Vatican Diplomat Visits Vietnam, Seeks to Normalize Relations

Vatican Diplomat Visits Vietnam, Seeks to Normalize Relations

Vatican Looks to Normalize Relations in its Representative's Vietnam Visit

The Vatican's foreign minister, Richard Gallagher, met with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son on April 9 during a six-day diplomatic mission to Vietnam to improve relations with the communist nation, the Associated Press reported. Gallagher expressed gratitude for recent progress in bilateral ties as both sides wait for an upgrade to full diplomatic relations. Gallagher’s visit occurred after Archbishop Marek Zalewski became the first Vatican representative to live and open an office in Vietnam.

The Holy See and Hanoi agreed to appoint the Vatican’s permanent representative in Vietnam during former President Vo Van Thuong’s visit in July 2023. Thuong also invited Pope Francis to visit Vietnam. Giorgio Bernardelli, the head of AsiaNews, a Catholic Missionary news agency, told AP News that the Pope’s potential visit was open for discussion and depended on the political situation following Thuong’s recent resignation.

According to a 2019 census, Catholicism is the most practiced religion in Vietnam. Around 5.9 million, or 44.6%, of the 13.2 million people who identified as religious in Vietnam said they were Catholic, which accounts for more than 6% of the country’s population.

Dong Tam Incident: Grandson of Village Leader Le Dinh Kinh Released 

On April 9, Le Dinh Uy, grandson of the 84-year-old Dong Tam Village leader Le Dinh Kinh, was released before his five-year imprisonment is due in 2025. Uy's wife, Nguyen Thi Duyen, published the announcement on her Facebook page. Kinh was sentenced to five years in prison on a charge of “resisting public officers on duty” in the 2020 land dispute case.

Duyen wrote on her social media, “Goodbye the small prison, he’s returning to the big prison,” along with a photo of Uy walking free after being released. Le Dinh Uy was the first defendant convicted and sentenced to be released.

The attack occurred in the early morning of January 9, 2020, when more than 3,000 armed police officers were deployed in the area and fired shots at a residence in Hoanh Village, Dong Tam Commune, My Duc District, killing its owner, Le Dinh Kinh. Three police officers also died in the skirmish. Twenty-nine villagers, including Uy, were arrested and convicted in a trial late that year, with two of them receiving the death sentence.

Ho Chi Minh City Authorities Suggests Suspension of Social Network Accounts of Media Influencer

The communications department of Ho Chi Minh City on April 9 fined Vietnamese singer and former beauty pageant Nguyen Le Nam Em 10 million dong ($400) for “hosting live streams that contain information causing confusion among the people.” The department also proposed that the Ministry of Communications and Information block her Facebook and TikTok accounts, which she allegedly used to host “toxic” live streaming.

Previously, on March 16, Nam Em hosted a live stream on her TikTok account, where she was seen climbing out of her house’s balcony and did not return. The authorities said this act had confused and worried many viewers. About half an hour later, Nam Em's boyfriend turned off the live footage without further explanation.

On March 1, the singer was fined 37.5 million dong under the cybersecurity decree 15/2020/ND-CP for “posting information that caused confusion among the people and defamed national heroes.” The authorities did not publicize the posts that allegedly violated this decree. Nam Em got the fine after the Department of Cyber ​​Security and High-Tech Crime Prevention of Ho Chi Minh City Police summoned her to question the publication of information on social media.

National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue Considers China ‘Top Priority’ in Vietnam’s Foreign Policy

During his six-day diplomatic trip, the Chairman of Vietnam’s National Assembly Vuong Dinh Hue met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on April 8. According to Chinese state news agency Xinhua News, Hue said Vietnam regarded China as a top strategic priority in its foreign relations, and Hanoi would follow the goals set earlier by Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong and Chinese President Xi Jinping to maintain close communications and cooperation.

At the same time, the legislature chairman reportedly said that Vietnam firmly adheres to the one-China principle and is resolutely opposed to any form of "Taiwan independence" separatist activities. According to the Vietnamese government and state media reports, Hue also proposed closer cooperation in trade and development projects between the two countries.

Meanwhile, the Chinese president has urged Hanoi to use “political wisdom” in handling ties with Beijing, as sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea remain a flashpoint of conflict for both countries, the South China Morning Post reported. Xi also called on both sides to make efforts toward building a “Vietnam - China Community of Shared Future,” a term introduced in the Joint Statement between the two sides when the Chinese president visited Vietnam last December.

Vietnamese Foreign Ministry Denies Accusations of Human Rights Violations in Directive 24

The Vietnamese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Pham Thu Hang denied Hanoi’s attempts to restrict human rights in issuing Directive 24, a document the Politburo adopted to tighten national security amid Vietnam’s burgeoning international integration.

“We oppose false and fabricated information with bad intentions aimed at Vietnam,” the spokesperson said in response to the Vietnamese language service of Voice of America (VOA News). “This is an interference in Vietnam's internal affairs and a conspiracy to sabotage Vietnam's socio-economic development and isolate Vietnam from the international community.”

Last month, The 88 Project, an Illinois-based human rights advocacy group, published the leaked version of Directive No. 24. The group discovered that Directive 24-CT/TW of the Politburo, issued on July 13, 2023, was signed just two months before Hanoi upgraded its diplomatic relationship with the U.S. to a Comprehensive Strategic Partner. In this directive, the Politburo ordered strict immigration control for government officials and citizens while prohibiting the formation of opposition political organizations and establishing workers' unions based on ethnic and religious grounds.

“The [Communist] Party and State's consistent policy states that Vietnam would continue to integrate actively and comprehensively as a responsible member of the international community, including upholding commitments in trade and human rights," Hang told VOA News.

She added that Vietnam had issued resolutions and taken measures amid changing developments in the world to “protect national security, human security and ensure the peaceful and happy life of the people.” However, the Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson did not say whether or not the leaked document was authentic.

Hanoi Court Sentenced War Veteran for Triggering Explosives on Lenin Statue

A court in Hanoi on April 3 sentenced Nguyen Chi Dung, 57, a war veteran, to five years in prison on a charge of "disturbing public order" for triggering explosives to damage the Lenin statue in Hanoi. The 5.2-meter bronze statue was donated by the Soviet Union to Vietnam in 1985 to commemorate the doctrine founded by Soviet Chairman Vladimir Lenin that “paved the way for the Vietnamese revolution.” 

In June 2023, Dung, a soldier who specialized in the field of mine clearance, reportedly manufactured explosives himself and detonated them at the Lenin monument area in Ba Dinh District, Hanoi, on August 9. Vietnam’s state media reported that Dung set off the explosives to “attract public attention.” The explosives Dung made had  “damaged the legs and foundation of the Lenin statue,” according to state media.  Dung was arrested the next day.

On April 3, the Nghe An Provincial Party Committee's Propaganda Department announced that the province would unveil a Lenin statue in Vinh City in mid-April to mark the 154th anniversary of this Soviet leader’s birth. The statue was a donation from the Russian province of Ulyanovsk. The bronze Lenin statue, which weighs 4.5 tons and is 3.6 meters high, will be located at the intersection of V. I. Lenin Avenue and Nguyen Phong Sac Street, the birthname of Ho Chi Minh, in Vinh.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Struggling to keep the faith

Asia Democratic Chronicles/ Nguyện Công Bằng/ Feb. 27

“Vietnam’s religious landscape navigates a complex system of registration and oversight. To operate legally, religious organizations must register with the state-funded National Front of Fatherland. As of 2020, this system has recognized 16 religious and 43 organizations, while unregistered groups are automatically deemed illegal.

These groups are then usually charged with “abusing democratic freedoms” because, said one activist, they “refuse to be registered under a state agency.” But many of these groups reject registration for fear of persecution and losing their autonomy. In reality, the degree of religious freedom enjoyed by groups often hinges on their leaders’ relationships with local authorities, predominantly Community Party members.”

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