Several Hmong Christians were beaten and arrested by Vietnamese government officials after they refused to renounce their faith and worship a Buddha statue, a pastor has revealed.
Pastor Hoang Van Pa told persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern that government officials threatened 33 Hmong Protestants in Phá Lóm village in November if they refused to renounce their Christian faith.
Police reportedly gathered personal information about the 33 believers and carried out an open trial before the community. The officers presented an image of the Buddha and tried to force the Christians to abandon their faith and worship the Buddha statue instead. Four of the Christians were arrested and beaten, and government officials continued to harass Protestants in several other raids throughout November and December.
As Dzung, the representative of the Interdisciplinary Inspection Team, explained that Vietnam has banned the Protestant Christian faith and seeks to expel those who refuse to renounce their faith in Jesus. In 2018, more than 100 believers were expelled from Yen Bai province and Lao Cai province.
"Due to its ethnic background and high percentage of practicing Christians, Vietnam's Hmong community is often targeted and harassed by both the government and neighboring communities," wrote ICC's Regional Manager Gina Goh.
"In a Communist country where Christianity is often seen as unpatriotic or a threat to the regime, Hmong Christians constantly face discrimination, harassment, land grabs, torture, and imprisonment."
ICC has warned that the persecution of Hmong Christians is expected to continue in 2019.
In 2017, police in Vietnam threw stones and beat a group of Roman Catholic priests who were defending a cross erected on church-claimed land in Thua Thien Hue province.
Thien An priest Khoa Cao Duc Loi said at the time: "They prevented us from putting it back, and priests held on to the cross while police tore at their shirts and dragged them by their hair."