Religion Bulletin, February 2023: Vietnam Prevents American Delegation from Meeting Protestants, Recognizes the Art of Divination but Punishes Medium of “Đúng nhận, Sai cãi” Fame

Despite being placed on the U.S. Special Watch List, Vietnam continues to fiercely repress religion.

Religion Bulletin, February 2023: Vietnam Prevents American Delegation from Meeting Protestants, Recognizes the Art of Divination but Punishes Medium of “Đúng nhận, Sai cãi” Fame

[The Government’s Reach]

Dak Lak Province: Authorities Prevent U.S. Consulate General Delegation from Meeting Independent Protestants

On Feb. 22, 2023, Buon Don District authorities in Dak Lak Province prevented a delegation from the U.S. Consulate General from meeting with practitioners of the Evangelical Church of Christ. [1]

A video clip shows several people in plainclothes blocking the delegation from entering the home of Y Kreec Bya, a dignitary of the Evangelical Church of Christ in Ea Bar Commune.

Y Kreec Bya told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that police had sent people to surveil his house the day prior to the visit. [2]

That same day, Cu Sue Commune authorities in Cu Mgar District also prevented Rustum Nyquist, political attaché of the U.S. Consulate General, and his delegation from meeting a number of practitioners of the Evangelical Church of Christ, including the home of Y Cung Nie. [3]
A woman in plain clothes blocks the U.S. diplomatic mission at the residence of Y Cung Nie. Source: Montagnards Stand for Justice.

To this day, the Evangelical Church of Christ remains unrecognized by the government, despite efforts to register with authorities. The church is often accused of illegal and anti-state activities.

The United States is among the countries carefully monitoring religious freedom in Vietnam, placing the country on its “Special Watch List” at the end of 2022.

Hai Duong Province: Authorities Fine a Medium 7.5 million VND

On Feb. 9, 2023, police in the town of Kinh Mon (Hai Duong Province) fined a woman named Truong Huong 7.5 million dong ($319) for the act of divination. [4]

Police stated that the woman violated administrative regulations on the promotion of customs and superstitions incompatible with national tradition. Recently, Huong became famous on social media for her in-demand fortune-telling videos.

Kinh Mon police sanctioning Huong for Đúng nhận, Sai cãi [“recognize the right, dispute the wrong”] fame contradicts current regulations. Officially, the profession of "astrologer, fortune-teller, or other spiritually-oriented people" is legal according to Decision #34/2020/QD-TTg, issued by the prime minister when he promulgated a "List of occupations in Vietnam". [5]

This profession includes people who can recall the past and predict the future using horoscopes and by reading palms, tarot cards, betel leaves, and even coffee grounds which seems that Huong's conduct fell into these categories.

A Protestant Woman Persecuted by the Government Crosses the Border to Thailand

RFA reported that a Protestant Hmong woman from Nghe An Province recently arrived in Thailand as a refugee, saying that Ky Son district authorities in Nghe An Province had carried out a series of discriminatory actions that prevented her from following Protestantism. [6]

The woman, Lau Y Tong, 36, was a resident of Ky Son District.

She said that after receiving a Bible from a pastor, she was constantly harassed by the authorities, who refused to allow her to practice Protestantism. Officials told her: “We won’t allow anyone [...] in Ky Son, Nghe An to believe in God."

A pastor who knew of her situation wrote a letter to the government confirming that she was a member of the Protestant Church of Vietnam (northern branch), a religious organization recognized by the state. However, authorities continued to force her to renounce Protestantism.

Many citizens of different ethnicities have escaped to Thailand as refugees because of the Vietnamese government’s religious persecution, the majority of whom are from independent Protestant groups.

In early 2023, the Office of Homeland Security and Lai Chau provincial police reported that since 2012, 70 Hmong have sought refuge in Thailand. [7]

Authorities in the Central Highlands and northern mountainous areas strictly control the religious activities of ethnic minorities, shutting down unsanctioned activities and readily using violence to repress citizens.

[New Religions]

Binh Phuoc Province: Authorities Prevent a Falun Gong Practitioner from Traveling to Cambodia

On Feb. 9, 2023, according to information from Loc Ninh district police, Binh Phuoc Province, a woman believed to be a Falun Gong practitioner was detained at the local Loc Tan border guard station. [8]
The Falun Gong practitioner was arrested in Binh Phuoc. Photo: Cong An Nhan Dan [People’s Police] newspaper.

The woman, who resides in Ninh Thuan Province, had traveled by motorbike to Binh Phuoc to go to Cambodia to meet other practitioners, including a person she referred to as "master."

After temporarily detaining the woman, police prevented her from leaving for Cambodia and contacted her family to bring her home.

Falun Gong is among the new religions the Vietnamese government has banned. Participants caught practicing such faiths are subject to administrative sanctions, confiscation of materials, and government-sponsored re-education at home.

Cao Bang Province: Authorities Force More than 500 Individuals to Renounce the Duong Van Minh Religion

On Feb. 28, 2023, the Cao Bang Provincial Party Committee reported that it had "successfully mobilized" 562 people to renounce the Duong Van Minh religion in the government's second struggle campaign. [9] In all, more than 10 hamlets have abandoned the religion.

In addition, following the second campaign, authorities affirmed that "there was no longer any 'funeral homes' or 'white screens' in the entire province. The Duong Van Minh religion encouraged H'mong people to have funeral practices that mirror the Kinh people (the ethnic majority in Vietnam). It was also reported that 100% of gathering sites did not hold a 'joint Tet' event during the 2023 Lunar New Year."
Conference summarizing "100 days (Phase 2) of advocacy and struggle against the illegal Duong Van Minh organization in Cao Bang province." Photo: Cao Bang Radio and Television Station.

In Ha Quang District (Cao Bang Province), authorities mobilized another 162 people to "pledge to renounce the illegal Duong Van Minh organization." The district also reported that authorities gave gifts to a number of households that signed pledges. [10]

Currently, according to information from the government, there are 184 people in Ha Quang District who have not signed pledges to renounce the Duong Van Minh religion.

Cao Bang provincial authorities expect to force all people in the province to renounce the Duong Van Minh religion by 2024. [11]

The Duong Van Minh religion, founded in 1989 by a man of the same name, involves the Hmong worship of Jesus. The religion tends toward reform of the Hmong people’s outdated and expensive rituals. However, since its inception, the religion has not received government acceptance and has been continuously suppressed.

Further reading: Persecution of the Duong Van Minh Religion: Three Issues the Government Must Clarify

Nghe An Province: Authorities Block Practitioners of the World Mission Society of God from Taking Part in Religious Activities

On Feb. 11, 2023, Dien Chau district police in Nghe An Province obstructed five practitioners of the World Mission Society Church of God while the group was conducting religious activities in Dien Tan Commune. [12]
Authorities obstruct five practitioners of the World Mission Society Church of God. Photo: Nghe An newspaper.

All five practitioners were residents of the Dien Chau District. Police said they had seized three white towels and two notebooks containing content related to the church.

Afterward, police forced the five to pledge to a cessation of religious activities and to report to local authorities in their places of residence for supervision and education. As of April 2021, Vietnam had 85 "novel religions," according to state statistics. [13] In June 2021, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Vu Chien Thang stated that moving forward, Vietnam would welcome "novel religions." [14] However, new religions like the World Mission Society Church of God are still banned by the government today.

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