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Cablegate: More Allegations of Harrassment of Protestants In

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 HANOI 000383

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV AND DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KIRF PREL VM ETMIN HUMANR RELFREE
SUBJECT: MORE ALLEGATIONS OF HARRASSMENT OF PROTESTANTS IN
NORTHERN VIETNAM

Ref: A. Hanoi 343 B. 03 Hanoi 1687

1. (SBU) Summary: Sources in the Protestant community in
northern Vietnam continue to provide the Embassy with cases
of alleged abuse by local authorities. The claims range
from petty harassment of believers to two accusations of
rape in the Northern Highlands province of Lai Chau. While
the claims are unsubstantiated and even these sources admit
are not representative of most congregations (ref a), the
recurrence of such unfortunate incidents suggest continued
problems with some local authorities disregarding central
party and government policy upholding freedom of worship in
Vietnam. End Summary

2. (SBU) The latest allegations (ref b provides earlier
examples) come from most of the largely ethnic minority
Northwest Highlands provinces along the border with China,
as well as from Thanh Hoa, south of Hanoi. They are mostly
in the form of written testimonials or petitions to national
and provincial authorities, the Evangelical Church of
Vietnam (ECVN), or the Government Committee on Religion.
Most appear to have been dictated to underground church
organizers, with a rough signature or fingerprint at the
end.

Rapes
-----

3. (SBU) The most serious allegations come from Nam Nga
village, Ta Tong commune, Muong Te District, Lai Chau
province. Sung A Sinh claimed that his 12-year-old daughter
was raped by four militia soldiers during the period
November 25 to 27, 2003. Over the same three days, the 13-
year-old daughter of Vang A Lau in the same village was also
reportedly raped by government officials. Other allegations
from the same commune include that government officials:
accused Protestants of being U.S. "collaborators;" destroyed
the houses of several believers, including those of Giang A
Pao, Giang A Tua, and a man identified as "Cay;" killed some
livestock; and destroyed fences, allowing animals to enter
fields and trample crops.

Arrests and attempted renunciations
-----------------------------------

4. (SBU) Several other accounts come from Lai Chau,
including that of Ly Giang Sung, of Muong Lay district,
apparently dictated while in jail. Sung alleged that his
brother was arrested for no apparent reason in 2002, and
when Sung went to protest the arrest, he too was detained.
He claimed that police told him to renounce his
Protestantism. After refusing, he was kept in prison, and
eventually tried and sentenced to a 30-month jail term. A
copy of a sentencing order with the written testimonial
records that Sung was convicted of "acting against
government officials."

5. (SBU) Protestants from Coc Ly commune, Bac Ha, district,
Lao Cai Province wrote that four house church leaders - Sung
Ga Pham, Sung Ga Chau, Sung Ga Chin, and Giang Ga Mang - had
been detained by police since December 28 for no apparent
reason. Another account from Coc Ly commune claimed that,
in August 2003, nine police and government officials accused
local Hmong Protestants of being "brigands" and pro-America,
and forced them to sign renunciations of their faith.
Included with this allegation is a copy of a "Commitment"
form in which the signer promises "not to follow illegal
religions." Two accounts from Bao Nhai commune, Bac Ha
district in Lao Cai recount attempts at forced renunciations
in August 2003, though it is not clear whether the
Protestant villagers signed the renunciations or not.

6. (SBU) In Ha Giang province, members of a house church in
Thang Tin commune, Hoang Su Phi district, claimed that
district police had arrested three leaders of their
congregation - Ly Sin Quang, Vang Chin Sang, and Vang Mi Ly.
Attached with this testimonial were apparent copies of
police orders for two of the men - Quang and Sang -
authorizing they be held in temporary detention for "actions
against public security." Further allegations from this
commune are that police seized tables and chairs used in
unofficial church services.

7. (SBU) In Bao Lac district, Cao Bang province, a group of
ethnic Dao Protestants from several villages wrote that they
had suffered continued pressure by authorities to give up
their faith. The Dao villagers apparently were continuing
to worship regardless.
Other forms of harassment
-------------------------

8. (SBU) In Duong Hoa commune, Hai Ha district, Quang Ninh
province, members of a house church sent a petition to the
ECVN as well as provincial and district authorities listing
a series of ongoing discriminatory acts suffered at the
hands of local authorities. These include delaying approval
of wedding certificates, threatening high school students
with expulsion for "following Protestantism," blocking
Protestants from joining veterans associations, and refusing
Protestants loans from State development funds. The church
members claimed particular harassment around Christmas 2003,
recounting that on December 20, local officials confiscated
several Bibles, on December 23 officials blocked the roads
leading to the house of the church's leader, and on
Christmas Day, officials disrupted worship services and
seized an electronic keyboard.

9. (SBU) From Thanh Hoa city of Thanh Hoa province, house
church leader Nguyen Van Xuan, reported having been called
in to meetings with local security officials and members of
the Vietnam Fatherland Front on December 24. The officials
warned him against holding religious services. Xuan ignored
the warnings and proceeded with Christmas Day services,
which were then interrupted by officials who recorded the
events and attempted to make him sign a document confessing
to holding illegal gathering. Xuan refused, and appears to
have suffered nothing more than further lectures from local
officials.

10. (SBU) Comment: We have no reason to doubt the veracity
of our sources or these claims, although often such cases
are a complex mix of harassment on religious grounds,
corruption, ethnic discrimination, or the extremely low
quality of local governance. It is notable that even the
believers who suffer persecution appear to believe that
appeals to higher levels of government can help them against
the actions of local officials, underscoring the degree to
which in areas "vung xao, vung xa" - deep and far away -
Constitutional guarantees, Government decrees, and Party
resolutions on religious freedom may be honored in the
breach by local officials, usually with impunity. Embassy
will raise these latest cases in our next meeting with the
Government Committee on Religion and meanwhile add the names
of latest reported detainees to our list of prisoners of
concern.
BURGHARDT

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