Christian lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and three of his friends were beaten with sticks by Vietnamese police after they took part in a conference on Sunday (6 December) to inform people living in the country’s Nghe An Province about their human rights, including their right to religious freedom. Police seized their personal possessions and Mr Nguyen was pushed into the sea after the authorities had stripped him of his jacket and shoes.
The conference itself, in the Province’s Nam Dan District, took place without incident, even though police had previously asked the organisers to cancel it, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). But after it had finished and the four men had travelled on to Nghi Loc District, around 20 plain-clothed police officers confronted them there and beat them with wooden sticks.
According to CSW, Mr Nguyen was then taken to another province by motorcycle and beaten for a second time. His documents, phone, camera and wallet were seized, but he managed to borrow a phone to call for help. He was followed and beaten for a third time before finally returning to Hanoi, capital of Vietnam, on 7 December.
Mr Nguyen’s friends, Trung and Minh, were helped by local Christians to return to Hanoi after their personal possessions were also confiscated. A third friend at the conference, Thang, also managed to return safely to the Vietnam capital.
Two Christian activists beaten
Two Christian activists who had previously served prison sentences for their activities were detained by police in Vietnam’s Central Highlands on 8 November and beaten repeatedly. The men were held for twelve hours while communist party officials attempted to force Christian student activist Chu Manh Son and Christian journalist Tran Minh Nhat to write a confession statement.
Tran Minh Nhat had been released from prison in August after serving a four-year sentence for conspiring to overthrow the government. Student Chu Manh Son had served two-and-a-half years in prison for anti-state propaganda and was released last year.
Both of these believers say that police have harassed them since their release. On 17 November, just over a week after he was detained by police, Tran Minh Nhat was beaten by the authorities for a second time when he attended a medical clinic to receive treatment for his injuries from the earlier beating.
Christianity is tightly controlled in Vietnam, whose one-party Communist state views it as a Western religion and therefore a threat. Hundreds of Christians are imprisoned, where they are subjected to beatings, abuse and torture.
Advocacy groups around the world have called on the Vietnamese government to make the necessary amendments to the draft of a new religion law that is likely to further oppress Christians in Vietnam by giving the state even greater control over religious practices.