On April 29, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the 2021 Report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) had a number of contents that lack objectivity, not fair, and based on the incorrect information” about the situation in Vietnam. The Vietnamese side also said that Vietnam was “ready” to talk to the US on issues of mutual concern.
Deputy Spokesman Doan Khac Viet said: “Vietnam acknowledged that the US International Religious Freedom Commission’s 2021 report on world religious freedom mentioned efforts and cumulative progress in ensuring and promoting the life of religion and beliefs of Vietnam. However, the report still has some content which lack of objective and unfair assessment based on inaccurate information about the situation in Vietnam.”
On April 21, USCIRF released a report stating that the Vietnamese government continuously persecuted independent religious groups, systematically violated religious freedom, and used the pro-government Red Flag groups to attack religious leaders who have a different point of view from the state’s viewpoint. USCIRF also re-proposed to include Vietnam on the list of countries of particular interest (CPC).
“Vietnam’s consistent policy is to protect and promote human rights, respect and guarantee the people’s right to freedom of belief and religion,” Viet said.
The Vietnamese State also created favorable conditions for religious individuals and organizations to exchange and cooperate internationally, Viet added.
From Lam Dong, Mr. Hua Phi, head of Nhon Sanh Dao Cao Dai Chon Truyen, and co-chairman of the Vietnam Interreligious Council told VOA that he disagreed with Mr. Doan Khac Viet’s statement. Mr. Hua Phi said:
“In Vietnam, there is no religious freedom. The Vietnamese Communist government always created favorable conditions for religious groups set up by the government, while the traditional religious groups did not have freedom, prosperity, and were constrained by the government to join the organization they established.”
Mr. Hua Phi cited an independent religious group being harassed by the government in Phu Yen in 2020:
“Some of the Cao Dai followers in the central region were summoned to the police stations by the local government where the government asked them to join the religious organization set up by the government.”
In the report, USCIRF stated that the Vietnamese government systematically violates religious freedom, especially against independent religious groups and even those that are recognized by the state.
“The Vietnamese government continued to force, confiscate and destroy assets belonging to the Catholic Church, and the government worked with state-backed Cao Dai groups to capture the pagodas of the independent Cao Dai group,” writes USCIRF in the report.
“Authorities in recent years have also harassed independent Cao Dai followers and attempted to take over their pagodas or force them to“ reunite ”with state-recognized groups,” USCIRF said.
USCIRF also proposed that the US Department of State put Vietnam on the list of countries of particular concern (CPC).
Vietnam’s state-controlled media criticized the report of the USCIRF and the US State Department.
Hua Phi told VOA that bringing Vietnam into the CPC would be detrimental to the Vietnamese people, instead, he recommended that the US apply the Global Mangistky Act to punish Vietnamese officials who commit violations of human rights and religious freedom.
The Vietnamese government says that all acts of abusing the right to freedom of religion and belief to violate the law are being punished according to the law.
Mr. Viet said Vietnam was “ready to talk to the US on issues of mutual concern in the spirit of openness and mutual respect, contributing to promoting a comprehensive partnership between the two countries.”