Mar 19, 2018

Hmong: Sectarian Violence in Vietnam Amidst Restrictions on Freedom of Religion

 Vietnam has recently introduced measures further restricting freedom of religion in the country. Some 40% of the Hmong are said to be Christians, representing a much higher proportion than in other Vietnamese ethnic groups. In this context, the Vietnamese government’s failure to protect its minorities and religious freedom is once again exposed and is leading to outbreaks of sectarian violence.

Below is article published by Christian Today

A mob has reportedly attacked four families that recently converted to Christianity after they refused to renounce their faith.

According to World Watch Monitor, the attack, which took place on March 1, had resulted in the hospitalization of four people, who sustained injuries to their heads and arms.

The four families — 24 people in all — belong to the Hmong people group and had only recently converted to Christianity.

The Hmong Christians were reportedly advised by provincial authorities against continuing with their new belief, and they were told that they will be forced to leave the village if they do not renounce their faith.

An estimated 400,000 out of one million Hmong people are Christians, a higher proportion than in Vietnam's population as a whole. The Hmong, along with other Christians in Vietnam, are facing threats to their religious freedom due to the new Law on Belief and Religion, which was enacted this year.

The Vietnamese government's repression of religious and other freedoms has been highlighted at the 37th session of the Human Rights Council, currently meeting in Geneva.

"Vietnam claims there are no political prisoners, only people who have 'violated the law'. But the fact is that Vietnam's domestic legislation is incompatible with international law. Instead of developing the rule of law, Vietnam is enforcing the rule by law, by adopting a whole arsenal of legislation that nullifies human rights," Vo Van Ai, president of the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) told the Council on March 14.

Van Ai pointed to the recently enforced "national security" provisions in the newly Amended Criminal Code, which he says are "systematically invoked to detain political and religious dissidents, human rights defenders and civil society."

The VCHR lamented in its latest report that the "arrests and harsh convictions of dissidents are multiplying with frightening speed" after the organization documented that 16 activists had been sentenced to a total of 95 years in prison since Jan. 23.

Watchdog group Open Doors has ranked Vietnam in the 2018 World Watch List as the 18th country where Christians face the most persecution.

The organization noted that the main sources of persecution in the country come from local and national governments as well as tribal culture. Christians are seen by ethnic group leaders as traitors to the tribal culture and identity, and Roman Catholics, which are by far the largest Christian community in the country, are suspected of having ties to foreign powers.

Earlier this year, the Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience declared 2017 as the "worst year" for dissidents, while the U.S. State Department had expressed concern about the 14-year prison sentence that was handed down to Catholic activist Hoang Duc Binh.


Photo courtesy of Yuan Hong Yong