Vietnam's Campaign to Suppress Protestant Churches Revealed in New Official Documents Released by Freedom House

Washington, DC

Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom today released eight secret official Vietnamese documents that show a concerted and ongoing government campaign to arrest and reverse the country's growing Christian movements, particularly among minority peoples in the northwest provinces, where hundreds of thousands have converted to Christianity over the past decade. The documents, dating from February 7, 1998, to June 6, 2000, bear government seals and signatures and have been authenticated by Vietnam experts in the U.S., Canada and Thailand.

The release of the documents precedes President Clinton's trip to Vietnam scheduled for November 16. The documents are accompanied by an overview and analysis. These documents are available on the Center's website

The eight documents offer a rare window on the attitudes, policies and plans of Vietnam's Communist Party and government regarding Protestant Christianity. Although Vietnam is a signatory to international conventions on human rights that guarantee religious freedom, these documents provide irrefutable evidence that repression continues to drive day-to-day policy and practice. Several of the documents refer to the Protestant movement among the Hmong and other tribal peoples as being "hostile," "dangerous," and a "problem."

  • Document 1 expresses concern that Christian churches were instrumental in bringing down communism in Eastern Europe. It includes ten policy recommendations for repressing churches, such as "we must carefully control the thinking and the activities of the religions"; "work hard to control religious leaders, officials and missionaries"; "we must turn propaganda into an art form" so that "they will not know they are being propagandized"; and "we must be sure that the 'religious law' yields to the 'secular law'."
  • Document 4 forbids listening to foreign religious broadcasts, and "gather(ing) people to study religion," and directs "inform(ing) government officials if a stranger arrives to preach religion, or if someone in your hamlet goes off somewhere else."
  • Document 7 is a government pledge form that Christians are pressured to sign to indicate they are giving up their Christian faith.

Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom, stated: "These documents are the smoking gun. They show that church closures, arrests and bible burnings are not isolated acts of overzealous cadres, but are the policy directives of the Vietnamese Communist Party and state religious officials. They give the lie to Vietnam government claims that the state has liberalized religious freedom in recent years. We urge President Clinton to raise religious freedom concerns with top Vietnamese officials on his impending trip."

Vietnam receives a "not free" ranking in the Center's new survey, Religious Freedom in the World.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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