Friday, January 4, 2013

Human Rights Organization Concerned about New Decree Restricting Freedom of Religion in Vietnam

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

SURREY, ENGLAND (ANS) -- A human rights organization is very concerned about the vague and restrictive nature of a new "decree" in Vietnam relating to freedom of religion or belief that came into force on Jan. 1.

According to a news release from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the document, entitled "Decree No. 92:

Specific provisions and measures for the implementation of the Ordinance on Belief and Religion"was issued on Nov. 8 2012 It supersedes "Decree 22," issued in 2005.

The new decree sets out the conditions for registration of religious activities and practitioners and includes a wide range of limitations on religious practice.

CSW said although parts of the decree are similar to the 2005 decree, some new stipulations and conditions are introduced, including new requirements for "foreigners" organizing religious conferences and events in Vietnam.

CSW said Nguyen Hung of AsiaNews believes the decree follows the Chinese model of control of religions. 

Nguyen's report cites Catholic priests and parishioners who believe this "backward" decree is a sign that the government is "looking for a way to control and restrict the freedom of religion."

CSW said in an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA), Head of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) Thich Quang Do, who is currently under house arrest, warned that the new decree will "seriously curtail religious freedom" in Vietnam.

CSW said the 84-year-old leader claims that the decree is more restrictive than previous decrees. The International Buddhist Information Bureau has also expressed concern that the decree increases state control of religions and further undermines religious freedom in Vietnam.

CSW's Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said in a news release, "Whilst welcoming the Vietnamese government's recognition of the need for new guidance on the implementation of laws relating to religion in Vietnam, CSW is deeply concerned about the restrictive nature of Decree 92."

He added, "Vietnam has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). However, this decree appears to restrict religious activities in a manner not consistent with its obligations under the ICCPR, and Article 18 particularly, relating to freedom of religion or belief. CSW urges the Government of Vietnam to ensure that the right to freedom of religion or belief is fully guaranteed by law."

CSW works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

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