Vietnam arrests 19 Christians for leafleting during SEA Games


Minister, 30 assistants stage protest at police station

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2003--Police in Vietnam's southern Ho Chi Minh City have arrested 19 Christians for carrying or distributing Christian leaflets during the Southeast Asian Games, prompting supporters to stage a sit-in and hunger strike, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

In Ho Chi Minh City's first district, Pham Ngoc Thach, a Protestant minister, remains in police custody, a Vietnamese source told RFA's Vietnamese service. Nguyen Hong Quang, another minister, along with 30 assistant ministers, has staged a hunger strike and sit-in at the first district's Nguyen Thai Binh ward police station since Tuesday.

In the seventh district, 11 assistant ministers have been arrested, and in the ninth district three assistant ministers have been arrested. In the Tan Phu district, also in Ho Chi Minh City, police have arrested four assistant ministers, according to the source, who asked not to be named.

All but four of the detainees are known to be held at local police facilities, the source said, although the whereabouts of ministers Tran Mai and Le Quang Son and two assistants remain unknown.

"We love this country, and we respect the law, but we are being persecuted for our beliefs," Nguyen Hong Quang said by telephone from his protest at the Nguyen Thai Binh ward police station. Quang also said he had requested a meeting Wednesday with local police in which he would seek the release of all 19 detainees, an end to religious oppression in Vietnam, and a public apology from the authorities for the arrests.

No comment was available from Ho Chi Minh City police.

All of the assistant ministers were arrested Tuesday, either for carrying boxes of leaflets containing game schedules and quotations exhorting readers to Christianity or for handing them out before the Vietnam-Malaysia match, sources said.

RFA broadcasts news and information to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo, and Kham), and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance and fairness in its editorial content. #####


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