HANOI, Jan 4, 2007 (AFP) – Vietnamese police have prevented the 87-year-old leader of a banned Buddhist organisation from visiting his hospital for a medical checkup, a Paris-based pro-democracy group said on Thursday.
Thich Huyen Quang, patriarch of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), was stopped last month from travelling to his hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, the International Buddhist Information Bureau said.
Quang, who has been under house arrest for over two decades, in October received treatment for heart and lung conditions and underwent minor surgery on his prostate gland in the southern city formerly called Saigon.
“It is intolerable that Hanoi prevents this elderly Buddhist leader from receiving medical care,” said Vo Van Ai, the UBCV’s international spokesman.
Washington in November took Vietnam off a blacklist of countries that repress religious freedom, shortly before US President George W. Bush arrived for a summit here, and later granted it permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status.
Ai said his group had in recent weeks observed “a significant increase in religious abuses” in the communist country and charged that, after its recent diplomatic gains, “Hanoi no longer feels the need to pretend”.
“Sadly, this confirms our predictions that Hanoi would continue business as usual with religious repression once it obtained removal from the blacklist of countries of particular concern (regarding religious freedom) and won PNTR trading status from the United States,” Ai said in a statement.
The UBCV has been banned since 1981 for refusing to submit to Communist Party supervision. Quang and his deputy, Thich Quang Do, who last year received Norway’s Rafto human rights award, have been under “pagoda arrest” since.