Scores of Hoa Hao Buddhists in a village in southwestern Vietnam’s An Giang province protested on Wednesday against local authorities for harassing and beating them when they gathered to pray at the home of a former prisoner of conscience.
Police in Phuoc Hung village, Phuoc Hoa commune, in the province’s An Phu district followed a group of Hoa Hao motorbikers as they were leaving the home of Bui Van Trung, who served a four-year jail sentence for four years for resisting officials carrying out state deeds. He was released in October 2016.
“Five policemen followed Hoa Nam, also known as Teo, to a deserted place and beat him,” Trung told RFA’s Vietnamese Service. “Teo was among the group of 11 motorbikers leaving my house after the prayers.”
Trung said that the harassment began on the night of April 18 when traffic police stopped fellow Hoa Hao Buddhists going to his house.
They confiscated their motorbike registration papers and did not return them, he said.
When the harassment continued, Trung and scores of fellow Hoa Hao Buddhist followers raised a banner to protest against local authorities for preventing them from worshipping.
The Hoa Hao Buddhists in An Giang province are among those who do not obey the officially sanctioned Hoa Hao Church Committee by Hanoi’s communist government.
Vietnam’s government officially recognizes the Hoa Hao religion, which has some two million followers across the country, but imposes harsh controls on dissenting Hoa Hao groups, including the sect in An Giang province, that do not follow the state-sanctioned branch.
Rights groups say that authorities in An Giang routinely harass followers of the unapproved groups, prohibiting public readings of the Hoa Hao founder’s writings and discouraging worshipers from visiting Hoa Hao pagodas in An Giang and other provinces.
Reported and translated by Gia Minh for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.