Vietnamese Authorities Lock Up Family of Jailed Pastor

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Tran Thi Hong, the jailed pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh 's wife, with their youngest daughter in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of blogchauxuannguyen

Authorities in Vietnam have sealed the gates of the house of jailed prominent Vietnamese activist and Christian pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, preventing his wife and their five children from leaving the premises for unknown reasons, the wife said Wednesday.

They took the action after police set up a checkpoint a day ago outside the house in Pleiku town, located in the country's central highland region, and trailed the wife, Tran Thi Hong, wherever she went.

Chinh, pastor of a banned church, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in March last year for "undermining unity" by having ties with anti-government groups and writing and distributing material that slandered government authorities.

Hong said she was not sure why the police had used wire to seal the gates of her house, preventing her from leaving even to get medicine for her sick child. It is not immediately clear whether she would be allowed to leave the house on Thursday.

"I don’t know the reason, but since yesterday the police set up a checkpoint outside my house," she told RFA's Vietnamese Service.  "They followed me wherever I went, even when I drove my children to school," she said.

"At 8 p.m. tonight, I wanted to take my child to see the doctor because she had fever and was coughing, but when I went to the gate I saw it was tied with wire and we could not get out."

"I don’t meet anybody and I don’t think I ever did anything wrong."

Husband visit put off

Hong suspected the police action might be linked to her plans to visit her husband, a Mennonite clergyman and prominent activist, in jail on Tuesday.  

"I was supposed to visit my husband on Sept. 24, but my daughter is sick so I could not go," she said. "I don’t know if this is a reason [not to let me go see my husband]. This is just a guess, but I don't know the real reason for this," she said.

"I am very sad because my husband is serving a 11-year sentence and now they treat us like that," Hong said.

"This is repression. I don’t do anything wrong but they ambush me, they terrorize my children."

She said that her sister lives about five kilometers from her house, but that she knows they will not let her in if she comes.

Her neighbors have refused to help her get out of the house.

"When they see the police treat us like that, they dare not say a word. I asked a neighbor to open the door for us but she did not do it because she was scared of the government."

"So, at the moment, we are like prisoners in our own house. This is absurd. It's a violation of human rights and freedom. They mistreat our family for so many years and they still continue doing this. I don't know what else they will do next."

Appeal rejected

Chinh, 44, had lodged an appeal against his sentence but it was the appeal court in central Vietnam’s Gia Lai province.

Chinh, before his detention since April 2010, had complained for nearly a decade of harassment by Gia Lai and Kontum provincial authorities and of a ban on preaching in the Central Highlands.

Vietnam's constitution guarantees freedom of belief and religion, but religious activity is closely monitored and remains under state control.

Reported by Mac Lam for RFA's Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.


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