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Cablegate: Unlicensed Protestant House Church Reportedly Torn Down

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 000933

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV, DRL

E. O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV SOCI PREL RELFREE HUMANR
SUBJECT: UNLICENSED PROTESTANT HOUSE CHURCH REPORTEDLY TORN DOWN

REF: A. HCMC 0520 B. HCMC 0551

1. (SBU) In what looks to be a replay of recent events
surrounding an illegally constructed house church in District 11
of HCMC (reftels), Post has received information regarding the
possible destruction of a small Seventh Day Adventist house church
at No.42 Binh Loi, Binh Khanh, Can Gio District, HCMC. On
September 25, the Consul General received, via Post's PAS public
mailbox, a copy of an email letter addressed to the Ambassador
describing the destruction of a small prayer house in one of the
poorest and most remote districts in the city. The letter was
signed by Viet Si, the Vice President of Public Relations for
Vietnamese Catholic Conscience of San Jose, CA. The letter was
accompanied by email photographs purporting to show the church
before and after its dstruction.

2. (SBU) According to Post's quick, informal translation of a
follow up "report" filed by Mennonite Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang of
the Legal Committee of the General Association of Protestants, 40
policemen in military vehicles and fire trucks, wielding "arms,
anesthetic sprays, electric rods and steel sticks" raided the
property on September 23, at 9:00 a.m. local time. The police
used hammers and levers to tear down the house. One policeman
alledgedly was overheard to say: "This house itself is not worth
being destroyed. The only fault is that it has a Cross inside."
The report goes on to describe how a Protestant named Madam Nam
donated a parcel of her own land last year on which the group
built a prayer house without a permit. On August 12 of this year,
the Binh Khanh Commune People's Committee levied a fine and
ordered the illegal structure removed. On September 9, commune
officials visited the property to reiterate the order to pull down
the structure. This visit had been the last official contact
until the police raid.

3. (SBU) Pastor Quang's report notes that a small group of
Seventh Day Adventists first started worshipping in a home in Binh
Khanh in 1996. Police harassment, including arrests, beatings,
forced renunciations, orders to disperse, and denial of
applications for Hunger Eradication and Poverty Alleviation loans,
allegedly forced the group to move seven times over the
intervening years. From more than 100 members at the
congregation's peak, many followers stopped practicing their
religion publicly over the years because they could not stand the
discrimination and harassment, much less the frequent moving,
according to Pastor Quang. Fewer than 40 members remained at the
time of the raid. The report describes the congregation as
"poorly educated and mostly illiterate."

4. (SBU) Comment: Post has seen Pastor Quang become increasingly
more confrontational and provocative within the religious
community over the past 6-8 months. He has also established close
ties with some Catholic groups as the "unofficial legal
representative" for the niece and nephews of imprisoned Catholic
Priest, Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly. Given the similarity between this
case and the case described in reftels, Post sees the issue of
unlicensed construction once again being used as part of a larger
media campaign.

5. (SBU) Comment (cont.): Clearly, much of the "report" seems
to have been prepared for an international audience, as when
Pastor Quang writes: "With the reason 'illegal construction,' the
government pulled down the prayer house of poor Protestants. This
is such a cunning and subtle trick 'using law to destroy
Protestantism.' However, the current legal regulations stand on
the side of the Protestants." Pastor Quang then proceeds to list
a number of circulars and decrees on the issue of construction
licenses in HCMC before noting that, "All these legal documents
prove that the act of pulling down and smashing the Binh Khanh
house in Can gio is illegal and inhuman. We can measure the
physical loss of this destruction, but how can we count the
damages and injuries caused to the trust in the government? We
can build another more beautiful and bigger house, but it is not
easy to recover the prestige of Vietnam among the international
community."

6. (SBU) Comment (cont.): Post will follow up with local
officials, but expects the government's argument to focus squarely
on its right to enforce building/land usage/construction permit
regulations after giving alleged violators adequate notice, rather
than religious freedom. End comment.

7. (SBU) Post Note: Pastor Quang's report ends with a list of
proposals. Post has included them here for the Department's
information because they are likely to be repeated in other
sources in the coming days and weeks. End note.

Begin text:

Proposals:

A. If you are an individual, a juridical person, a politician, a
government or organization which has a relationship with Vietnam
and loves Vietnam, take the following actions:
a. organize meetings to discuss religious freedom in Vietnam with
the presence of 3 groups:
1. representatives of victims of religious freedom violations in
Vietnam
2. representatives of the government who make these violations
3. representatives of UN Human Rights, governments, international
organizations, associations, Embassies, Consulates, the 15 members
of the UN Security Council, local and international media.
b. set up a committee to verify religious freedom violations in
Vietnam, consisting of:
1. international law specialists
2. human rights lawyers
3. legal specialists of Embassies, of the 15 members of the UN
Security Council, and of other interested countries
4. independent Christian lawyers, "abused" religions
There must be two chairmen of this committee: one from the UN, the
other from one of the "abused" religions of Vietnam.

B. If you are a leader of the government or Communist Party who
wants to make Vietnam a country of democracy, equality,
civilization, and prosperity and wants Vietnam to catch up with
the world powers, please listen to your people, respect our
proposals so that we can clarify cases of religious persecution in
which we have been the victims, and of which the world has accused
Vietnam.
When you have the evidence:
1. Immediately stop religious persecution that has been carried
out for years, without regard to whether it's the policy from the
local or central government.
2. Apologize to religions and the Vietnamese people. This is a
chance for the government to show its determination to respect UN
conventions that Vietnam has signed.
3. Examine and bring to court as per Article 129 of the Criminal
Code those who led and implemented religious violations and
dismiss them.
4. Announce all arrested Vietnamese citizens who have raised their
voice on human rights violations in Vietnam not guilty and
immediately release them, such as Father Nguyen Van Ly and his
niece and nephews.
5. Give license to religious associations which have been in
Vietnam for more than 10 years to operate, with guidance on
applications within 10 days. Recognize religious communities no
matter how big or small. They should have the right to set up
their own places of worship, like a person has the right to build
his own home.

C. If you belong to an "abused" religion:
1. Provide us with evidence, cooperate with us, provide financial
support for investigations. Contribute so as to stop the
religious persecution in Vietnam.
2. Be courageous, support and protect us in the struggle for
religious freedom and the purity of Vietnam to create trust and
support from the whole world in the process of modernizing our
beloved country.

End text.
YAMAUCHI

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