Protestants and pro-democracy activists ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit here, dissidents and investigators told BosNewsLife.
Last week "on November 9, Protestant missionary Mr. Hong Trung was kidnapped" in Gia Lai province by local "security police. His family has no clue of his whereabouts," Do Thanh Cong, a committee member of the People’s Democratic Party in Vietnam told BosNewsLife.
"Ms. Le Thi Nhung, Mr. Hong Trung’s wife, is currently in a-state-of-shock because she has no idea," what charges have been filed against him.
"Where he is being detained and how is his health?," she wonders, added Do Thanh Cong, also known Cong Thanh Do, 47, who himself was detained for over a month this year on charges of plotting to overthrow the government.
The Vietnamese dissident, who is now a US citizen, was released and allowed to return to America in September amid international pressure.
Reports of the detention of the missionary seems part of a government plan to “resolutely subdue the abnormally rapid and spontaneous development of the Protestant religion,” among ethnic minorities in the north-west highlands, suggested Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a major advocacy group, on Monday, November 13.
CSW told BosNewsLife it has acquired details of an internal Vietnamese government training manual, entitled ‘Training Document: Concerning the Task of the Protestant Religion in the Northern Mountainous Region’, which appears to have been issued by a government department, the Central Bureau of Religious Affairs.
The document recognizes the ‘spiritual need for a portion of our people’, but allegedly betrays a deep antagonism in the official attitude towards Protestantism. "It creates a vast loophole whereby local authorities are empowered to arbitrate on the legitimacy of congregations, and to force newer Protestant Christians to renounce their faith," CSW said.
"When local authorities find locations where people have recently begun to follow to the Protestant religion, they are instructed to ‘hold your ground and mobilize and persuade the people to return to their traditional beliefs’," CSW quoted the document as saying. .
Previous experiences of ethnic minority Protestants have included attempts to force renunciations of faith by torture, beatings and threats, CSW and other groups claim. Many Protestant Christians, including hundreds of Montagnards, have been imprisoned for their faith in recent years, and a number of Protestants have died at the hands of local authorities , including Sung Chong Chu in December 2005, several Christian investigators, including Sung Chong Chu in December 2005.
Churches which had recently been registered in the northern region have reportedly experienced intensive monitoring and restrictions by the local authorities. News of the document came as Vietnam was taken off the US blacklist of ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ for religious freedom violations.
At this week’s APEC summit in Vietnam, will be attended by US President George W. Bush, Vietnam is also expected to be invited to become part of the Permanent Normal Trade Relations with the US, a move which will speed up entry into the World Trade Organization.
"On the eve of the APEC summit in Hanoi, CSW is calling upon the international community to urgently call upon the Vietnamese government to develop a proper and viable legislative framework for religious freedom, which is fully in accord with her obligations under international law," said CSW Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas.
Besides Protestant Christians, several pro-democracy activists have been harassed and detained by security police in attempts to silence them before the APEC summit begins. Do told BosNewsLife.
Lawyer Bui Kim Thanh, a woman who has been supporting farmers in their fight for the return of lands, was detained in recent days and apparently placed in a mental hospital by police of Ho Chi Minh City whichh is still referred to as ‘Saigon’ by dissidents,
Elsewhere in the area, police on November 10 detained another rights activist known as Nguyen Thuy Cong-Tam after “tearing her house apart” during a raid, dissidents said. Her whereabouts were not immediately clear Monday, November 13. These are no isolated incidents, Do explained.
In addition, "two [human rights] lawyers, Mr. Nguyen Van Dai and Ms. Le Thi Cong Nhan, two engineers Mr. Bach Ngoc Duong and Mr. Do Nam Hai and many [other] pro-democracy activists are terrorized by the security and secret police," who "summon them to various police precincts for questioning," or prevent them from working, he added.
Tran Van Hoa, a member of the People’s Democratic Party in Da Lat city was also harassed, Do claimed. His older brother was summoned at a local police station and told to stop “pro-democracy activities” while police allegedly also threatened to discontinue schooling of his 10-year child.
Family of prominent human rights activist Dr. Pham Hong Son has been threatened as well, Do said.
"On November 3 when he rode motorcycle with his two young boys near Thuy Khue district and Mai XuanThuong Public Park, appearing from nowhere there was a motorcycle with two men [whose] faces were mostly masked. They suddenly went in the direction of Son’s motorcycle, which was badly hit and various parts were seriously damaged," he claimed.
A similar incidents allegedly occurred on November 9, when he was heading home on motorcycle with his wife, Vu Thuy Ha, from a local clinic. A vehicle "intentially" made them to lose balance on the motorcycle, Do said. Following the incident, in which he was slightly injured, police threatened him at his home three days later, he added. He said the People’s Democratic Party has urged the US government to continue to keep Vietnam on its list of Country of Particular Concern for Religious Freedom and hold off granting a Permanent Normal Trade Relations "till human rights are honored."
Vietnam’s communist government has denied human rights abuses and described reports of mistreatment of predominantly Christian minorities as propaganda.