HO CHI MINH CITY (Christian Examiner) – The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on Vietnam to cease the persecution of a Christian activist whose husband has been imprisoned for his faith since 2011, Catholic News Asia has reported.
According to the report, activist Tran Thi Hong, who frequently attempts to communicate with foreign governments to press for the release of her husband, has repeatedly been arrested and tortured.
"We are concerned that the repeated arrests and the continuing detention of Ms. Tran resulted from her peaceful human rights work and exercise of her fundamental rights, which constitutes arbitrary detention," UN representatives said in a statement calling for her unconditional release June 2.
The UN's Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, and the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Mendez, also urged the Vietnamese authorities to put an end to all persecution and harassment against religious leaders, human rights advocates and their families.
Tran has been in and out of prison since her initial arrest April 14. She has been told since that she must "cooperate" with the government, which in Vietnamese terms means "submit."
Vietnam's constitution supposedly guarantees religious freedom, but the communist country extends religious protections only so far as belief doesn't threaten the cohesion of society or the power of the government.
In most cases, Christian groups – both Catholic and those affiliated with free church traditions – are seen as a threat by the government. They are also persecuted by the non-religious and Buddhist segments of society.
Tran's husband is director of the Vietnam-U.S. Lutheran Alliance Church, which the government considers subversive. He has not been allowed to see his family since he was imprisoned five years ago.
The UN leaders said Vietnam should "immediately and unconditionally release Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh and Ms. Tran Thi Hong, as well as all persons detained for their legitimate activities in the defense of human rights."
"The Vietnamese government has the obligation to respect the right of religious communities to organize themselves as independent communities and to appoint their own leaders," Bielefeldt said.
"Viet Nam should release Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh and Ms. Tran Thi Hong, as well as all persons detained for their legitimate activities in the defense of human rights."