Friday, March 23, 2007

Vietnam rejects HRW reports on crackdown

In a press conference yesterday, Vietnam Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Dung denounced a recent Human Rights Watch report (March 9) on the current political crackdown on dissidents. He said the report produced "fabricated information that fails to reflect the real situation in Vietnam." Dung denied there is such a crackdown underway, yet went on to say:

"Although the State of Vietnam respects the rights to freedom and democracy of all citizens, the country never accepts the abuses of those rights to freedom and democracy to carry out activities that violate Vietnamese laws. Recently, Vietnamese relevant agencies have started legal proceedings against people who committed illegal acts to sabotage Vietnam. These proceedings comply with the law. These are normal and necessary measures to ensure national security and the community's common interest.

"In Vietnam, there are no political crackdowns, no one is arrested for his or her political viewpoint, only those who violate the law will be dealt with in compliance with Vietnamese laws."

The problem is that Vietnam's laws, particularly sections of its criminal code dealing with "crimes against national security," are worded so broadly that such legislation can be interpreted to outlaw a wide variety of dissent.

Dung also denied reports of repression against Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) leaders Thich Quang Do and Thich Huyen Quang, who he said "are leading their life and practicing religion as usual, they are by no means under house detention or probation." He said the UBCV and other Buddhist congregations were unified into the "Vietnam Buddhist Sangha" in 1981, and that this state-sponsored organization is now the "sole existing organization of Vietnamese Buddhists." That is actually one of the main issues that the UBCV monks have been protesting, that only one state-sponsored church is allowed to represent Buddhism throughout the country.

Dung cited this year's visit of Thich Nhat Hanh to the country (Feb. 20-May 9) as evidence of religious freedom.

Source: VNA/Nhan Dan March 23. See also Human Rights Watch news release, March 9.


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