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Cablegate: Update On Mennonite House Church in Hcmc

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 000212

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM SOCI PREL PGOV KIRF VM HUMANR RELFREE
SUBJECT: UPDATE ON MENNONITE HOUSE CHURCH IN HCMC

REF: HCMC 106 and previous

1. (SBU) In the evening of February 27, local HCMC police detained
the wife of imprisoned Mennonite Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and 18
worshipers. According to our house church contacts, at the end of
the Sunday service, police informed the group that they were
assembling illegally and made a report of the incident. They
apparently asked Mrs. Quang to sign the document. She refused.
At that point, the police brought the churchgoers to the local
police station. They were released 6 hours later.

2. (SBU) We followed up with Mrs. Quang on March 4. She confirmed
our contacts' account. She added that she told the police that
the Prime Minister's February 4 Order on Protestantism legalized
operation of the house church. According to Mrs. Quang, police
rejected that argument, saying that the Ordinance on Religion
forbids the operation of unregistered house churches. It was at
that point that Mrs. Quang said that she told police that she did
not violate the law, refused to sign the police report, and was
arrested. Mrs. Quang said that, following the February 27
incident, she expected to be summoned to the local police station
for further questioning, but police have yet to contact her.

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Mennonite Prisoner Released
---------------------------

3. (SBU) Mrs. Quang also told us Nguyen Van Phuong, one of the
five Mennonites imprisoned along with her husband on November 12,
2004, was released from prison on March 3, upon the expiry of his
one-year sentence. Mrs. Quang said that when she met Phuong he
appeared thinner, but otherwise did not appear to have any
physical or mental issues. She said that Phuong returned to his
home in the neighboring province of Dong Nai, where he will
undergo a thorough medical evaluation.

4. (SBU) Comment: The February 27 incident is another in a series
of confrontations between Pastor Quang's church and HCMC
authorities stretching back for at least two years. In contrast,
we received no reports of police harassment of other house
churches in the HCMC area that Sunday. This overall positive
trend is consistent with reports from house church leaders in the
HCMC area that police pressure on house churches is down
significantly nationwide. Our contacts add that they know of no
other occasion when police reportedly cited the Ordinance on
Religion to stop an unregistered house church from operating. End
Comment.

WINNICK

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