Human Rights Group Hits Hanoi Policy
Carter, Tom, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
A Washington human rights group, days before President Clinton is to visit Vietnam, yesterday released a series of Vietnamese government documents that depict an official policy of persecution against Christians, especially evangelical Protestants.
Some 50 pages of documents disclosed by the rights-group Freedom House bear government seals and signatures, and were passed to human rights workers in Vietnam earlier this year.
"These documents . . . 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," said Nina Shea, director of Freedom House's Washington-based Center for Religious Freedom.
Dating between Feb. 7, 1998, and June 6 of this year, the series of eight documents, some marked "Top Secret" or "Secret," were translated into English and authenticated by Vietnam experts in the United States, Canada and Thailand, according to Freedom House.
The first document includes a harsh condemnation of the Catholic Church, which it blames for orchestrating the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.
Issued by the Bureau of Religious and Minority Affairs in the northern province of Lao Cai that borders China, the document includes 10 policy recommendations for the repression of churches, especially those practicing evangelical Protestant Christianity.
"We must carefully control the thinking and activities of the religions," according to the translation. "We must turn propaganda into an art form" so that "they will not know they are being propagandized."
The policy directive is in response to the "unexpectedly rapid growth" of Protestant Christianity in the northwestern provinces among the Hmong ethnic minority.
According to Freedom House, the man Vietnam has put in charge of dealing with religion has a history of brutal repression of religion in other provinces.
The persecution of Buddhists, Protestants and Catholics outside those organizations sanctioned by the government is common in Vietnam.
All eight documents released by Freedom House are primarily directed toward evangelical Protestants.
"The documents show that Vietnam is still very much of the Communist mind-set in that they do not want any religious organization they cannot control," said Ms. …