Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Thich Quang Do summoned

Buddhist leader Thich Quang Do has been summoned for a "working session" (interrogation) with the HCMC police at 8 am Wednesday, Nov. 24, according to a press release of the International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB), which says: "The convocation stated that he is summoned to discuss 'appropriation of state secrets.' The summons may be connected to a letter sent by Thich Quang Do to the Communist leadership on 25 October 2004 demanding that they lift the verbal 'administrative detention' sentence pronounced by the local authorities against UBCV Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang and himself after the government crackdown on the UBCV in October 2003."

The order also comes in the midst of Thich Huyen Quang's failing health and the unwillingness of government authorities to allow Thich Quang Do to visit him.

Update: IBIB reports that Ven. Quang Do was subjected to an intense four-hour interogation on Nov. 24, to answer charges of "appropriating state secrets". He denied the accusations and and asked to go home so he could take his heart medicine. Authorities let him go but told him he would have to come back in the afternoon for more interrogation, but he refused to do so, stating that they would have to imprison him instead.

Meanwhile, the new U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, Michael W. Marine, who met with Ven. Huyen Quang earlier in the week, told reporters of his concerns: "We are aware of the fact that his (Thich Huyen Quang's) deputy Thich Quang Do has not been allowed to visit him. We have made it clear in various conversations that this is very hard to understand." On the charges of the monks violating "state secrecy", Marine said: "Were the government to press charges, we would call for transparency in the process so that we and others can understand what the charges are all about and so that these individuals can receive whatever legal protections are possible under Vietnamese law." The U.S. State Dept. designated Vietnam in September a "country of particular concern" (CPC) for its record on religious freedom.

Meanwhile, at a Nov. 25 press conference, Vietnam FM spokesman Le Dung said that Thich Huyen Quang is recoveering well in the hospital, and is allowed visits from Buddhist clergy (although he did not mention Thich Quang Do in this context). He also said: "I would like to say that Buddhist Venerable Thich Huyen Quang and Venerable Thich Quang Do are always allowed to perform their religious duties at their pagodas as usual, and that they have not been put under official surveillance as reported. I would like also to say that the World Buddhist Association Information Office's recent report on Ho Chi Minh City Police blocking a van carrying Buddhist followers on their way to visit Venerable Thich Huyen Quang is a total fabrication."

(Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Agence France Presse, Nov. 26; BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific Nov. 26).


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