On April 21, the US International Religious Freedom Commission (USCIRF) released a 2021 report on Vietnam’s religious freedom, saying the government continues to persecute independent religious groups, systematically violates religious freedom, and used the pro-government Red Flag groups to attack religious leaders who have different views from the state. USCIRF also re-proposed to include Vietnam on the list of countries of special concern (CPC).
Opening the report, USCIRF wrote: “In 2020, conditions for religious freedom in Vietnam generally tend to be the same as in 2019.” USCIRF recognizes that the Vietnamese government has both enforced the Law on Religions and Beliefs but systematically violates religious freedom, especially for independent religious groups and also for religious groups recognized by the state.
Report of USCIRF 2021 on the freedom of religion in Vietnam, dated April 21.
With regard to the Protestant group in the Central Highlands, USCIRF says an estimated 10,000 Hmong and Montagnards remain stateless because local authorities have refused to issue their household registration books and identity cards – but the main reason is in retaliation for their refusal to give up their beliefs.
In February 2020, the government intervened in the funeral arrangements of the late High Priest of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam Thich Quang Do; in August 2020 state-directed thugs attacked monks at Thien An Monastery in Thuy Bang commune, Thua Thien Hue province, demanding that the religious institution return land to the commune, according to a report by USCIRF.
The report also mentioned the cases of religious prisoner Nguyen Bac Truyen on hunger strike asking for medical care and religious prisoner Le Dinh Luong repeatedly was denied reading bible books in prison.
USCIRF will continue to pressure Vietnam to release religious prisoners
Concerning the Red Flag groups, USCIRF stated: “By 2020, the Red Flag groups, which is supported by the state, together with state organizations, that conduct online propaganda on the Internet, have increased the discrimination and non-compliance tolerance against independent religious groups, Catholic priests, Montagnard Protestant groups, and independent Cao Dai followers.”
The Red Flag groups have been active since 2017 and have been involved in violent attacks against the Catholic community. Although supposedly disbanded in 2018, the groups have shifted to increasingly active online activities.
USCIRF proposed that the US Department of State put Vietnam on the list of countries of special concern (CPC), along with other countries such as Russia, India, and Syria. Currently, there are 10 countries on the list of CPC, including Myanmar, China, and Korea.
From Kon Tum, Christian pastor A Dao told VOA that he agrees with the USCIRF report. He added that the Protestant Christian Church, which he administers, has been subjected to constant government harassment:
“They are still causing difficulties because they have not recognized the Protestant Christian Church, not yet allowed us to worship God in a peaceful way.”
“The Protestant Christian Church in Phu Yen province is hindered by them, not allowed to worship, they obstruct people’s beliefs.”