Vietnamese police on Monday blocked religious leaders and disabled war veterans from attending a gathering organized by a pagoda associated with a banned Buddhist group, beating and detaining one minister, the head monk told RFA.
Monks at the Lien Tri Pagoda, a temple in Thu Duc on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City and under the unsanctioned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), held the gathering to provide a free vegetarian meal and gifts to disabled Vietnam War veterans who lack assistance from the government.
But around 100 plainclothes police surrounded the temple to prevent participants from entering, the head monk, Thich Khong Tanh, told RFA.
Local Christian leaders were also invited, and one Protestant minister was beaten and taken away to the police station for questioning, he said.
Two Catholic priests who resisted police attempts to block them from attending were allowed into the pagoda grounds only after agreeing to delete photos they had taken of the scene outside the temple, Tanh said.
Activists invited to the gathering, including prodemocracy physician Nguyen Dan Que, rights lawyer Nguyen Bac Truyen, and formerly imprisoned journalist Truong Minh Duc, phoned Tanh to tell him they were being closely watched and could not leave their homes, he said.
Tanh and the Lien Tri Pagoda have long been targeted by authorities for refusing to submit to the official Buddhist Church of Vietnam, the only recognized Buddhist body in the one-party communist state, where religious activity is closely monitored and religious groups must operate under government-controlled management boards.
The unregistered UBCV, with followers around Vietnam, has clashed with officials since its founding in the 1960s. Its leader, Thich Quang Do, lives under house arrest at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Ho Chi Minh City.
As UBCV’s Commissioner for Humanitarian and Social Affairs, Tanh has previously distributed food and relief funds to veterans, natural disaster victims, and other needy people.
Last month, authorities prevented UBCV monks and followers from attending anti-China demonstrations in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, sending police officers to Lien Tri Pagoda and blocking Tanh from joining the protest, the group said.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.