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EDITORIAL
Vietnam: Repressive Crackdown
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin
14-Mar-2007
In 2004 the US State Department designated Vietnam a Country of Particular Concern (CPC; deserving sanctions) due to its systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.
In May 2005 the US made an agreement with Vietnam to remove it from the CPC list if Vietnam made specified improvements in religious liberty. The independent US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which advises the State Department, urged that Vietnam stay on the CPC list. Nevertheless the State Department removed Vietnam in November 2006. At the same time Vietnam was accepted into the World Trade Organisation and hosted the APEC Summit in Hanoi.

While the US State Department was considering what to do with its CPC list in the latter part of 2006, Vietnam was quietly repressing a Christian lawyer named Nguyen Van Dai (38). Dai had been representing Vietnam's persecuted Christians in court, documenting Vietnam's religious liberty violations and promoting human rights and democracy. He was detained for questioning in August and early November and kept under house arrest during the APEC Summit. Once November was over and the Vietnamese regime had what it wanted - removal from the State Department's CPC list, accession into the WTO, and a quiet APEC Summit - it re-clenched its fists.

In early February 2007 Nguyen Van Dai was awarded a Human Rights Watch Hellman/Hammett grant recognising his courageous work for human rights amidst persecution. Straight afterwards Dai and his female associate Le thi Cong Nhan (27) were arrested at their law office in Hanoi. They were detained for several days of questioning while their homes and the law office were searched.

On 6 March Vietnamese police arrested lawyers Dai and Cong Nhan.
Along with Catholic priest Father Nguyen Van Ly, they have been charged with violating Article 88 of the Criminal Code by 'propagandising against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam'. The charges are very serious and allow four months' detention pending investigation and then a sentence of 20 years. The Hanoi Bar Association has disbarred Dai and Cong Nhan and closed their law office. One accusation made is Dai conspired 'to consort with certain extremist elements to gather what is called "evidence that Vietnam suppresses religion" to distribute to enemy forces and to reactionaries residing abroad'.

Several other rights advocates have been arrested in Vietnam over recent weeks. Sources report the re-arrest of Mennonite Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang (whom we prayed for when imprisoned in 2004-05) may be imminent. Nguyen Van Dai's arrest shows again how much Christians in repressive environments risk to be a voice for the persecuted Church. According to sources, Dai and Cong Nhan have started a hunger strike and Dai's wife, Vu Minh Khai, is under constant police surveillance.
* those with power to influence policy and government and police
actions in Vietnam, that they will be convicted in their
conscience to do so.

* God to enable the Vietnamese to see, despite the propaganda, that
peaceful lawyers who defend the rights of peaceful people to
practise their faith are being persecuted by their government.

* God to so work in the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese that
they will reject injustice and seek truth and righteousness.

* Nguyen Van Dai and Vietnam's other courageous Christian advocates
paying a great price - their liberty - for their stand against
injustice and for religious liberty advocacy; may they and their
families be flooded with assurance of their sovereign God's love
(Romans 8:35-39) and presence (John 14:16), experiencing his
peace and growing in faith and grace.
Jim Dykstra