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Archive for April, 2007

Hundreds Demonstrate Outside Vietnamese Embassy Demanding Freedom

Posted by radiofreechina on April 27, 2007

By Scott Johnson, Advisor to the Montagnard Foundation
Special to ASSIST News Service

WASHINGTON, DC (ANS) — “Those who are hostile and extremely resistant treat them severely and publicly denounce them to the citizens explaining their activities of destroying the country, dividing the ethnic groups, and their other illegal actions.” Vietnamese Government Document, Central Bureau of Religious Affairs, Training Document Hanoi 2006
 Montagnard Foundation members at US Capitol
Montagnard Foundation members playing traditional gongs at US Capital Washington DC. Call for Religious and political freedoms in Vietnam.
On Friday the 20th of April 2007 hundreds of Degar Montagnards, Cambodians and Hmong peoples gathered outside the US Capital in Washington DC before eventually descending on the Vietnamese Embassy. Degar Montagnards in loin clothes beat ancient tribal gongs while Cambodian monks in Orange Robes and Hmong in tribal dress issued statements calling for freedom in Vietnam.

It was a demonstration aimed directly against the Vietnamese communist government and yet it was also a plea for the United States to use its diplomatic leverage to help its former allies – the oppressed peoples of South East Asia. The participants include the Montagnard Foundation representing the Degar Montagnards of Vietnam’s Central Highlands, the ethnic Cambodian’s of the Mekong Delta region represented by the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation and the Hmong peoples represented by the World Hmong People’s Congress.

Demonstrators of the Montagnard Foundation, Khmer Kampuchea Kron Federation and World Hmong Peoples’ Congress pray for greater freedoms in Vietnam.

The demonstration was all around a peaceful one and the Montagnard Foundation even held Christian prayer services. Yet this protest has little to do with peace in the eyes of the communist regime in Hanoi. The Vietnamese Embassy officials in Washington remained silent and only once did they open the window on the fourth floor to take photographs of the demonstrators below. However, in Vietnam’s Central and Northern Highlands, in the Mekong Delta and in neighboring Laos there is a “secret war” being waged against the region’s indigenous minority populations there and in particular the Christian house Church movement by the regime in Hanoi. This covert war is actually waged against the entire population of Vietnam as the communist politburo brutally represses any vestige of emerging political freedoms.

Over 350 Degar Montagnards remain today in Vietnam’s prisons where they suffer brutal conditions…and yet in the mainstream media their suffering remains buried in silence. In Vietnam, foreign tourists wander bustling street markets and sunbathe on the beach as Vietnam’s ancient tribal peoples rot in brutal prisons or are cruelly tortured with electric shock by the dreaded security police the “Cong An”. All the while the international community lauds Vietnam’s economic success and espouses the country as an affordable holiday destination.

Hanoi’s war of repression is nonetheless quite real and recently resulted in what Human Rights Watch calls “the severest crackdown in years”.

Leading up to accession to the WTO last year we had seen that Vietnam had made “alleged” progress with religious freedoms and was improving its human rights reforms. Now, we know these were lies and unfortunately the worst scenario happened – Vietnam was granted Permanent Normal Trade Relations with the US, then got into the WTO and then – they did as the critics feared – they reverted back to their old ways of violating human rights by arresting, torturing and killing people. Congressional Representatives such as Chris Smith, Zoe Lofgren, Frank Wolf, Ed Royce, Loretta Sanchez and Dana Rohrabacher condemned the renewed crackdown by the Vietnamese regime and the US Embassy this month called the crackdown “disturbing”. The Vietnamese regime has also used the pretext of religious reform to control the people using torture and imprisonment to force Degar Montagnards to join the official government controlled Church.

This “secret war” waged against those advocating political and religious reform in Vietnam thus is really “not so secret” as it is more accurately just not given adequate coverage by the mainstream media. Likewise many governments spurred by their domestic trade agenda with Vietnam appear to minimalize the repression going on inside Vietnam. “Economic engagement” is after all one of the catchphrases used by those advocating economic relations with Vietnam.

Degar Montagnards outside Vietnamese Embassy demand release of their people – 350 Degar prisoners of Conscience who were imprisoned for peacefully protesting against religious repression and lack of land rights, for fleeing to Cambodia or for being members of the house Church movement.
The problem with the “economic engagement” scenario however, lies herein that those in power do everything they can to remain in power. In the short term “economic engagement” is nothing but a death sentence for the dissidents and human rights defenders who speak out against repression. Comparisons with China for example have shown trade concessions have yet to yield any significant political freedoms as the country remains an authoritarian state that crushes dissent with brutal efficiency.

The communist government of Vietnam is no different and has likewise engaged capitalism with enthusiasm while the government controlled press spits out vitriolic anti capitalist babble and arrests, tortures and kills enemies of the state to repel its greatest fear – “Peaceful evolution by hostile forces”.

“Peaceful evolution” is the catchphrase used by the communists to describe the undermining of communism. Strange one would argue how the words “peaceful” and “evolution” conjure up such loathing by the Hanoi regime. But not so strange to those who know the regime in Hanoi seeks the benefits of a market economy without accepting the political freedoms inherent to a capitalist economy.

In Washington the demonstrating groups outside the Vietnamese Embassy know this and gathered together to send a message of protest to the dictators in Hanoi. The demonstrators have something else in common as they were allies with the US during the Vietnam War and since 1975 have suffered severely under Vietnamese communist rule.

In July 2006 a Montagnard Degar named Y Ngo Adrong was beaten to death in police custody in Vietnam and the US State Department described his death as an “extrajudicial killing”. In Laos military operations waged by Laotian and Vietnamese soldiers continue against the Hmong peoples who are desperately hiding in the remote regions of the country. In Vietnam’s Mekong Delta security police arrest, threaten and disrobe ethic Khmer monks. Democracy advocates, Buddhist monks, Catholic priests and internet users throughout Vietnam face torture, arrest and lengthy prison terms as House church Christians are brutally tortured in a desperate measure to control the population.

Vietnam is a nation with boundless potential, but the years of communist leadership has kept the country stagnant and population poor. The regime has brutally repressed its minorities and indigenous peoples and sold their citizens and the international community a collection of lies and corrupt ideals whose goal is to preserve the power elite.

In Washington DC outside the Vietnamese Embassy Kok Ksor, President of the Montagnard Foundation addressed the crowd stating “all of us here today must continue to stand firm and speak out to ensure that human rights, religious freedom and democracy eventually reaches all the imprisoned people who live in Vietnam.”

He is right. “Peace and Evolution” are in fact exactly what the communist regime in Vietnam needs.

——————————————————————————–

Scott Johnson is the Spokesman and Advisor for the US Based Montagnard Foundation, Inc. Website: http://www.montagnard-foundation.org/homepage.html

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Catholic Bishop in China held by police for over a month

Posted by radiofreechina on April 26, 2007

Shaanxi bishop in custody for over a month (AsiaNews.it)

Mgr Martin Wu Qinjing

Xian (AsiaNews) – Mgr Martin Wu Qinjing, bishop of Zhouzhi (Shaanxi), has been held by police and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association for over a month. Many faithful claim that he is being subjected to endless political sessions to force him to give up his diocese.

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Radio Free Asia reports on wave of forced abortions in southwest China.

Posted by radiofreechina on April 25, 2007

Guangxi Officials Carry Out Mass Forced Abortions (RFA.org)

HONG KONG—Authorities in China’s southwestern region of Guangxi have forced dozens of pregnant women to a hospital in Baise city to undergo abortions, some as late as nine months, the women and their relatives said….

“They injected me twice,” she told Mandarin service reporter Yan Ming. “It was very painful. They injected into the region of the baby’s head. I could feel the baby moving in my womb.”

“It twitched for about 20 minutes and then it didn’t move any more…There’s nothing I can do. I will just have to let this baby go,”

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Mass Arrest of Chinese and American Christian Leaders in Xinjiang

Posted by radiofreechina on April 25, 2007

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

MIDLAND, TX (ANS) — Aid Association (CAA) has told ANS that it has learned though “credible sources” that on April 19, 2007 in Akesu City, located in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China, that about 30 major Chinese house church leaders were arrested when they met with four American Christians.

“Among the Americans are a senior pastor and an associate pastor of an American church,” said a CAA spokesperson. “Sources tell us that the four Americans arrived at Akesu airport on April 17 and started fellowship with the house church leaders on April 18 at a local church family house.”
The spokesperson said the latest news is that the four Americans are still being held in an undisclosed hotel for questioning. The translator for the Americans, Mr. Jinhong Li from Beijing, is also still being detained.

“On April 23, the Public Security Bureau (PSB) confiscated the luggage of the four Americans from the house of their host, a local church family,” said the CAA spokesperson

“Eight Chinese pastors were released on April 20 and at least 6 others have already received criminal detention papers for 30 days detention for being accused as ‘suspects involved in evil cult activities.'”

CAA says that the names of the accused are Pastor Xinglan Zhao, Pastor Xiurong Huang, Pastor Tianlu Yang, 41, Pastor Chaoyi Wang, 41, Pastor Cuiling Li, 48, and Pastor Sijun He.

The Chinese government may sentence the six accused pastors to 1-3 years re-education through labor because they were previously detained for one month for organizing house church activities a couple of years ago.

Eyewitnesses told CAA that at least two of the arrested were seen with bleeding noses and bruises on their faces because of torture in the interrogation site.

They are being held at A Ke Su City Detention Center.

CAA says that it has learned that the US Embassy is intervening in this case.

“We urge the Xinjiang authorities to abide with both the Chinese and international laws in respect of religious freedom.” said Rev. Bob Fu, president of CAA. “These Americans and Chinese Christians have done nothing wrong and the police who are engaging in torture against theses Christians are to be held legally and morally responsible for what they have done.”

For more information on China Aid Association, go to: http://www.ChinaAid.org.

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Released Church Leaders in Henan and Inner Mongolia File Lawsuit against Abusers in the Government

Posted by radiofreechina on April 20, 2007

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

MIDLAND, TEXAS (ANS) — Three House Church leaders from Henan and Inner Mongolia filed a lawsuit against the Chinese government for abuses during their detention after both local governments rejected their application for an administrative review of their penalties.

According to China Aid Association (CAA), Dong Quanqu and his wife Li Huage from Henan have filed lawsuit in the People’s Court of Nanyang city demanding that Wancheng Branch of Nanyang Municipal Public Security Bureau cancel all its illegal specific acts, return the confiscated properties and compensate for the applicants’ properties illegally detained, including 400 yuan of detention fees. However, the court hasn’t decided whether or not to take up this case.
Zhi Ruiping from Inner Mongolia has filed her case in the People’s Court of Duolun County on April 12, 2007 and that court has accepted her case and a trial will be held soon.

For the case of pastor Dong Quanyu and his wife, the reasons given by the applicants are based on the laws of the People’s Republic of China.

CAA says that on March 6, 2007, the police raided the house church without presenting their proper IDs and obviously failed to comply with the legal procedure as defined in Article 37 of “Laws of Administrative Penalty of the People’s Republic of China.”

Their confiscation of computers, cameras, Dong Quanyu’s cell phone, 30-40 boxes of Bibles and 400 yuan of cash is a violation of Article 89 of “Laws of Administrative Penalty of the People’s Republic of China.” Other references of the laws include Articles 96, 97, 27 of “Laws of Administrative Penalty of the People’s Republic of China” and Articles 36 and 37 of “The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.”

Dong Yuanqu was detained 10 days from March 6, 2007 to March 16, 2007. Li Huage was detained on March 19, 2007 on the ground the Li notified the people gathering on March 6. She was released on March 29, 2007. So far, the properties confiscated have not been returned.

For the case of sister Zhi Ruiping, her requests in her application are: repeal the Penalty Decision Gong (Guo) Jue Zi No. 3 of Duolun County according to law; rule that the defendant pay one yuan in the form of state compensation according to law, and rule that the defendant pay the litigation expenses for this case

Zhi Ruiping was arrested on December 29, 2006 by Duolun County Public Security Bureau on the ground that she organized a Christmas celebration without registration. She was given a penalty of 15 days of detention and was released on January 13, 2007.

CAA has been supporting both cases in legal and financial aid.

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China Aid Association, Inc.
Midland, Texas79708
Tel: (267) -205-5210
Fax: (432)-686-8355
E-mail: info@ChinaAid.org
Websites: http://www.ChinaAid.org; http://www.monitorChina.org
Contact: Bob Fu (432) 689-6985; (267) 205-5210

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20 More Women Forced to Have Abortions in Guangxi on April 18

Posted by radiofreechina on April 19, 2007

Midland, Texas (April 18, 2007)
The Massive forced abortion campaign continues in Guangxi province. After 41 women were forced to have abortions on April 17, CAA has learned that the Youjiang District People’s Hospital of Baise City performed forced abortions for at least 20 more pregnant women on April 18.

Eyewitnesses report to CAA that at around 5:00pm on April 18, more than 20 more pregnant women were transported into the same hospital by the Family Planning officials. Within 30 minutes, about 10 of them were injected forcefully for an abortion. This means within last 24 hours, at least 61 babies were killed with forced abortions.

At Bed number 37, Ms. He Caigan was 9 months pregnant. Officials injected her baby’s head and 20 minutes later, her baby stopped moving and died.

About 6am on April 18(BJ time), pastor James Liang’s wife Ms Wei Linrong gave birth to a boy, but he was dead because of the injection. She received three doses of injection-one is to induce the birth and the other two to kill the baby in the womb.

After China Aid reported the forced abortion, many PSB were seen surrounding the section of the hospital where these women are held.

CAA urges the international community to register your protest and concern with letters and phone calls to the Chairman of the National Population and Family Planning Commssion, Party Secretary of Baise City, Mr Liang Chunlu, and the Youjiang District People’s Hospital:

Chairman Wei Qing Zhang, National Population an Family Planning Commission of China
Hotline for complaints: :+86-10-8250492
Phone line to report criminal activities of family planning officials: +86-10-82504933
Address: No. 14, Zhichun Lu, Haidian District, Beijing, PRC 100008
Email: gjjsw@chinapop.gov.cn

Youjiang District People’s Hospital:
Tel: +86-776-2839393; 2697723(office)

Party Secretary of Guangxi Province: Mr. Qibao Liu
Tel: +86-771-5883508

Governor of Guangxi Province: Mr. Bing Lu
Tel: +86-771-2807778

Party Secretary of Baise City Mr Liang Chunlu
Tel: +86-776-2834089
Address: No. 13 Xiangyang Street, Baise city, Guangxi
© Issued by CAA on April 18, 2007
对华援助协会新闻稿
联系人:傅希秋
手机:267-205-5210
电邮:info@ChinaAid.org
网址:www.ChinaAid.org
http://www.MonitorChina.org
又有20多位产妇在广西百色市被强制堕胎
图: 中共广西壮族自治区党委书记:刘奇葆
德州美德兰(对华援助协会2007年4月18日)

对华援助协会紧急获悉,北京时间4月18日又有20多位产妇在广西百色市被强制堕胎.
这意味着在过去48小时内,已经有60多位产妇被强行注射催胎剂进行强制堕胎.

据目击者向对华援助协会报告,仅在广西百色市右江区人民医院妇产科走廊里4月18日下午5点左右, 百色市计划生育委员会办公室又运来两车20多位产妇. 目击者说,半小时内, .就有10位产妇被强行注射催胎剂进行强制堕胎. 产妇一般被强迫注射2至3针催胎和毒胎药物.

在39号床的产妇基督徒韦琳荣4月17日上午11点被强行注射催胎剂后.已于4月18日早晨6产下已被毒死的男婴.
住在右江区人民医院三十七号床的一位孕妇怀的是第一个孩子,但百色的计划生育部门以她未满十八足岁、没领结证为理由迫她放弃腹中的胎儿。尽管她希望她的胎儿出生,但被注射药物后,胎儿已被毒死.
对华援助协会鼓励全球良心人士紧急干预,向国家人口计生委主任和广西百色人民政府, 百色市右江区人民医院质询和反映情况:

广西百色市右江区人民医院 单位地址: 广西壮族自治区和平街106号联系电话: 0776-2839393(妇产科); 0776-2697723(值班室)邮政编码: 533000
中共广西壮族自治区党委书记:刘奇葆 地址:南宁市民族大道103  邮编:530025 电话:0771-5883508
广西壮族自治区人民政府主席:陆 兵地址:南宁市民乐路1号 邮编:530012 电话:0771—2807778 网址:http://www.gxi.gov.cn/
张维庆  国家人口计生委主任National Population an Family Planning Commission of China
中华人民共和国国家人口和计划生育委员会办公厅
信访人反映情况、提出建议、意见或投诉请求,请拨打电话:+86-10-8250492
举报人口和计划生育系统县(处)级以上领导干部的违纪问题,请拨打电话: +86-10-82504933
北京市海淀区知春路14号 100088 mail: gjjsw@chinapop.gov.cn
广西百色人民政府地址:广西壮族自治区百色向阳街13号 电话:0776-2834089
对华援助协会版权所有©2007年 4月18 日发布

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Yahoo to be sued for turning over info on internet dissident to China

Posted by radiofreechina on April 19, 2007

Group Targets Yahoo Inc. Over China Cases (NPR.org)

Today Yahoo became the first Internet company to be sued in the United States for human rights violations in China. Yu Ling, the wife of a Chinese dissident, has brought an action in a federal District court in San Francisco accusing Yahoo of giving up her husband’s name to the communist authorities….

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Vietnam: crackdown raises questions for RL advocates – is it time for a more holistic approach?

Posted by radiofreechina on April 19, 2007

By Elizabeth Kendal
World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC)
Special to ASSIST News Service

AUSTRALIA (ANS) — The Vietnam regime’s current crackdown has swept up several significant Christian human rights advocates such as Father Nguyen van Ly and human rights lawyer and religious liberty advocate Nguyen van Dai. This raises questions for religious liberty advocates.

Nguyen van Dai

Nguyen van Dai

Q) If a Christian who is free to believe and share the gospel of salvation, is suffering persecution as a consequence of his/her public promotion of Biblical Christian virtues (i.e. honesty and sexual fidelity) and/or values (i.e. justice, equity and liberty), is their cause one of religious persecution? Is silencing such a Christian a violation of their religious liberty?
Q) What may be defined as “religious” and what may not?

The belief that Jesus atoned for sins on the Cross is clearly a religious belief and a core belief of Christianity. But what about the belief that the Creator God of the Bible has spoken and is the supreme authority to whom all are accountable?

While Christians consider this a core religious belief, it has political and social ramifications. Totalitarian dictators, who usually have enshrined their supremacy in their Constitutions, will regard such a belief as politically seditious. (Indeed it is politically threatening to all rulers who defy God’s standard.) Is the theology of the Cross “religious”, the theology of sexuality “social”, and the theology of justice “political”? Or should the Biblical positions on all these subjects be defined as “religious”?

Q) The belief that the God of the Bible has spoken and is the supreme authority is a belief that can be tolerated by dictators so long as it is privately held and not publicly proclaimed or acted upon. But is the right to privately hold a politically threatening religious belief a sufficient expression of religious liberty?

The early Christians who suffered under Rome had full religious liberty. Anyone could believe and worship anything they wanted. The early Christians were not thrown to the gladiators and lions because they worshipped Jesus, but because they would not worship Caesar or acknowledge him as supreme. So were these early Christian martyrs political or religious dissidents?

For the US to designate a state a Cou ntry of Particular Concern, the suffering believers need to be recognised as victims of religious persecution. This is why Christian religious liberty advocates are keen to have Christian human rights advocates recognised as such. This is also the reason why repressive regimes are keen to have Christian human rights advocates recognised as criminals. (See link 1)

Such is the dilemma that emerges when religious liberty is separated from other human rights. This situation has developed because during the decades after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was formulated, secularists increasingly overlooked Article 18 until religious liberty became the most neglected human right of all. Persecuted Christians have generally been invisible to the secular media while secular human rights advocates, who have difficulty understanding why anyone would suffer for religion, have tended to treat religious liberty as a dispensable human right.

Over the past decade much work has been done by Christian human rights advocates and t he US to correct this situation and raise the profile of religious liberty and bring it back into the consciousness of human rights advocates and the Church.

But as the profile of religious liberty and persecution of Christians has been elevated, a false dichotomy has developed between religious liberty and human rights in general.

Vietnam would be designated a Country of Particular Concern if it imprisoned Christian advocate Nguyen van Dai for worshipping Jesus. But Vietnam can imprison Nguyen van Dai for publicly striving to “loose the chains of injustice” (Isaiah 58:6) in accordance with the Biblical command of God, without fear of consequences because lawyer Dai’s activity has propelled him from the “religious” realm into the political realm.

The issue is further complicated because in the Western world today religion is supposed to be private and personal, not public and social. Because of this many Western Christian human rights advocates expect Christians living a midst injustice and repression to just be quiet and have a private, personal faith. But this is not Biblical Christianity – it is partial Christianity, quite different from the holistic, compelling Christianity of Zimbabwe’s church leaders, Vietnam, China and Syria’s Christian human rights lawyers, and Colombia’s priests who, compelled by the mandates of God, risk their lives and liberty to stand against corruption, cruelty, injustice and repression. It is quite different from the faith of Wilberforce and those of the Clapham sect who did so much to transform Britain in the late C18 and early C19. As noted by the Rector of Holy Trinity, Clapham, the Reverend David Isherwood, “This idea, this modern myth that you kind of box your spiritual life off from your social life, or from your political life, is a nonsense for Christians. . .” (See link 2)

Christianity was never meant to be just believed. Christians are called by Christ to be light (directing society), salt (improving society) and yeast (transforming society). “Faith w ithout deeds is dead” (James 2:26).

So the question is: would it be advantageous if religious liberty, now that it has come-of-age with its improved visibility and profile and advocate community, was absorbed back into the human rights family and a more holistic approach developed?

Elizabeth Kendal
rl-research@crossnet.org.au

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TWO COMPLEMENTARY ARTICLES FOR CONSIDERATION
————————————————-

This posting will now present two complementary articles for the purpose of stimulating debate on this important subject.

The first article is:
Constructive Advocacy: Creating a Context for Action
by Jared Daugherty of the Institute for Global Engagement,
(28 March 2007)
http://www.globalengage.org/media/article.aspx?id=3818

In this article Jared Daugherty outlines the problems that can arise when religious liberty advocates take up the cases of local Christians engaged in political causes and claim that these are cases of religious persecution.

This article advocates convincingly that Christians engaged in political causes not be labelled, or treated as, victims of “religious persecution”.

Daugherty’s article, however, demonstrates exactly why religious persecution and human rights in general should not be separated. Lawyer Nguyen van Dai acts politically on religious motivations, and the fact that his advocacy has political significance removes him from the realm where religious liberty advocates, and the measures they have available to them (ie the International Religious Freedom Act), can help them. And this is really an unacceptable situation. Spiritual life, social life and political life are not separated for these activists, they are not separated in reality, and they should not be separated in our human rights advocacy.
————-
The second article has been contributed to WEA RLC by a long-time Vietnam observer who must remain anonymous. This article, published here in full, makes the case that religious liberty must be central to human rights and not removed to a separate sphere. It advocates a more holistic treatment of human rights.

The Current Crackdown Against Rights Activists in Vietnam
Religious Freedom and other Human Rights
5 April 2007

Humans rights workers, diplomats, and others knowledgeable about Vietnam, agreed late last year that Vietnam’s sincerity towards human rights improvement would be indicated by what happened in Vietnam after it was removed from the US religious liberty blacklist, hosted APEC in Hanoi and acceded to the WTO. They did not have to wait long. Vietnam has been anything but subtle in unleashing a major crackdown o n long-time and as well as on newer human rights advocates in February and March. With the sticks gone and the carrots swallowed, Vietnam apparently feels little compulsion to hold back.

The crackdown is being widely reported on by many human rights and religious liberty organisations. It is also being voluminously, vigorously and unabashedly defended in Vietnam’s internal media as action against criminal elements dangerous to the Party and State of Vietnam. In this criminalisation of the peaceful promotion of freedom, human rights and democracy, Vietnam’s rulers reveal their true nature.

Vietnam’s propaganda machine has defaulted into comfortable old grooves. In a recent article in the Family and Society newspaper Father Ly is described as “joining hands with black forces and reactionary elements to build a force under the cover of freedom of religion activities”. In the Security and Order website, (a more colloquial translation of An Ninh Trat Tu would be Law and Order) of the Ministry of Public Security, a 7 March 2007 article describes the arrests of young lawyers Nguyen van Dai and Le thi Cong Nhan just the day before. Lawyer Dai is accused of using his position as a lawyer, since 2004, “to consort with certain extremist elements to gather what is called ‘evidence that Vietnam suppresses religion’ to distribute to enemy forces and to reactionaries residing abroad”.

The official charge against the two lawyers and Father Ly is “having committed the crime of propagandising against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”, according to Items (a) and (c) of Section 1, Article 88 of the Criminal Code. They were reported already as having “committed the crime” before any trial. The charges are very serious in Vietnam’s criminal code, allowing for four months of detention for investigation extendible four times and very harsh punishment if convicted.

The well-publicised image of Father Ly being forcefully muzzled during his March 29th trial says it all. He got eight years imprisonment. (See link 2)

The Security an d Order posting, only one day after Lawyer Dai’s computers were confiscated, named some of the people and organisations abroad supporting Dai (i.e. the “enemy forces”); this included US State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy. Vietnam’s large and intrusive security apparatus has surely been watching Lawyer Dai and many others for a long time. The State of Vietnam is clearly determined to protect someone from the dangers of peaceful political expression, a free press, independent labour unions, and true religious freedom.

UNSUSTAINABLE DICHOTOMY

There has crept into the discussion about change in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the notion that religious liberty is detached from other fundamental human rights. So, Vietnam is rewarded and credited with improvements in extending “freedom” to religious groups through the mechanism of registration, even while she oppresses and criminalises peaceful activists and ordinary people calling for other fundamental freedoms. To the extent that outside human ri ghts allies, be they governments, NGOs or religious liberty advocates, accept this dichotomy, they will be handicapped in their work for human rights and freedoms.

It should be carefully noted that “religious liberty” advocacy is specifically mentioned in the current Vietnamese-language propaganda against Father Ly and Lawyer Dai. Religion, however, will be scrupulously avoided in any charges brought – affirming the dichotomy. Indeed, it was from a basis of religious liberty advocacy that both men branched out into wider human rights advocacy. This would also be true of Fathers Tin, Giai and Loi, Professor Ket, the Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang and some others. These activists are being persecuted if not for their faith beliefs, for putting their beliefs into action. Vietnamese authorities understand and articulate this connection, even though some others would try to make a distinction between religious freedom and other human rights. As in the case of famed German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, their Christian commitment drive s these Vietnam activists to stand and act for justice. It can also be said that some success in achieving modest gains in religious liberty and even greater success in drawing attention to abuses, have emboldened these activists to strive for more.

The human rights advocacy of these Christian leaders must be understood in the light of their religious motivation. Their struggle for religious liberty and other human rights comes from their Christian understanding of humankind being created in the image of God, and having inalienable rights derived therefrom. In this view (articulated for example by Catholic theologians John Courtney Murray and George Weigel and by Protestant theologian Charles Taber) freedom of religion is the central or first freedom. Other freedoms grow in concentric circles out of the fundamental freedom to believe and practise one’s beliefs. In this view, it is not possible to separate religious liberty from the other fundamental human rights.

Indeed, if religious liberty is to be true lib erty, it must observe more than freedom to believe in one’s internal being. It must include freedom to assemble, to speak, to publish and so on. This makes the current “registration” of religious congregations in Vietnam so incomplete. It allows a certain number, sometimes named people, to meet at a certain address during certain hours to do certain registered activities. This represents progress in that it presumably prevents congregations operating within the confines of such registration from being arbitrarily broken up by security forces, but it is certainly short of religious freedom.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the cornerstones of international human rights law, also both clearly affirm the right to freedom of religion (Article 18 of each). Conceptually religious liberty and wider natural human rights advocacy are not divisible. (A recent practitioner of this wholistic philosophy on the American scene was the Rev. Martin Luther King.) Th is is one reason Vietnam so fears and oppresses the activity of religious leaders and religiously motivated rights advocates. Another reason is the perceived important role of churches in the demise of communism in Eastern Europe.

Those who do not understand that these strongly held religious beliefs drive the human rights advocacy of key religious activists, will in my opinion be handicapped in understanding the events currently unfolding in Vietnam.

It is intriguing that Vietnam continues its new, recent activity of registering religious congregations – especially Protestant house churches – at the same time as unleashing the crackdown. Also concurrent with the crackdown, Vietnam received a Vatican delegation for a week in early March. It is “religious freedom” as usual. In doing these things Vietnam has been partly successful in artificially separating religious liberty from other human rights during its current crackdown.

Some reasons it is able to do so may be as follows.

Contemporary human rights theory and practice. Unlike religiously motivated human rights advocacy, Western secular human rights practice often has a diminished place for religious liberty. This is in spite of the fact that both the UDHR and the ICCPR both have strong articles on religious freedom. But in practice religious freedom is frequently not central, but rather secondary or even peripheral. This idea is echoed in the current Vietnam position that concedes “there is a need for religion for a segment of the population” and then tries in its own way to provide limited and controlled space for this minority.

Departmentalisation. The Office of International Religious Freedom (OIRF) that pays significant and special attention to religious freedom, of the US State Department, has the unintended effect of separating religious freedom from other freedoms and even marginalising it.

This has particular relevance for the case of Vietnam’s Montagnards. Several hundred are documented by HRW as being imprisoned and some Vietnam church sources believe the number is likely be higher. These arrests and detention followed demonstrations in 2001 and 2004 against religious oppression and confiscation of their land and other discrimination. While Vietnam moved quite decisively in 2006, in response to ORIF and other pressure, to reopen many of the hundreds of Evangelical Church of Vietnam (South) churches it had earlier ordered shut, serious grievances still remain. Some Montagnards have sought to independently practise their religion and resist registering or affiliating with the ECVN (S) (Evangelical Church of Viet Nam – South). In addition, some Montagnards have advocated self-management not only of their religious organisations but also of their ancestral lands. Whether foreign governments or other institutions agree with these goals or not, as long as they are peaceful, they fall within the protection of international human rights law.

In the past the US has strongly advocated for the release of Hmong Christians, members of the independent UBCV (Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam), Father Ly and Pastor Quang, and others. To be consistent the US should be standing up for Montagnards who have been imprisoned because of Vietnam’s criminalisation of peaceful dissent and assembly or membership in independent religious organisations.

Instead, US policy appears to ignore the well-documented imprisonment of more than 350 Montagnards. Such a low priority is the issue that Under-Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration was apparently not even briefed on the Montagnard prisoner situation before her early February 2007 visit to Vietnam and Cambodia. She displayed a shocking ignorance and naivete in her public statements. The official Vietnamese media quickly seized on her assessment that all was well and self-servingly repeated it. Vietnam has caught on that various human rights are the domain of various departments within the US State Department, and plays these divisions very well.

Differences within the Protestant community. Vietnam’s Protestant communi ty is largely of the persuasion of the conservative Christians & Missionary Alliance organisation that first brought Protestantism to Vietnam nearly a century ago. This view says that Christians “should not be involved in politics but only preach the Gospel”. This risk-adverse philosophy sometimes kept Christians out of trouble.

However, this reductionist view of the Christian Gospel does not take into account the huge social implications innate to the Christian message. It forgets that the genuine conversion of individuals has major consequences for social transformation. Most of Vietnam’s Protestants are ethnic minorities. They are converts to Christianity from fear-based, animistic religions, which require unending and costly placation of malevolent forces. When people come to believe and understand that they are created by God in His image and were redeemed by the sacrifice and death of God’s Son, and are no longer subject to evil spirits, nor inferior to other people, they gain an immense sense of self-worth and dignity. This contributes directly to their standing up to oppression against themselves and others.

It is not an accident that Christians have been prominent in Vietnam’s ethnic minority movements seeking a fairer place in Vietnamese society, no matter what the political philosophy of the nation’s leaders at the time. A purely secular view runs the risk of missing the crucial role of religion in activity and possibilities for positive change in an oppressive system.

Church leaders in Vietnam consulted with and supported people such as Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and especially Lawyer Nguyen Van Dai while they advocated primarily for religious liberty. However, when these men expanded their activity to advocate for broader human rights and freedoms, they were shunned by the same leaders.

Understandably, many Christians simply want to avoid controversy, and prefer to live in the “safety” of silence. Some even accept newly granted “religious freedoms” as a gift with the cost of silence on other human rights . But as surely as day follows night, some of their number will, because of the Gospel’s call to affirm universal human dignity, stand strong and courageously against oppression of any sort.

Vietnam authorities have and are exploiting and exacerbating divisions in these matters among Christian leaders, turning some against others. And most sadly, some leaders have bought into the ruse that “religious freedoms” are a reward for non-involvement in the struggle for other freedoms.

Conclusion

These words are being written at a time a major crackdown on human rights activists in Vietnam, a significant number of them religiously motivated.

There are concepts regarding human rights theory and practices, and certain strategies to support human rights advocacy, and differences among religious leaders that may play into the hands of Vietnam and allow other basic rights to be separated from religious freedom. All concerned for the freedom of the people of Vietnam should be vigilant in not allowing such a dich otomy to intrude on the larger and common cause.

Vietnam’s rulers, desperate to hang on to power will resort to any and all stratagems to do so. They should not be allowed to divide and conquer those who stand and struggle for the dignity and full freedom of the people of Vietnam – whether in Vietnam or abroad.

END

Links

1) Vietnam tells US to distinguish between protesters, criminals
by Nguyen Hong Linh, for Thanh Nien News. 20 March 2007
http://www.thanhniennews.com/features/?catid=10&newsid=26226

2) William Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect who changed the British Empire
28 March 2007. ABC Radio National Religion Report
http://www.abc.net.au/rn/religionreport/stories/2007/1883648.htm#transcript

3) Eight years jail for Vietnamese priest. 7 April 2007
http://www.cathnews.com/news/704/4.php

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Chinese Pro-Life Advocate Denied Appeal After Court Refused New Evidence

Posted by radiofreechina on April 18, 2007

Has suffered detention, forced psychiatric treatment and Reeducation Through Labor

By Gudrun Schultz

Mao Hengfeng

(Mao Hengfeng with one of her daughters)By Gudrun Schultz

SHANGHAI, China, April 18, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-life advocate Mao Hengfeng was denied an appeal for the two-and-a-half year sentence she received in January on charges of “intentionally destroying property,” New York-based Human Rights in China (HRIC) reported yesterday.

Following a ten-minute session during which neither Mao nor her lawyer were allowed to present arguments or additional evidence, the Shanghai Municipal No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court reaffirmed the sentence against Mao, after which she was forcibly removed.

Repeatedly harassed by authorities for her protests against the government’s forced family planning program, Mao has suffered detention, forced psychiatric treatment and Reeducation Through Labor. Detained in 2006 by Shanghai’s Public Security Bureau, Mao was formally arrested on June 30, 2006 on charges of deliberately breaking two table lamps in a detention room.

Shanghai Yangpu District Court sentenced the 46-year-old woman to 2.5 years imprisonment in January, based on evidence that the lamps were valued at more than six thousand yuan–despite the detention-room requirement of only 50 yuan in compensation per lamp.

Prior to her trial Mao was held in a tiny filthy cell with urine and excrement covering the floor, her family has stated. Human rights groups allege Mao has suffered torture and abuse in the past while held in detention, including suspension for extended periods of time and severe beatings.

“HRIC condemns this new development in Mao’s case and the abusive conditions in which she is being held,” the organization stated yesterday. “Mao Hengfeng has the fundamental right to petition the authorities, but has been consistently harassed and abused by local authorities, most recently by placing her in substandard detention conditions…The handling of Mao’s case by local public security and judicial authorities raises serious concerns of retaliation against individuals invoking their constitutionally-protected right to petition the authorities.”

HRIC is urging the international community to contact Chinese authorities and request a fair and open review of Mao’s case.

See previous LifeSiteNews coverage:

One-Child Policy Opponent Tortured in Chinese Labour Camp
http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2004/oct/041008b.html

More info on Mao Hengfeng can be viewed @
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mao_Hengfeng

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Christian Women Forced to Have Abortions in Guangxi and Shandong; Immediate International Intervention Urged

Posted by radiofreechina on April 17, 2007

Midland, Texas (April 17, 2007)
CAA has learned that a massive forced abortion campaign is ongoing in China’s Guangxi Province(Autonomous Region). One Christian lady, Ms. Linrong Wei, 7 months preganent, was dragged into the hospital from her home on April 17 at 8:45 AM (Beijing time) by ten officials from the Population and Family Planning Commsssion in Baise City, Guangxi. Her husband Yage “James” Liang was formerly a pastor in the government-sanctioned TSPM church before he became a House church pastor a year ago. According to eyewitnesses’ reports to CAA, 40 other preganant women was forcefully moved to the Youjiang District People’s Hospital of Baise City on the same day to perform forced abortion. Eyewitnesses told CAA that pastor Liang’s wife was pregenant accidentally and they wanted to keep this baby because of Christian principles. Ms. Wei was injected with medicine to induce birth at 11 AM on April 17. Ms. Wei’s hospital bed number is No. 39. Eyewitnesses report that another woman, 9 months preganent, on bed number 38 was also injected at 12 PM. One Church leader in that area who has visited Ms. Wei told CAA that these so-called ‘illegal pregnant women” were treated so bad that they were just forced to lay down on the very simple beds in the hospital corridor before the injections were done. The family planning officials told relatives of the women that their babies will be born and most likely die within 24 hours. House church leaders in Baise city are praying some babies can be born and survive before officials kill them.
CAA has also learned a Christian woman in Laiyang city, Shandong province is facing a forced abortion. Ms. Hui Xu, 39, became pregant with her second child accidentally 6 months ago. She and her husband are now facing increasing pressure from the local family planning office to have abortion either volunterarily or coersively. Their home is at Fangyang Village, Tushan Town, Laiyang city, Shandong province.
CAA urges the international community to register your protest and concern with letters and phone calls to the Chairman of the National Population and Family Planning Commssion, Party Secretary of Baise City, Mr Liang Chunlu, and the Youjiang District People’s Hospital:

Chairman Wei Qing Zhang, National Population an Family Planning Commission of China
Hotline for complaints: :+86-10-8250492
Phone line to report criminal activities of family planning officials: +86-10-82504933
Address: No. 14, Zhichun Lu, Haidian District, Beijing, PRC 100008
Email: gjjsw@chinapop.gov.cn 

Youjiang District People’s Hospital:
Tel: +86-776-2839393; 2697723(office)

Party Secretary of Guangxi Province: Mr. Qibao Liu
Tel: +86-771-5883508

Governor of Guangxi Province: Mr. Bing Lu
Tel: +86-771-2807778

Party Secretary of Baise City Mr Liang Chunlu
Tel: +86-776-2834089
Address: No. 13 Xiangyang Street, Baise city, Guangxi
© Issued by CAA on April 17, 2007
对华援助协会新闻稿
联系人:傅希秋
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对华援助协会鼓励全球良心人士紧急干预广西壮族自治区百色市正在进行的大规模强制堕胎
图:百色市委书记梁春禄
德州美德兰(对华援助协会2007年4月17日)

对华援助协会紧急获悉,近两日,广西壮族自治区百色市正在进行的大规模强制堕胎活动.据目击者向对华援助协会报告,仅在广西百色市右江区人民医院妇产科走廊里4月17日就有41位产妇被强行注射催胎剂进行强制堕胎.其中一位在38号床的产妇胎儿已经9个月大, 4月17日中午12点也被强行注射催胎剂.据悉, 在39号床的产妇是一位基督徒,名子叫韦琳荣,意外怀孕7个月.她的丈夫梁雅各是百色市前”三自”教会的牧师. 据百色市教会人士透露,虽是意外怀孕,但作为保护珍惜生命的基督徒, 梁雅各牧师夫妇希望生下胎儿.但是, 4月17日上午9点45分左右, 百色市计划生育委员会办公室10位官员强行冲进梁雅各牧师夫妇在百色市幸福港湾小区的房子,将韦琳荣姊妹挟持到计生办的车上,强制性拉到右江区人民医院,当地时间上午11点也被强行注射催胎剂. 一位目睹了41位被强制堕胎产妇的百色市教会人士很忧心的对对华援助协会透露, 因医院床位不足, 产妇被安置在医院妇产科走廊里简陋病床上.很多婴儿会在24时内出生, 计生办人员说大部分会死掉. 希望全球良心人士紧急干预,救救这些生下来还活着的婴儿.

另外, 山东省莱州市土山镇方阳村一位39岁名叫徐慧的基督徒, 因意外怀孕二胎现在已6个月,今日也面临被政府迫使堕胎.
对华援助协会鼓励全球良心人士紧急干预,向国家人口计生委主任和广西百色人民政府, 百色市右江区人民医院质询和反映情况:

广西百色市右江区人民医院 单位地址: 广西壮族自治区和平街106号联系电话: 0776-2839393(妇产科); 0776-2697723(值班室)邮政编码: 533000
中共广西壮族自治区党委书记:刘奇葆 地址:南宁市民族大道103  邮编:530025 电话:0771-5883508
广西壮族自治区人民政府主席:陆 兵地址:南宁市民乐路1号 邮编:530012 电话:0771—2807778 网址:http://www.gxi.gov.cn/
张维庆  国家人口计生委主任National Population an Family Planning Commission of China
中华人民共和国国家人口和计划生育委员会办公厅
信访人反映情况、提出建议、意见或投诉请求,请拨打电话:+86-10-8250492
举报人口和计划生育系统县(处)级以上领导干部的违纪问题,请拨打电话: +86-10-82504933
北京市海淀区知春路14号 100088 mail: gjjsw@chinapop.gov.cn 
广西百色人民政府地址:广西壮族自治区百色向阳街13号 电话:0776-2834089
对华援助协会版权所有©2007年 4月17 日发布

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