Religion Bulletin, September 2022: Hanoi Creates Office of Belief and New Religious Phenomena; Falun Gong Practitioners Repressed in Da Lat

Religion Bulletin, September 2022: Hanoi Creates Office of Belief and New Religious Phenomena; Falun Gong Practitioners Repressed in Da Lat
Graphic: The Vietnamese Magazine.

[New Religions]

Hanoi Committee for Religious Affairs establishes Office of Belief and New Religious Phenomena

According to the Hanoi Moi [New Hanoi] newspaper, the Hanoi Committee for Religious Affairs (CRA) established the Office of Belief and New Religious Phenomena on September 20, 2022. [1]

According to the article, the office is responsible for advising the city's CRA in professional matters and in managing new religious phenomena.

Before that, in May 2022, Hanoi CRA head Pham Tien Dung said nearly 2,000 people in this city were active in new religious groups. [2]
Head of the Hanoi CRA Pham Tien Dung (right) during the founding ceremony of the Office of Belief and New Religious Phenomena. Photo: Ha Noi Moi Newspaper.

Dung also stated: "According to the Law on Belief and Religion, these phenomena are not eligible to be registered as mass religious activities.”

In addition, he accused some religions of seriously affecting the health and lives of practitioners and warned people not to participate in them.

The government has only provided cursory information about the new office’s function, so it is not yet known how this office will deal with new religions.

Further reading: What's a "false religion"? 4 concerns about new religions that the government doesn't want you to know

Falun Gong practitioners assaulted in Da Lat

In September 2022, a number of Falun Gong practitioners in Da Lat, Lam Dong Province, publicly reported that security officers had harassed them for several months. [3]

The group of practitioners said in a YouTube video that beginning July 12, 2022, security officers constantly assaulted them while they practiced in the city's Lam Vien Square.

The practitioners said that, initially, security officers had hired a couple selling soy milk at the park to set up tables and chairs and play loud music to hinder practice. By early August, the couple had threatened to use gangsters to attack them if they refused to stop practicing in the square.

Afterwards, the practitioners recounted how a mentally-disabled person was called in to strike them with a belt and cause injury. Furthermore, two children had poured sewage and urine on practitioners' heads.
Falun Gong practitioners denounce assault by security officers in a YouTube video posted on September 11, 2022. Photo: screenshot.

The practitioners also confirmed that officials from the 10th Ward People's Committee in Da Lat witnessed the assaults but did nothing to intervene. They stated that security officers had assaulted them since April 2022, when the group started practicing in Lam Vien Square. After the group sent petitions to the authorities up to the ministerial level, the assaults ceased until July 2022.

Currently, the government is aggressively obstructing the public spread and practice of Falun Gong. Luat Khoa Magazine stated that they had observed that the extent of Falun Gong’s open practice decreased significantly in recent years.

Further reading: Falun Gong faces a troubled future

[The Government’s Reach]

Dong Nai: Authorities harass two members of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV)

The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) reported that Bien Hoa city police harassed its two sangha members on September 18, 2022. [4] The government does not recognize this sangha.

Members Han Buu Chuong and Ngo Dinh Van had their identification papers checked by the authorities while visiting Venerable Thich Nhat Ban at Ba La Mat Pagoda in Bien Hoa. After the administrative check was completed, the police continued to take photos of the two individuals and their ID cards.

According to the statement, police asked Venerable Thich Nhat Ban to “invite” the two individuals to leave the pagoda, but he refused.

Consequently, police continued to guard the front gate of Ba La Mat Pagoda until the two UBCV members left.

The sangha said the two youth leaders came to the pagoda to make audio and visual recordings of Venerable Thich Nhat Ban’s teachings to broadcast during an October 7 - 9, 2022, sangha conference in Utah.

The UBCV was established before 1975 but has not been recognized by the Vietnamese government since 1981. As a result, its members are frequently harassed and discriminated against.

Long An: The Government is investigating Tinh That Bong Lai for fraud and appropriation of property

On September 24, 2022, the Long An Province Security Investigation Bureau resumed its investigation of fraud and appropriation of property at the Tinh That Bong Lai Monastery. [5]

That same day, authorities sent officials to the monastery to forcibly take DNA samples from the temple’s 23 members, including eight children.

According to attorney Dang Dinh Manh, the government abruptly entered the temple, forcing members to give DNA samples without prior notice and without providing legal documents authorizing the taking of the samples. [6]

Manh reported that police twisted arms, choked individuals to retrieve their oral samples and extracted hair from adults and children.

Police reported that Tinh That Bong Lai claimed the children at the temple were orphans so that they could receive charity money from the public. As such, police had to carry out DNA tests to ascertain the children’s identities and determine whether the members of Tinh That Bong Lai were engaging in any defrauding practice to receive money from the public. [7]
Attorney Dang Dinh Manh (far left) and two other lawyers asked the police to open the door, so they could speak to their clients on the morning of September 24, 2022, as police were taking DNA samples from temple members. Photo: Dang Dinh Manh.

Previously, on July 27, 2022, the Long An Province Security Investigation Bureau temporarily suspended the investigation into fraud claims, appropriation of property, and incest at Tinh That Bong Lai. [8]

Six temple members were then prosecuted under Article 331 of the Penal Code for abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the State and the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals.

On July 21, the People's Court of Duc Hoa District in Long An Province sentenced the six members to more than 23 years.

Cao Bang: Training more than 3,000 officials to prevent activities that exploit religion to undermine Vietnam

According to Nhan Dan [The People] newspaper, Cao Bang provincial authorities held an online conference for more than 3,000 officials on the morning of September 23, 2022, focused on opposing activities that allegedly took advantage of religion to sabotage the state. [9]

The Standing Office of the Government's Human Rights Steering Committee organised the conference in collaboration with the Cao Bang provincial Human Rights Steering Committee.

"Ensuring freedom of belief and religion and combating hostile forces exploiting religion to undermine Vietnam" was among the conference’s four main topics. Authorities did not disclose further details of the meeting.

In August 2022, the Tuyen Quang Province Office of Home Affairs also held a conference on religion. The meeting focused on "new religious phenomena, and propaganda, advocacy, and combating activities that exploit belief and religion." [10]

Cao Bang and Tuyen Quang are among the provinces now suppressing the Duong Van Minh religion. This new religion teaches the people of Hmong ethnicity to use better sanitizing practices, including funeral rites.

Further reading:

[Religion 360*]

Venerable Tue Sy officially leads the UBCV

On September 1, 2022, the UBCV’s Central Clergy Council announced that Venerable Thich Tue Sy was officially appointed as the chief secretary of the sangha’s Standing Committee. [11]

Previously, in 2020, Venerable Thich Quang Do nominated Venerable Thich Tue Sy to replace him as l the executive of the Sangha’s Standing Committee. [12]

Venerable Thich Tue Sy emphasized in a letter in early September 2022: “The Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha is not a secular association, and therefore, does not place itself under the direction of any secular authority, is not a tool to protect the existence of any political order, does not belong to any secular organization, and does not practice or propagate religion according to any ideological orientation.” [13]
Venerable Thich Tue Sy. Photo: RFA.

Venerable Thich Tue Sy is currently the temporary executive of the Standing Committee

The election of the patriarch must be held during a congress of the sangha. [14] However, the Vietnamese government’s current repression makes it difficult to organize such an event.

Venerable Thich Tue Sy taught at Van Hanh University in Saigon before 1975. He is also a writer, poet, translator, and dissident.

In September 1988, the government sentenced him to death for attempting to overthrow the people's government. But due to international intervention, his sentence was reduced. He was released after 10 years. [15]

Cao Bang: Authorities summarize 100 days of suppressing the Duong Van Minh religion

According to State-run Cao Bang Radio and Television, Ha Quang District authorities made public "100 days of propaganda and local struggle against the illegal Duong Van Minh organization" on September 28, 2022. [16]

State media reported that the authorities removed all six of the organization's funeral homes and replaced the 66 white screens with photos of former leader Ho Chi Minh. They also mobilized 54 households with about 340 people to renounce the Duong Van Minh religion.

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