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Buddhist Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang calls for freedom of movement for Thich Quang Do and the lifting of “verbal” house arrest orders

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The Most Venerable Thich Huyen Quang, 86, prominent dissident and Fourth Supreme Patriarch of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), has sent an “Open Letter” to the Vietnamese leadership denouncing recent harassments of UBCV monks, and condemning the unlawful detention of UBCV Deputy leader Venerable Thich Quang Do and himself under house arrest without charge. The “Open Letter”, dated 21 February 2005, comes only days after the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Le Dzung (18.2.2005) declared that Thich Huyen Quang and Thich Quang Do were “leading their life and practicing religion in normalcy” in their respective Monasteries, and that the reports of harassment was “fabricated information of the so-called International Buddhist Information Bureau”.

This “Open Letter”, the first that Thich Huyen Quang has sent to the government since he was placed under house arrest in October 2003, was sent clandestinely from the Nguyen Thieu Monastery in Binh Dinh province (central Vietnam) via the International Buddhist Bureau in Paris. It is addressed to Communist Party Secretary Nong Duc Manh, President Tran Duc Luong, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Van An.

In his letter, Thich Huyen Quang recalled the expectations raised by his landmark meeting with Prime Minister Phan Van Khai in Hanoi in April 2003. “Everyone truly hoped this was a sign that the Communist Party and the State had truly changed their policies of repression and discrimination against the UBCV. I shared these sentiments of joy and hope myself”, he said.

However, just six months later, on October 9th 2003, the government launched a brutal crackdown, arresting 11 members of the newly appointed UBCV leadership, including Thich Quang Do and himself. “After that, my doubts turned to bitter disappointment. I saw clearly that the government was continuing the same, immutable policy of religious intolerance towards the UBCV and myself that it had pursued since the struggle for independence against the French, when they arrested me in the 5th Interzone. Today, in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, I am still under arrest and their policy remains unchanged”.

Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang condemned the recent series of harassments against Venerable Thich Quang Do and other UBCV dignitaries, particularly the ban on them traveling to Binh Dinh to visit him in November 2004 when he was gravely ill, and most recently in February 2005, to offer their New Year greetings for the Lunar New Year (Tet). Security Police had systematically visited all UBCV Pagodas in Saigon to threaten monks against making the trip, he said. These harassments were particularly shocking at a time when “the Communist Party and State has authorized a delegation of several hundred Buddhists from an overseas sect to visit Vietnam with full freedoms of movement and speech. Yet they prevent Buddhist monks who live in Vietnam… from traveling and spreading Buddhist teachings”.

Furthermore, Thich Huyen Quang pressed Vietnam to urgently clarify the legal situation of Thich Quang Do and himself. Accused of “possessing state sm ecrets” and placed under house arrest for “investigation” by verbal orders of the local authorities, both men have been detained for over 12 months, beyond the legal limit for investigation. If the government has evidence against them, Thich Huyen Quang said, it should put them on trial. “If we are proven guilty after an impartial hearing, then we shall accept whatever sentence the Court hands down. But if the government has no proof of our guilt, the State must immediately clear us of these spurious charges and restore our full freedoms and rights. We cannot continue living as prisoners in the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery and the Nguyen Thieu Monastery, detained under strict control and surveillance, as we have done for over a year”(see full text below) :

Open Letter on the banning of Buddhist monks from paying New Year’s visits and administrative detention by “verbal order”

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