ucanews.com reporter, Ho Chi Minh CityUpdated: January 23, 2017 03:24 AM GMT
Hoa Hao Buddhists from An Giang raise a banner saying "Communist Party of Vietnam's crack down on Hoa Hao Buddhism. No freedom" on April 2, 2016 after police brutally beat them and prevented them from entering Quang Minh Tu Pagoda to commemorate the death anniversary of their Founder Huynh Phu So. (Photo supplied)
If you are following a non-sanctioned religion in Vietnam you can expect harassment from the authorities, according to a religious freedom watchdog."We recorded 59 violations of religious freedom by the government in 2016, an increase of nine from 2015," Father Anthony Le Ngoc Thanh, head of the Vietnam-based Association to Protect Freedom of Religion, told ucanews.com.Father Thanh said the authorities targeted Catholics and followers of unrecognized religious groups such as Cao Dai, Hoa Hao Buddhism, the Unified Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam and small Christian groups in remote areas.His organization issued a fourth-quarter report on Jan. 11 that showed 22 cases took place over the past three months."The instances of religious persecution got increasingly worse," he said, adding that government authorities encroached on the travel rights of dignitaries and coerced religions into giving up property.
He said small religious groups were blocked from attending services including Christmas and treated inhumanely by officials.
Most of the 27 violations against Catholics related to brutal attacks on priests and laypeople in remote areas and conflicts over church property. Authorities also destroyed Catholic crosses and statues and stopped priests and even bishops from visiting Catholics in remote areas.