Vietnam: no religious freedom in view

Comité Vietnam LT214

AEDH supports the Vietnam Committee for the Défense of Human Rights that has been fighting for many years for the defence of freedom of expression in Vietnam and mostly for the freedom of belief.

Vietnam uses its seat at the UN Council for Human Rights (2014-2016) to demonstrate its exemplarity. Actually, giving a seat to the Hanoi regime has been nothing more than an endorsement by the international community to continue to allow violations of human rights. After the 12e Congress of the Vietnamese Communist Party in January 2016 - that saw the success of the security apparatus:

  • repression, already very strong, intensified:
  • arrests, convictions and arbitrary detentions,
  • repression of protests,
  • suffocation of all the opposing or simply troublesome opinions,
  • harassment and constant aggressions against the dissidents and the devotees of non-recognised religions,
  • adoption of laws incompatible with international law (the amended law on the media law on the access to information)…

It’s in this context that the law on belief and religion, the first one of its kind, is to be adopted this year.

Unfortunately, this will likely be nothing other than the legal enshrinement of a well-oiled arsenal of surveillance, control, and finally religious persecution. From what we know , the law will not implement the right to religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution and by international instruments. Indeed, the 5th project of law which deputies are currently working on, is based on the idea that religion is either a tool of the Party-State, or an ennemy. Consequently, it is explicitly forbidden to « profit from religious freedom or freedom of belief to jeopardise national defence and security » or to « show negative behaviour towards the belief or religion of members of other legal religious organisations » (Article 5). Such provisions recall the holdall crime against « national security » regularly used against the opposition.

In Vietnam, religions can only exist if they are duly recognised (i.e. authorised) and entirely controlled by the authorities. The latter must be scrupulously informed of every religious activity carried out and approve them. They control all aspects of religious life: the ordination of religious devotees, ceremonies and festivals,the modification of states of cultural associations and even the content of religious teachings that must include history subjects that we know them to be particularly biased and politicised… To be authorised, a religion must have lived under that regime for at least 10 years without any incidents and accept to continue living under the bureaucratic control of the authorities. Without authorisation, a religion cannot legally exist. Even if it is not said explicitly, the current practice speaks for itself: non-recognised religions are persecuted as is shown by the case of Thich Quang Do, head of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, detained since more than 30 years.

Vo Tran Nhat
Comité Vietnam pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme

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