Vietnam showed in October why it's ranked as one of the world's most repressive regimes. That's when it sentenced a Roman Catholic priest to 15 years in prison for providing written testimony to the U.S. Congress about breaches of religious freedom.

Hanoi found Father Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly guilty of "undermining national unity" by "publicly slandering" the Vietnamese Communist Party. Open Doors with Brother Andrew ranked Vietnam the eighth worst religious persecutor in 2001, ahead of Sudan and Pakistan, for its harsh controls on religion.

"This kind of behavior does not help the Vietnamese government make its case that it deserves additional trade benefits and international loans," says Michael K. Young, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). "In order to have credibility on other issues, Vietnam must uphold its international human rights and religious freedom commitments."

Vietnam's constitutional guarantees of religious freedom are empty, according to Operation World. Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom notes that Vietnam denies legal standing to many independent entities and that most Protestant congregations operate underground. Underground leaders tell of police raids, church closings, and torture. According to USCIRF, Hanoi has excessively fined, imprisoned, and kept under surveillance those not affiliated with one of the six recognized religious entities.

More than 54 percent of the population is Buddhist (22 percent is nonreligious, 8 percent is Christian). Yet the government has banned the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam for refusing to submit to state controls.

The government usually reserves torture, harassment, and church closings for ethnic Christians living in remote ...

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