PARIS, 20 April 2015 (IBIB) – The International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) received an appeal today from Le Cong Cau, Head of the Buddhist Youth Movement and Secretary-general of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV). He reports that Security Police broke into his home in Hue, harassed and threatened him, and confiscated his scanner and other property. Le Cong Cau called on IBIB to inform international opinion and press Vietnam to cease harassments of citizens for simply exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief.
On 10 April 2015 at 8:00am, a large group of security police and local officials suddenly arrived at his home and read out a “Property Seizure Order” No. 2153/QD/CC signed by Nguyen Van Thong, Chairman of the Huong Thuy district People’s Committee. They said they were mandated to confiscate his property because he had failed to pay a fine of 3 million dongs (approx. 120 Euros) issued by the People’s Committee on 29 March 2014. Police pushed Le Cong Cau against the wall whilst others ransacked his belongings. They seized a scanner and a stereo recorder.
Archive photo: Plain-clothed security agent harass Le Cong Cau in Danang, 2012
Le Cong Cau strongly protested against the intrusion. He told Police he refused to pay the fine because it was unlawful and unfair. In fact, the fine was an administrative sanction imposed after Police arrested him on 1st January 2014 at Phu Bai airport, Hue, as he was boarding a plane to Saigon to visit the UBCV Patriarch Thich Quang Do. Police accused him of circulating “anti-Socialist” propaganda and threatened to prosecute him under Articles 87 and 88 of the Criminal Code, which carry sentences of up to 20 years in prison. They confiscated his two laptop computers and two cell phones, and placed him under house arrest pending investigation. Since there was no incriminating evidence, the Huong Thuy People’s Committee (which has jurisdiction for Phu Bai airport) did not initiate criminal charges, but condemned him to pay an administrative fine.
On 29 May 2014, Le Cong Cau wrote to the Hue People’s Committee protesting against the fine, and demanding that he be released from house arrest. Under Vietnam’s Complaints Procedure, the authorities must address citizens’ complaints within 60 days. Le Cong Cau never received a reply.
After seizing his property on 10 April 2015, the Deputy Bureau Chief of the Huong Thuy People’s Committee Cao Dinh Thuan ordered Le Cong Cau to sign the seizure papers. Instead of signing, Le Cong Cau wrote: “I protest against the seizure of my property. The authorities have no right to seize anything until they have addressed my Complaint. I consider this an act of robbery by the authorities against an innocent citizen”.
Cao Dinh Thuan complained: “You can’t do that. You must obey first, and protest later. That is the law”. Le Cong Cau replied: “What if I am condemned to death – should I also obey first and protest later?”
Le Cong Cau told IBIB that he had refrained from reporting his harassment earlier because it happened just before the Funeral of the UBCV’s Deputy leader Thich Nhu Dat in Hue. To avoid causing alarm and deterring Buddhists from attending, he waited until the Funeral ceremonies were over and UBCV followers had safely returned home before making the incident public.