By Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)
HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM (ANS – June 17, 2017) — A pastor imprisoned in south-east Vietnam is being further punished for telling a visiting U.S. diplomatic delegation about abuses he has suffered, and a professor at the University of Ho Chi Minh City risks deportation for speaking out about education and environmental issues.
World Watch Monitor (www.worldwatchmonitor.org) says Nguyen Cong Chinh, serving an 11-year sentence for “undermining national solidarity” by religious activities with ethnic groups in the Central Highlands, met US consular officials in Ho Chi Minh City on May 25. He told them about shards of glass being put into his food, and enduring corporal punishment and humiliation because, he said, he refused to do what prison officers require.
Immediately after the US delegation left the prison, Chinh was isolated from other prisoners and put into a cramped space, according to his wife, Tran Thi Hong, who saw him on June 7.
Hong accused Vietnamese officials of using “shameful and divisive tactics” to put pressure on her husband when she discovered, during a visit on May 11, that he had been told that she had been unfaithful.
Hong, a mother of four, was herself tortured, beaten and questioned at a police station for two months after she too met a U.S. delegation on religious freedom in March 2016 in Pleiku city, Central Highlands.
Vietnam to expel Catholic blogger
Also, the Vietnamese government’s plan to deport an outspoken Catholic blogger has been condemned by Reporters Without Borders (RWB) https://rsf.org , the international organization campaigning for press freedom.
Peter Pham Minh Hoang, who posted writings about education, environmental issues and threats to Vietnam’s sovereignty from China which led to a 17-month prison sentence and three years of house arrest in 2011, has dual Vietnamese and French citizenship. On June 1 was told he is due to be deported to France.
Hoang, a university lecturer who acquired his French citizenship during many years in France, has been the target of both psychological and judicial harassment since his return to Vietnam in 2000, RWB stated on June 7. However he has offered to renounce his French citizenship, saying that he will retain only his Vietnamese citizenship. “My expectation is to live and die in my homeland,” he said.
His wife takes care of her elderly mother and disabled brother. Hoang said if he is expelled, “Our family must be separated.”
Hoang, professor at the University of Ho Chi Minh City, is accused of activities aimed at overthrowing the government and of joining a democracy group. His arrest has caused concern and protests worldwide. His family fears that the sentence has been decided before the start of the trial.
AsiaNews (www.asianews.it) says Vietnamese authorities are preparing to try the Catholic human rights advocate. On June 14, was expecting to be brought to court. In the words of his wife, he was concerned over social injustice and corruption.
AsiaNews said the professor has been held in prison in an undisclosed location since August 13, 2010, under Article. 79 of the Vietnamese Penal Code on charges of participating in a banned political group. Even before the arrest, the authorities had threatened to jail him unless he admitted to joining the group called Democracy for Viet Tan (New Vietnam). Article. 79 of the Criminal Code condemns activities aimed at overthrowing the government.
Professor Hoang is known for his dedication in educating the young. He is said to have given active support to the protests against the mining of bauxite in the Central Highlands and has participated in a conference organized by the archdiocese of Saigon, which discussed the issue of Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos. His wife reports that the police are also investigating the courses that he offered to his students.
Vietnamese Catholics see in the arrest and detention of Professor Hoang a direct consequence of his commitment to defending human rights and territorial integrity of the country, in the context of a growing number of attacks against human rights defenders.
AsiaNews said all protests have proven useless, even at the international level by some groups, including the Committee of Concerned Scientists, against the illegal detention of Hoang, to whom family members report a worsening of the professor’s physical and mental condition in the prison.
His family and his friends and colleagues defend his innocence and pledge to help in the next trial knowing that, like other defenders of democracy, in all probability the sentence has been written before the trial has even begun.
A spokesperson for France-based RWB said Vietnam’s decision “is typical of the blatant way they harass all those who raise controversial issues.”
Vietnam’s first ever law on religions since it was re-unified under communist rule in 1975 will come into effect in January 2018. Vietnam has 83 prisoners of religious freedom behind bars, reported BPSOS, a U.S.-based NGO on June 6 (www.bpsos.org ).
Photo captions: 1) Nguyen Cong Chinh and Peter Pham Minh Hoang. 2) University of Ho Chi Minh City. 3) Michael Ireland
About the Writer: Michael Ireland is a volunteer internet journalist serving as Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, as well as an Ordained Minister who has served with ASSIST Ministries and written for ANS since its beginning in 1989. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China, and Russia. Please consider helping Michael cover his expenses in bringing news of the Persecuted Church, by logging-on to: https://actintl.givingfuel.com/ireland-michael
** You may republish this or any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net). Please also tell your friends and colleagues that they can get a complimentary subscription to ANS by going to the website and signing up there.