published promptly on the
worldwide net, and in Vietnamese and English language State newspapers.

This clear and recent example call into serious question Vietnam\'s
stated intentions and ability to institute religious liberty reform.

END

SOURCES:

Handwritten reports of Evangelist Dinh Van Hoang up to 23 August 2005.

Interview with the Rev. Thai Phuoc Truong, President of the
Evangelical Church of Vietnam (South) on 8 September 2005

Letter from the Quang Ngai Province Bureau of Religious Affairs to
the Provincial committee of the ECVN (S) dated 9 November 2004.

Petition on behalf of persecuted Hre Christians to the central
government Inspection and Policy Bureaus, by the Rev. Doan Trung
Tin, director of Vietnam Good News Mission and dated 29 July 2005,
and letter by same to the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

Radio Free Asia Vietnamese language broadcast scripts on the topic
dated 25 August and 31 August 2005 (also quoting in full the
Vietnam News Agency\'s counter report which includes the accurate
report of Hre Evangelist Dinh Van Vinh).

Viet Nam News English language article on Page 5 of the 5 September
2005 edition, entitled "Radio report on the Protestant home burning
a case of \'base slander\'".

Photos of the house destroyed on 26 July and 31 July and burned
house site of Evangelist Van Hoang on 21 August 2005.

Report from Dinh Van Giao and Dinh Van Tru of Son Thuong Commune
dated 15 August 2005.

Interviews with others who know about the situation but wish not to
be named.

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