The International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) is concerned for the safety of the Most Venerable Thich Huyen Quang, Patriarch of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) who is currently in Hanoi for medical treatment. The IBIB is informed that tension has escalated between the Vietnamese authorities and the UBCV delegation over the past few days. Three senior monks who accompanied Venerable Thich Huyen Quang to Hanoi have been obliged to leave the capital under threat of imminent arrest. Venerable Thich Huyen Quang himself, who has finished convalescence and wishes to return to Quang Ngai, has been unable to leave the city. For the past three days, his assistant has tried to buy rail tickets in any class, but has been systematically told that “there are no places available on the train”. Venerable Thich Huyen Quang’s assistant said that railway cashiers refused him seats without bothering to check availabilities.
The IBIB is concerned that the authorities may be impeding Venerable Thich Huyen Quang from leaving Hanoi because of tension sparked off by a Written Statement sent by the UBCV leader to the Communist Party and government on the position of the banned UBCV. In this 6-point statement, Venerable Thich Huyen Quang put forward several specific requests to the Vietnamese leadership, notably that they : immediately release himself and his Deputy Thich Quang Do ; re-establish the UBCV’s legitimate status and freedom of religious activities ; ensure that the UBCV is independent of all political control, and not placed under the leadership of the Vietnam Fatherland Front ; guarantee the right to organize independent, UBCV-sponsored humanitarian activities, such as efforts to reduce poverty and combat social problems in Vietnam.
In a phone conversation yesterday with IBIB Director, Vo Van Ai, Venerable Thich Huyen Quang said that government officials in Hanoi are pressing him to go the Nguyen Thieu Monastery in Binh Dinh Province (approx. 160 kilometres from Quang Ngai) instead of going back to Nghia Hanh District in Quang Ngai, where he has been detained for the past 21 years. In fact, this is part of a long-running government campaign to transfer Thich Huyen Quang to the remote province of Binh Dinh and maintain him under effective house arrest, whilst claiming that he has been released. Venerable Thich Huyen Quang said he had made it clear to Hanoi that he will only move from Quang Ngai when he has received official release papers. When released, he intends to return to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), where he was arrested in 1982.
Venerable Thich Huyen Quang also told Vo Van Ai that the Chairman of the Vietnam Fatherland Front, Pham The Duyet, visited him at K Hospital immediately after his arrival in Hanoi. Venerable Thich Huyen Quang expressed his wish to meet Government leaders to discuss problems such as the UBCV’s legitimate right to existence, and ask for an explanation as to why he had been detained without trial for the past 21 years.
Pham The Duyet asked to meet Venerable Thich Huyen Quang again, and a meeting was held at the Fatherland Front Headquarters on 14, March. During the meeting, Venerable Thich Huyen Quang described fierce persecution endured by UBCV Buddhists under the Communist regime, and expressed deep concern on this unjustified discrimination against Vietnam’s majority religious group. “Over the past two thousand years, from the times of the Trung Sisters [43 AD] until today, Buddhism was always stood side by side with our people, sharing their struggles against foreign oppression, supporting their every effort to bring peace and prosperity to Vietnam. Why is it then, that the Government is repressing Buddhism at a time when the people so desperately need the participation of all components of the population for their development and welfare ?”.
Pham The Duyet promised to put forward his concerns to the Vietnamese leadership and urge them to take action. The government’s sole reaction has been the escalation of threats and tension against the UBCV Patriarch and his delegation in Hanoi.