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Cablegate: Update From Government Committee On Religion

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

130621Z Dec 02


UNCLASSIFIED PTQ2947

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------------------1DE547 300349Z /30
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 8340
INFO AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
AMEMBASSY VATICAN
AMEMBASSY VIENTIANE
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 002969

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SENSITIVE

C O R R E C T E D COPY (PARA 2 MARKING ADDED)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL VT VM HUMANR RELFREE
SUBJECT: UPDATE FROM GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE ON RELIGION

REF: A. VATICAN 5803 B. HANOI 2862

- C. STATE 235694 D. HANOI 1885
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 02 HANOI 02969 01 OF 02 300349Z
- E. HCMC 1270 F. HANOI 2628

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. GVN OFFICIALS CLAIMED THAT THE RECENTLY
CONCLUDED NATIONAL BUDDHIST CONFERENCE WAS ENTIRELY
INDEPENDENT OF GOVERNMENT CONTROL, BUT ADMITTED THAT THE GVN
MUST APPROVE ITS CONVOCATION AND HAD FINAL SAY ON ITS
ELECTED NEW LEADERS AND ORDINATIONS (OR PROMOTIONS) OF MONKS
AND NUNS. PLANS FOR ANOTHER CATHOLIC SEMINARY (NOW
DESCRIBED AS A "BRANCH" OF THE HO CHI MINH CITY SEMINARY)
SEEM TO BE ON HOLD AS CATHOLICS SEARCH FOR A NEW SITE. THE
GVN HAS ALREADY APPROVED A SEMINARY FOR THE RECENTLY LEGAL
SOUTHERN EVANGELICAL CHURCH OF VIETNAM (SECV) BUT THE SECV
HAS NOT TAKEN STEPS TO SET ONE UP YET. NEITHER THE SECV NOR
ITS NORTHERN COUNTERPART (ECVN) HAS ASKED THE CRA FOR
PERMISSION TO RECEIVE NEW MEMBERS FROM ETHNIC MINORITY
CHURCHES IN THE CENTRAL OR NORTHWEST HIGHLANDS, WHICH THEY
SHOULD IN PRINCIPLE BE ABLE TO DO AS LONG AS THEY ARE "LEGAL
CHURCHES," ACCORDING TO GVN OFFICIALS. THE ECVN IS WELCOME
TO REQUEST PERMISSION TO HOLD ITS LONG-AWAITED NATIONAL
CONFERENCE, BUT HAS NOT DONE SO, OFFICIALS CLAIMED. END
SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) IN A MEETING WITH POL/C ON DECEMBER 11, NGUYEN THE
DOANH, DIRECTOR OF EXTERNAL RELATIONS OF THE GOVERNMENT
COMMITTEE ON RELIGION AFFAIRS (CRA), AND TRAN KHANH DU, THE
CRA'S DIRECTOR OF BUDDHIST AFFAIRS, PROVIDED AN UPDATE ON
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS RELATED TO BUDDHIST, CATHOLIC, AND
PROTESTANT GROUPS IN VIETNAM. POL/C NOTED THAT THE USG WAS
APPROACHING A DECISION ABOUT DESIGNATION OF "COUNTRIES OF
PARTICULAR CONCERN" UNDER THE INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS
FREEDOM ACT, AND HAD BEEN CONCERNED ABOUT RECENT NEGATIVE
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HANOI 02969 01 OF 02 300349Z
REPORTS REGARDING VIETNAM (REF C), WHICH AMBASSADOR HAD
ALREADY DISCUSSED WITH FOREIGN MINISTER NGUYEN DY NIEN (REF
B) AND WHICH HE PLANNED TO RAISE SOON WITH CRA CHAIRMAN LE
QUANG VINH. (NOTE: EMBASSY HAS PENDING REQUESTS TO MEET
WITH BUDDHIST, CATHOLIC, AND PROTESTANT LEADERS SEPARATELY.)

BUDDHISTS
---------

3. (U) THE FIFTH NATIONAL BUDDHIST CONGRESS MET IN HANOI
DECEMBER 4-5, ELECTING ITS NEW LEADERSHIP AND DEVELOPING
GOALS FOR THE UPCOMING FIVE YEARS, AS WELL AS ORDAINING
AND/OR PROMOTING 967 MONKS AND NUNS. DU ADMITTED THAT THE
BUDDHIST SANGHA OF VIETNAM WAS REQUIRED TO "REQUEST
PERMISSION" FROM THE GVN -- BY A FORMAL LETTER TO PRIME
MINISTER PHAN VAN KHAI -- TO HOLD THESE CONGRESSES, BUT
CLAIMED THAT PERMISSION WAS AUTOMATICALLY GIVEN, WITH THE
CRA PROVIDING APPROPRIATE NOTIFICATION TO "LOCALITIES." THE
GVN DID NOT PROVIDE ANY FINANCIAL SUPPORT, DU NOTED, AND
EVEN CHARGED THE BUDDHISTS RENT FOR USE OF THE SOVIET-ERA
HALL OF CULTURE IN DOWNTOWN HANOI, ONE OF THE FEW VENUES BIG
ENOUGH FOR THE 1,000-PLUS ATTENDEES.

4. (U) DU STRESSED THAT, WHILE GVN OFFICIALS ATTENDED THE
OPENING CEREMONY, THEY DID NOT PARTICIPATE IN ENSUING
DISCUSSIONS NOR HAVE ANY RIGHT TO VOTE ON LEADERSHIP AND
OTHER ISSUES. HE SAID THAT THE LEADERSHIP ELECTIONS
FEATURED MORE CANDIDATES THAN SEATS, A DEMOCRATIC
DEVELOPMENT. IN RESPONSE TO PERSISTENT QUESTIONING, DU
ADMITTED FINALLY THAT THE BUDDHISTS WERE OBLIGED TO SEND THE
FINAL LISTS OF NEW LEADERS TO THE GVN FOR "APPROVAL," BUT
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HANOI 02969 01 OF 02 300349Z
CLAIMED THAT THIS PROCESS WAS ALSO PRETTY MUCH AUTOMATIC.
THE GVN HAD NOT VETOED ANY INDIVIDUALS FROM THIS CONGRESS'
CHOICES, NOR COULD DU RECALL THE GVN HAVING DONE SO AT
EARLIER CONGRESSES (ALTHOUGH DOANH ADMITTED THE GVN HAD DONE
SO WITH EARLIER CATHOLIC CONGRESSES).

5. (U) DU CLARIFIED THAT MANY OF THE 967 ORDINATIONS
INVOLVED CLERICAL PROMOTIONS, SUCH AS FROM "THE VENERABLE"
TO "THE MOST VENERABLE." DU SAID THAT THESE DECISIONS, AS
WELL AS ORDINATIONS OF NEW MONKS AND NUNS, WERE MADE BY THE
BUDDHIST HIERARCHY, BUT CONFIRMED THAT THE CRA PLAYED A ROLE
IN "ASKING THE OPINIONS OF LOCALITIES" ABOUT THE MERITS OF
THESE INDIVIDUALS BEFORE PROVIDING THE GVN'S FORMAL
BLESSING. HE SAID IT WAS "RARE" NOT TO APPROVE.

CATHOLICS
---------

6. (U) DOANH EXPRESSED THE GVN'S SATISFACTION WITH THE
RECENT APPOINTMENT (REF A) OF A NEW BISHOP FOR HAIPHONG AND
A COADJUTOR BISHOP IN CAN THO. (HE DID NOT MENTION THE
APPOINTMENT OF A SUCCESSOR TO THE BISHOP OF KON TUM.) HE
CONFIRMED THAT THE VATICAN HAD THE FULL AUTHORITY TO APPOINT
BISHOPS, WHILE THE ROLE OF THE GVN WAS MERELY TO "OFFER
OPINIONS." HE CLAIMED THAT THE DECISION ON THESE NEW

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTQ2948

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INFO LOG-00 COR-01 AID-00 CIAE-00 DODE-00 SRPP-00 EAP-00
EB-00 UTED-00 VC-00 H-01 TEDE-00 INR-00 IO-00
L-00 VCE-00 AC-01 NSAE-00 NSCE-00 OIC-02 OMB-01
PA-00 PM-00 PRS-00 ACE-00 P-00 SP-00 SS-00
STR-00 TEST-00 TRSE-00 T-00 USIE-00 PMB-00 PRM-00
G-00 SAS-00 /008W
------------------1DE54C 300350Z /30
R 130621Z DEC 02
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 8341
INFO AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
AMEMBASSY VATICAN
AMEMBASSY VIENTIANE
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SECTION 02 OF 02 HANOI 002969

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE


APPOINTMENTS HAD BEEN MADE BEFORE THE OCTOBER VISIT OF
VATICAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINSTER CELESTINO MIGLIORE, NOT AS A
RESULT OF HIS DISCUSSIONS HERE. DOANH ADDED THAT THERE HAS
BEEN SOME DISCUSSION WITH THE VATICAN ABOUT A SUCCESSOR TO
UNCLASSIFIED

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AILING CARDINAL PAUL JOSEPH PHAM DINH TUNG (WHOSE STAFF HAS
TOLD EMBASSY HE IS TOO ILL TO MEET WITH POL/C), BUT NO
DECISION HAD BEEN MADE YET.

7. (U) DOANH REITERATED THE GVN'S DETERMINATION TO
CONTINUE TO IMPROVE RELATIONS WITH THE VATICAN, AND NOTED
GROWING "GOODWILL" ON BOTH SIDES. HE DESCRIBED THIS PROCESS
AS PART OF THE GVN'S OVERALL EFFORTS TO BECOME "FRIENDS WITH
EVERYONE IN THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY," HOWEVER.

8. (U) WHEN ASKED ABOUT PROGRESS IN THE OPENING OF A
SEVENTH CATHOLIC SEMINARY (WHICH GVN OFFICIALS TOLD EMBOFFS
LAST YEAR HAD BEEN APPROVED AT THE CENTRAL LEVEL BUT FACED
SOME RESISTANCE BY PROVINCIAL AUTHORITIES), DOANH CLAIMED
THAT THE PLANS WERE NOT FOR A SEPARATE NEW SEMINARY PER SE,
BUT RATHER FOR A "BRANCH" OF THE EXISTING -- BUT OVERCROWDED
-- SEMINARY IN HO CHI MINH CITY. INITIALLY, THE CATHOLICS
HAD HOPED TO OPEN THE BRANCH IN DONG NAI PROVINCE (WHICH IS
WHERE MANY OF THE 1954-ERA CATHOLICS FROM THE NORTH ARE
CENTERED), BUT THESE PLANS HAVE NOW FALLEN THROUGH, DOANH
CLAIMED, WITHOUT OFFERING A CLEAR EXPLANATION OF WHY OTHER
THAN CITING "LOCAL DIFFICULTIES" OVER LAND. HE SAID THAT
THE CATHOLICS HAD NOT YET OFFERED ANY NEW PROPOSAL ON A
DIFFERENT SITE, BUT THE PROJECT IN PRINCIPLE CONTINUED TO
HAVE GVN APPROVAL.

PROTESTANTS
-----------

9. (U) DOANH ALSO CLAIMED THAT THE GVN HAD ALREADY
APPROVED IN PRINCIPLE A PROPOSAL BY THE SECV TO OPEN A
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HANOI 02969 02 OF 02 300350Z
SEMINARY FOR PASTORS IN HO CHI MINH CITY, BUT THAT THE SECV
HAS NOT DONE SO YET. HE NOTED THAT THE SECV WAS STILL BUSY
SETTING UP ITS OFFICES (NOTE: AFTER WINNING GVN RECOGNITION
ONLY IN 2001 AND HOLDING ITS FIRST CONGRESS IN SUMMER 2002),
AND PREDICTED THAT THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A SEMINARY --
ESPECIALLY RECRUITMENT OF QUALIFIED FACULTY -- WOULD STILL
TAKE TIME. HE MAINTAINED THAT THIS PROCESS WAS "NOW UP TO
THE SECV."

10. (U) DOANH CLAIMED THAT THE ECVN HAD NOT YET ASKED FOR
PERMISSION TO HOLD ITS NATIONAL CONGRESS (THE LAST WAS IN
1988), BUT ADDED THAT "THE GVN HAS NO REASON TO OPPOSE" IF
IT RECEIVES SUCH AN APPLICATION. HE CLAIMED NOT TO
UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM BEHIND CONVENING THE ECVN'S CONGRESS
AND ELECTING A NEW OFFICIAL ECVN LEADERSHIP.

11. (U) DOANH SAID THAT, AS FAR AS HE WAS AWARE, NEITHER
THE SECV NOR THE ECVN HAD RECEIVED APPLICATIONS FROM ETHNIC
MINORITY CHURCHES OR "ASSOCIATIONS" (CHI HOI) TO AFFILIATE
WITH EITHER ORGANIZATION, NOR HAD THE SECV OR ECVN NOTIFIED
THE CRA OF ANY SUCH DECISIONS. (NOTE: PER REFS E AND F,
BOTH THE SECV AND ECVN ARE PROCESSING AND/OR HAVE ALREADY
APPROVED SOME REQUESTS. END NOTE) HE SAID THAT "IN
PRINCIPLE" SUCH EXPANSIONS WOULD NOT POSE A PROBLEM, AS LONG
AS THE NEW MEMBERS WERE "LEGAL CHURCHES." HE STRESSED THAT
ETHNIC MINORITIES WERE "EQUAL CITIZENS" AND HAD THE SAME
RIGHTS AS OTHER VIETNAMESE, INCLUDING FREEDOM OF RELIGION.
HE WAS VAGUE ABOUT HOW HOUSE CHURCHES COULD BECOME LEGAL
CHURCHES ENTITLED TO MEMBERSHIP IN THE ECVN OR SEVN, OTHER
THAN NOTING A REQUIREMENT FOR A CERTAIN NUMBER OF MEMBERS.

UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HANOI 02969 02 OF 02 300350Z
COMMENT
-------

12. (SBU) WHILE TRUMPETING FREEDOM OF RELIGION, THE CRA
TAKES ITS OVERSIGHT ROLE SERIOUSLY, AND REMAINS EXPLICITLY
INVOLVED IN ALL MAJOR ORGANIZATIONAL ISSUES FOR THE MAIN
RELIGIOUS GROUPINGS. THIS LIKELY REFLECTS LESS A DEEP-
ROOTED DISTRUST OF RELIGION BY THE GVN OR COMMUNIST PARTY OF
VIETNAM (CPV) AS MUCH AS A FIRM LENINIST ORIENTATION ABOUT
THE NEED TO REGULATE AND SUPERVISE ALL SOCIAL ORGANIZATIONS
IN THE INTEREST OF "NATIONAL SOLIDARITY" AND THE NEED TO
MAINTAIN STRONG POLITICAL CONTROL.
BURGHARDT

UNCLASSIFIED

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