While Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Dy Nien wined and dined members of Congress last fall, human-rights advocates were also on the Hill. These watchdogs reported that the Communist government is beating and starving some Hmong Christians, and imprisoning others.
Fed up with such abuse, a coalition of Christian and human-rights monitors is asking the United States government to confront Vietnam. Vietnamese officials are increasingly harassing religious believers whom they believe threaten their authority.
Among Vietnam's 81.6 million people are 6.3 million Christians, including 1.1 million evangelicals—with an estimated 250,000 Hmong believers. Evangelicals are growing at an annual rate above 6 percent, according to Operation World. The country's Communist masters distrust the Hmong because they helped U.S. forces during the Vietnam War.
In February 2001, members of another ethnic minority, the Montagnards, peacefully protested for religious freedom and against the seizure of their lands by ethnic Vietnamese settlers. The government responded harshly, falsely claiming that the demonstrators were seeking independence. There are an estimated 500,000 Montagnard Christians.
Connie Snyder, vice president of International Christian Concern (ICC), told Christianity Today that many Christians in the Central Highlands are "fleeing into the jungle, where they are starved to death. If they flee to the [Cambodian] border and are captured, they face almost certain death.
"The government also interrogates pastors, and imprisons many of them. Many who are put in prison come out with handicaps."
Buddhist groups not under the control of the government are also targets of persecution.
"The situation is getting progressively ...1