Heavy Persecution Crackdowns Follow US Delegation Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang after an arrival ceremony at the presidential palace
U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang after an arrival ceremony at the presidential palace. (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a series of government crackdowns on Christians in Vietnam has taken place, including the arrest and torture of an imprisoned pastor's wife and the assault and arrest of a 14-year-old Christian in northern Vietnam. These incidents come only weeks after a U.S. delegation, including U.S. President Obama, visited Vietnam.

On June 13, a local church near the Vietnam-China border was stormed by 30 government authorities including high-level officials. During the onslaught, multiple churchgoers were beaten and two were arrested, including a 14-year-old. The priest was taken in for interrogation, where authorities attempted to force him to sign a statement admitting that the church's activities disrupted the community and endangered security.

Nearly a week prior to this incident, United Nations officials publicly condemned the alleged torture and arrest of the wife of an imprisoned Christian pastor in Vietnam. This condemnation followed a widespread media outcry.

According to reports, Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh's wife, Tran Thi Hong, was detained and tortured on April 14, 2016, by local authorities of Gia Lai Province. The purpose of her torture was an attempt to extract information regarding a recent meeting she had taken part in with the visiting U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein on March 30. Prior to attending the meeting, Mrs. Hong was blocked from attending by plainclothes persons, forcing the U.S. delegation to visit Mrs. Hong in her home under observation.

While members of the international community have publicly condemned accounts of torture and the recent crackdown on religious minorities by the Vietnamese government, Christians living and working in Vietnam are hesitant as to whether or not the situation will improve.

"I don't believe that the Vietnamese Government will address this issue," a regional expert told ICC. "I believe we are witnessing [the] Communist Government [flexing] their muscles rather than [relaxing]."

ICC Regional Manager for South Asia William Stark states, "It is appalling to see the actions by the Vietnamese government against its Christian population both before and after the president's visit. In an effort to bring forth a new chapter in U.S.-Vietnamese relations, the president lifted the weapons embargo between the two nations in hopes of a better future. Unfortunately, the president relinquished the last major bargaining chip the United States had to use with Vietnam regarding their deplorable human rights record. These recent attacks on the church and the arrest and torture of an imprisoned pastor's wife show the true colors of Vietnam's leadership."

This article originally appeared on persecution.org.

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