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Vietnam officials 'smear' jailed pastor's wife

Spouse says communist government told lies to her husband to split family
Vietnam officials 'smear' jailed pastor's wife

Tran Thi Hong (fourth from right) and other religious officials pose with U.S. delegates on a meeting about religious freedom on May 24 in Ho Chi Minh City. Hong's husband is Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh who is being held in a prison in Dong Nai province. (Photo supplied)

Published: May 31, 2017 05:23 AM GMT
Updated: May 31, 2017 05:25 AM GMT

Vietnamese officials have been accused of using shameful and divisive tactics to force a prisoner of conscience to give up his struggle for religious freedom.

"I was shocked when my husband said on May 11 that public security officials from Hanoi came to the camp and told him that I had been unfaithful," said Tran Thi Hong, who recently visited her husband Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh in Xuan Loc Prison, Dong Nai province.

"The officials asked him 'don't you know anything about your wife?' and said 'she is committing adultery with a man,'" Hong told ucanews.com.

"The communist government maliciously lied to separate our family and force my husband to accept his crimes as a condition for his freedom," Hong said, adding that prison officials have mistreated him in prison for six years.

Chinh was sentenced to 11 years in 2011 for undermining national solidarity under Article 87 of the Vietnam penal code.

"He did not commit any crime. He is a victim of religious persecution. As a pastor, he only fought for the free religious practice of Christians from ethnic minority groups in the central highlands," she said.

During the visit, Hong and her four children talked with Chinh through iron bars for 45 minutes while five prison guards watched them.

"I told him that we are God's children and we must trust each other. If you believe their vicious slander, you will fall into their trap," she said. "Be brave. People are working hard for you to be freed soon."

She said Chinh has high blood pressure worsened by the prison's salty food and suffers severe sinusitis. "I gave him food and medicine but the guards took his medicine and will only give it to him at irregular intervals," she said.

On May 24, Hong and representatives from unrecognized religious groups — Christianity, Cao Dai, Hoa Hao Buddhist sect and the Unified Buddhist Shangha — met with a four-member delegation from the U.S. Department of State at the Giac Hoa Temple in Ho Chi Minh City.

Hong presented Chinh's case and talked about violations against religious freedoms in the country's central highlands.

She said Pastor A Dao, from the Ha Lang tribe, was sentenced to five years in prison for "illegally taking people to Thailand" on April 28. 

"Government authorities do not convict ethnic Christians of religious activities to avoid condemnation from the international groups so they use other charges against them," she said.

She said the visiting U.S. delegates promised violations of religious freedom would be discussed during meetings between Vietnam's visiting Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and President Donald Trump on May 31.

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