PARIS, 3 April 2016 (VCHR) – Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) is disturbed by reports of Police brutality against Hoa Hao Buddhists in the southern province of An Giang as they gathered to commemorate the 69th Anniversary of the death of the prophet Huynh Phu So. The founder of the Hoa Hao faith in 1939, Huynh Phu So was assassinated by the Viet Minh in 1947. This is one of the most important ceremonies in the Hoa Hao Buddhist calendar.
According to reports from Vietnam, on 2nd April 2016, scores of Security Police harassed and intimidated Hoa Hao followers at the Quang Minh Tu Temple in Cho Moi district, An Giang province to prevent them from attending the commemoration.
Several days before, Police had surrounded the temple and threatened its resident priest, Vo Van Thanh Liem. On 1st April, Hoa Hao follower and former political prisoner Nguyen Van Lia was assaulted by a group of Security Police as he was going to the temple on his bicycle. Other Hoa Hao followers who tried to intervene were also assaulted by Police. At least 9 people were reportedly wounded. Police confiscated their mobile phones and cameras.
Police continued to harass followers as the ceremony took place. In protest, Vo Van Thanh Liem wrote on a banner: “The Communist Party represses Hoa Hao Buddhists. There is no freedom.” The Police reacted by breaking into the Temple’s courtyard and beating monks and followers, including Vo Van Thanh Liem, Vo Van Tu Hai and Vo Van Dien.
The VCHR condemns this police action to disband a peaceful religious service in violation of Article 24 of the Vietnamese Constitution and Article 18 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Vietnam acceded in September 1982. VCHR recalls that Vietnam is a member of the UN Human Rights Council, and has a binding obligation to uphold and protect its citizens’ fundamental freedoms and rights.