INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Thanh Hoa Province Protestant Developments

Published: Fri 25 Aug 2006 07:54 AM
VZCZCXRO0707
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #2170 2370754
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 250754Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3179
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY PRIORITY 1700
RUEHZS/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
UNCLAS HANOI 002170
SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL/IRF
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KIRF PHUM PGOV HUMANR VM
SUBJECT: THANH HOA PROVINCE PROTESTANT DEVELOPMENTS
REF: A) HANOI 1520; B) HANOI 1666
1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On August 24, Poloff met again with Protestants
from Thanh Hoa Province who report having been involved in recent
police beating and harassment incidents (reftels). Police
harassment and physical abuse continue, but they now also report
that provincial officials are intervening with local police
officers. Some police officers may have been punished for abusing
members of the church. According to the Protestant believers,
provincial officials say they will consider registering some new
church groups in the future. These officials reportedly cautioned,
however, that those gathering to worship before receiving
registration will be considered "unhelpful," a status which would
obstruct prospects for registration in the future. Poloff will
again travel to Thanh Hoa on August 31 to gather information on
these developments. End Summary.
Physical Abuse and Harassment Continue...
-----------------------------------------
2. (SBU) In Ref A, several members of the United Gospel Church of
Vietnam, a.k.a. "The Full Gospel Church," in Thieu Vien Commune,
Thieu Hoa District, Thanh Hoa Province reported incidents of police
beatings and harassment. On August 24, Poloff met in Hanoi with
church leader Nguyen Trung Ton and worshipper Tran Van Ky to discuss
developments in Thanh Hoa following Poloff's visit to the province
(Ref B). The two described a number of incidents involving commune
security officials that involved harassment and physical abuse from
July 24 through August 15.
3. (SBU) Our visitors stated that on August 15, two members of the
congregation, including Ky himself, were separately beaten after
meeting with Ton at his residence. Ky was "caught" and severely
beaten by a group of five young men while he was on his way home.
The young men, "who appeared to be locally hired communal security
personnel," also took Ky's cell phone. Some 15 minutes after the
first incident, the same group stopped and also beat another
worshipper who was on her way home. (Note: Ton and Ky provided
graphic photos of Ky's injuries taken immediately after the
incident, which were still visible on August 24. Ky said he has
difficulty moving his left arm. This appears to be the most severe
of the three beating incidents reported by members of the church
over the last month. End Note.)
...But There Are Also Signs of Progress
---------------------------------------
4. (SBU) Ton reported that representatives of the Thanh Hoa
provincial Department of Religion called him to a meeting on August
21. Ton was told that provincial officials will soon pay a visit to
all Protestant congregations in the province to "review their
operations." The province may allow "a few congregations to
register in a pilot project within this year." However, groups that
gather for worship before they are legally registered will be
considered "unhelpful" and "will not be eligible for registration."
5. (SBU) During the August 21 meeting, Ton was also told that Vinh
(NFI), a locally-hired public security officer, has been fined VND
400,000 (approximately USD 24) for his part in the August 15 beating
and Kiem (NFI), the locally-hired Deputy Commune Police Chief, has
been "reprimanded" for allowing the incident to occur.
6. (SBU) Poloff will visit Thanh Hoa again on August 31 and attempt
to visit Thieu Vien Commune. He will seek to meet with commune
officials and visit the house church.
MARINE
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