Vietnam slams door shut on human rights, religious freedom reforms

by Staff, |
A woman wearing a traditional Vietnamese hat talks with U.S. President Barack Obama during a town hall meeting with members of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) at the GEM Center in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam May 25, 2016. Obama's visit has failed to yield dividends in the area of human rights as authorities there continue to crack down on Christians. | REUTERS/Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) – President Barack Obama had no sooner left Vietnam when government authorities there conducted a brutal crackdown on Christians in the country, International Christian Concern has reported.

According to the international persecution monitor, less than two weeks after the U.S. delegation left the country and President Obama encouraged the government to improve its human rights record, around 30 police and government officials stormed a church on the Vietnam-China border.

ICC reported the arrest and torture of one pastor's wife and the beating and arrest of a 14-year-old boy. The church's pastor was also interrogated and police attempted to coerce the pastor into signing a statement that the church was a threat to the local community and national security. The report did not say if the authorities had gained a confession.

In the weeks prior to the raids, the United Nations issued a stinging report on Vietnam's human rights abuses, in particular against Tran Thi Hong, the wife of a Christian pastor who had been arrested and tortured on multiple occasions. Tran's husband has been in prison since 2011.

"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.

Reports of persecution in Vietnam surface from the country frequently. Catholics and Protestants both often feel the brunt of suffering, and many Protestants are also ethnic minorities, making them doubly hated by the Vietnamese (Kihn) majority.

The government is unlikely to change its policies, William Stark, ICC's regional manager for South Asia, said.

"It is appalling to see the actions by the Vietnamese government against its Christian population both before and after the president's visit. In an effort to bring forth a new chapter in US-Vietnamese relations, the president lifted the weapons embargo between the two nations in hopes of a better future. Unfortunately, the president relinquished the last major bargaining chip the United States had to use with Vietnam regarding their deplorable human rights record. These recent attacks on the church and the arrest and torture of an imprisoned pastor's wife shows the true colors of Vietnam's leadership."