Religion Bulletin, November 2022: Bureau of Internal Security “Pivotal Unit” in Campaign to Eliminate the Duong Van Minh Religion

Religion Bulletin, November 2022: Bureau of Internal Security “Pivotal Unit” in Campaign to Eliminate the Duong Van Minh Religion

[New Religions]

Deputy Minister of Home Affairs: Bureau of Internal Security is a "pivotal unit" in the campaign to eliminate Duong Van Minh religion

According to the Cong An Nhan Dan (People's Police) newspaper, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Vu Chien Thang stated that the Bureau of Internal Security (BIS) was a "pivotal unit" in the campaign to eliminate the Duong Van Minh religion. [1]

The article reported that this bureau is "instructing and coordinating," sending numerous cadres to police agencies and local governments, including the provinces of Tuyen Quang, Cao Bang, Bac Kan, and Thai Nguyen, to eliminate the Duong Van Minh religion.

Colonel Tran Quang Hieu, former head of the Office of Ethnic Security under BIS said that to abolish the Duong Van Minh religion, it is necessary to "mobilize the synergy of the whole political system and promote the active and core role of the police force at all levels to nip this type of organizations in the bud".

On November 24, 2022, the Ministry of Public Security transferred Tran Quang Hieu to the post of deputy director of police in Dak Lak Province, an active area for independent Protestant organizations, which the state seeks to eliminate. Hieu previously served as head of the Central Highlands Security Bureau. [2]

Ông Trần Quang Hiếu (trái) nhận quyết định bổ nhiệm chức phó giám đốc Công an tỉnh Đắk Lắk. Ảnh: Báo Bảo vệ Pháp luật.
Tran Quang Hieu (left) accepts his appointment as deputy director of Dak Lak provincial police. Photo: Bao Ve Phap Luat (Legal Defense) newspaper.

To date, provincial governments have mobilized 1,269 members of the Duong Van Minh religion, out of a total of 7,470 adherents to "commit to renouncing the illegal Duong Van Minh organization." According to authorities, in 2022, Duong Van Minh practitioners "were too afraid" to organize celebrations for "common Tet", Duong Van Minh's birthday, and the organization’s founding due to government repression.

Vu Chien Thang asserted that he would guide the Hmong to follow state-sanctioned faiths and religions, demonstrating that the Vietnamese government has yet to improve its grasp of religious freedom.

Further reading on the Duong Van Minh religion: Who's lying to you about the Duong Van Minh religion: the army or the police?

Bac Kan Province: Authorities continue implementation of Project No. 78 to eliminate the Duong Van Minh religion

The Bac Kan provincial police website reported that provincial authorities were at the height of the fight to obstruct and eliminate the Duong Van Minh religion under Project No. 78. [3]

The project’s content has yet to be fully published; Its only known goal is the complete elimination of the Duong Van Minh religion by 2023.

According to the site, authorities have organized 11 working groups to suppress the Duong Van Minh religion. As of November 2022, the government has removed 5 funeral homes and 50 household altars and mobilized 112 households with 602 people in 14 villages, 10 communes, and 2 districts to sign a commitment to renounce the Duong Van Minh religion.

Bà Phương Thị Thanh, Chủ tịch Hội đồng Nhân dân tỉnh Bắc Kạn chỉ đạo về hoạt động quản lý tín ngưỡng, tôn giáo tại thị trấn Nà Phặc, huyện Ngân Sơn. Ảnh: Công an tỉnh Bắc Kạn.
Phuong Thi Thanh, chairwoman of the Bac Kan province People’s Council, directs the management of faiths and religions in Na Phac town (Ngan Son district). Photo: Bac Kan provincial police.

Authorities believe the Duong Van Minh religion is present and influential in 5 districts, 14 communes, and 19 villages across the province, which working groups are fighting to remove. The government has confirmed that it has "completely eliminated" the Duong Van Minh religion in the two districts of Ba Be and Cho Moi.

After the founder of the Duong Van Minh religion passed away in December 2021, the government continued to suppress practitioners under Project No. 78.

[The Government’s Reach]

Judgment upheld, and further charges of fraud leveled to appropriate property of six members of Tinh That Bong Lai

On November 2 and 3, 2022, the People's Court of Long An Province upheld the first-instance judgment against six members of Tinh That Bong Lai under Article 331. [4]

Previously, at the first-instance trial, each person was sentenced to between three and five years in prison, totalling 23.5 years for the six members; they were convicted under Article 331 of the Penal Code: abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state and the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals.

Of the six members, Le Tung Van, 90, is believed to be the group’s mastermind, with the remaining members' accomplices. He was sentenced to five years in prison. Lawyers said that Van was in feeble health, with many illnesses and dependent on the care of others.

Các thành viên Tịnh thất Bồng Lai trong phiên tòa xét xử phúc thẩm vào ngày 2 và ngày 3/11/2022. Ảnh: Báo Thanh Niên.
Members of Tinh That Bong Lai during the appellate trial on November 2 and 3, 2022. Photo: Thanh Nien (Youth) newspaper.

Also, in early November, the Security Investigation Bureau of Long An provincial police decided to prosecute fraud charges and appropriate property at Tinh That Bong Lai’s facilities. Six members of the group face the possibility of one more charge. [5]

This is a highly complex case because it involves religious factors, freedom of association, and freedom of expression - fundamental civil rights not guaranteed in Vietnam.

To date, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has added the six members of Tinh That Bong Lai to its global list of victims of religious persecution. [6]

Several independent Protestants were beaten, and banned from leaving the country to attend the Southeast Asia Freedom of Religion or Belief Conference

According to VOA, on November 6, 2022, several independent Protestants in Dak Lak Province were banned from leaving the country, detained, and harassed at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. [7]

The individuals were believed to be on their way to the 9th Southeast Asia Freedom of Religion or Belief Conference (SEAFORB) held in Bali, Indonesia. The international conference is held annually to promote and protect people's religious beliefs.

VOA quoted Nguyen Dinh Thang, chairman of Boat People SOS (BPSOS), as saying that the Vietnamese government banned a Cao Dai practitioner and four Montagnard Protestants from attending the conference.

Y Si Eban, a Protestant in Dak Lak, told VOA that authorities forbade him from boarding the plane to attend the conference. Police took him to a city (not known to The Vietnamese Magazine) in Dak Lak Province, interrogated him, beat him, and seized his driver's license, identity card, passport, and three cell phones.

Another practitioner named Y Khiu Niê also said that authorities banned him from leaving the country, brought him back to Dak Nong Province, and detained him until 9 p.m. the next day before releasing him.

Previously, on July 22, 2022, Nguyen Xuan Mai, a Chon Truyen 1926 Cao Dai practitioner,, was also questioned for more than six hours at Tan Son Nhat International Airport after attending the International Religious Freedom Summit held in the United States. [8]

The Vietnamese government has recently increased its control and suppression of independent Protestant organizations in the Central Highlands. Independent practitioners are frequently harassed and prevented from practicing their religious activities.

Further reading on independent Protestant groups in the Central Highlands: When the Central Highlands is no longer home

Da Lat municipal authorities and Lam Dong Province condemn Falun Gong, and ask residents to refrain from the practice

At the end of November 2022, the Lam Dong provincial government website posted an article asking people to " completely eschew the practice of Falun Gong". [9]

The article listed numerous alleged reasons why people were not allowed to practice the religion:

  • Falun Gong practitioners in China had organized protests and surrounded the headquarters of the government, disrupting order in the country.
  • Falun Gong members in Vietnam incited people against China, affecting the relationship between Vietnam and China.
  • Falun Gong caused a loss of security and order in Vietnam by distributing leaflets and items in public places.
  • Falun Gong propagated superstition and the belief that it can cure diseases without medicine or treatment
  • Falun Gong wants practitioners to give up party activities and socio-political organizations to practice the religion freely.

The article said Da Lat City currently has many groups practicing and popularizing Falun Gong through the distribution of leaflets and propaganda, leading many people to think that Falun Gong is non-political and non-religious.

In September 2022, some Falun Gong practitioners in Da Lat said they were harassed and beaten by security officers while practicing at a park in the city. State newspapers have so far not objectively reported on these allegations. [10]

Currently, Falun Gong is among the new religions most widely persecuted by the government. Since Falun Gong in Vietnam is not a professional organization, practitioners often organize spontaneous practice groups; as a result, the government has been limited to harassing some practice sites and imposing administrative sanctions on those spreading Falun Gong in public places

Evangelical Church of Christ practitioners in Phu Yen were repeatedly harassed by authorities after meeting with American officials

In November 2022, a missionary named Nay Y Blang told VOA that his house was searched by authorities in Ea Lam Commune (Song Hinh District, Phu Yen Province), and his motorbike was confiscated. [11]

Nay Y Blang is a member of the Evangelical Church of Christ, an unregistered Protestant organization regularly harassed by the government.

Ông Nay Y Blang (bìa trái). Ảnh: Đài Phát thanh và Truyền hình Phú Yên.
Nay Y Blang (far left). Photo: Phu Yen Radio and Television Station.

Nay Y Blang's house was searched because he failed to comply with an administrative sanction issued by the state in September 2022 prohibiting the gathering of practitioners for religious activities at his residence. [12]

However, Nay Y Blang said that after meeting with diplomats at the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City in August 2022, authorities have kept watch over him at all hours and in all places.

In September 2022, authorities detained him while he was going to meet the U.S. Department of State’s religion delegation in Ho Chi Minh City.

The Vietnamese government regularly prohibits citizens from meeting with foreign delegations who seek to learn about the human rights situation in Vietnam, including religious practitioners. Authorities carry out a variety of reprisals against those who report human rights abuses in Vietnam, such as evicting their families from rented homes, confiscating identity documents, issuing legal administrative sanctions, and even ordering thugs to assault them.

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