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Cablegate: Latest Claims of "Religious Oppression" Don't Wash

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

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000232

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR EAP/BCLTV, DRL/IRF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM SOCI PREL KIRF VM HUMANR RELFREE
SUBJECT: LATEST CLAIMS OF "RELIGIOUS OPPRESSION" DON'T WASH

REF: A) 03 HCMC 0710 B) 03 HCMC 0766 C) 03 HCMC 0933 D) 03

HCMC 1222

1. (SBU) On March 4, ConGen received information from U.S.-based
sources that Vietnamese public security officers had surrounded
the home of Mennonite Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang in District 2 of
HCMC, at 16:15 local time on March 2. The security officials were
alleged to have ordered everyone who was inside the house,
including visiting Kon Tum Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, to report to
the local police station. The situation was said to be "quite
tense," as the believers refused to obey the police and remained
inside the home. According to the reports, the raid included
elements from the Binh Khanh Ward police and a unit "reportedly
involved in liquidating opponents." By March 5, the ConGen and
Embassy had heard variations on this report from third-country
diplomats and a U.S. Congressional staffer. Information on this
case was also presented by a USG official during a press
conference covering other issues related to religious freedom in
Vietnam.

2. (SBU) Immediately after receiving the initial report, Post was
able to easily contact Pastor Quang at his home. The story he
told in the course of a 30-minute telephone conversation was very
different. He said the confrontation began after Pastor Chinh had
already left HCMC for Kon Tum (where he returned without
incident). One of Quang's followers noticed two familiar-looking
men, whom he thought were watching them, hanging out near the
house. When Quang and his follower went out to photograph the men
and their license plates, the men tried to prevent them from
taking pictures. A scuffle ensued (Post could not get Quang to
say who started it), but Quang managed to keep the camera. The
men then tried to flee on their motorbikes, but skidded and
flipped off the vehicles. At this point, some of Quang's
followers tried to prevent them from leaving. They eventually got
away, but Quang kept one of the motorbikes. Some time later that
day, uniformed police returned to Quang's house to get the bike
back. They also wanted Quang to sign some sort of statement about
disturbing the peace. Quang refused both requests, another
physical altercation ensued (Quang would not say who started it --
Post could not pin him down as to who started it), and one of
Quang's followers was detained. Two others were detained after
they followed their colleague to the police station, but Quang had
no further contact with the police.

3. (SBU) Comment: This case demonstrates a growing problem Post
faces in dealing with a more provocative stance by religious
freedom activists in Vietnam. Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and his
associates are involved in one way or another with nearly every
celebrated case of alleged religious persecution in HCMC over the
past year (reftels). Unfortunately, his track record is one of
engaging in deliberately provocative acts for the purpose of
generating international attention. Even his own colleagues in
the underground Protestant house church community acknowledge that
he embellishes his claims to make his point. But they know what
he knows: In the Internet Age, this sort of information is quickly
snatched up by a variety of NGOs and Vietnamese expatriate groups
and used to demonstrate that the human rights situation in Vietnam
is deteriorating. If the facts turn out to be different, no one
will ever go back and publish a correction. Meanwhile, we are
concerned that scarce resources are being diverted from genuine
cases of human rights and religious freedom abuses.
YAMAUCHI

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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