Religion is regulated in Vietnam. Unauthorised religions (including unauthorised Buddhist churches) face repression by the state. Christians in Vietnam make up no more than 10 per cent of the population. Unauthorised Christian churches have faced strong persecution by the Vietnamese state for the past several years. The state sees the church, especially evangelical Protestant churches as influenced by the US and undermining the authority of the Communist Party. Clergy are often harassed and beaten, and churches placed under police surveillance. Key worshippers are often taken to police stations for interrogation. Discrimination is especially acute among minorities and indigenous peoples who are Christians.
The Hmong people, who constitute less than 1 per cent of the population, are singled out for persecution because, in addition to being Christians, they fought against the Communists during the Vietnam War. In 2002 and 2003 two Hmong Christians were beaten to death by the authorities, who were pressuring them to renounce their faith.
Two senior members of the Vietnamese Mennonite Church are currently in jail and other members were subject to torture while under detention. There are reports of members being sent to mental hospitals. One Mennonite church was burned down in Ho Chi Minh City by officials.
The Montagnards (a collective term for a variety of ethnic groups living in the central highlands) also face severe state sanctions. They face persecution both as ethnic minorities and also as Christian Protestants. At Easter 2004, Montagnards held peaceful demonstrations over long-standing land rights and freedom of religion issues. They also called for an end to the migration of large numbers of majority Kinh people to the central highlands, migration that has dramatically changed the demographic composition of the region. There followed a severe crackdown by the authorities resulting in at least 8 deaths and hundreds of injuries. The central highlands have been effectively closed to the outside world since. Diplomats and journalists have been allowed to visit only under strict supervision. Hundreds have fled to seek refuge in neighbouring Cambodia. Those that are caught leaving or are returned to Vietnam from Cambodia face ill-treatment. Since 2001, more than 180 Montagnard Christians have been arrested and sentenced to long prison terms on charges that they are violent separatists using their religion to 'sow divisions among the people' and 'undermine state and party unity'.
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