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Vietnam

Volume 164: debated on Friday 12 January 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has as to the number of places of worship recently destroyed in Vietnam; and if he will make a statement.

We are not aware that places of worship have recently been deliberately destroyed in Vietnam. On the contrary; the Bishop's conference has recently published a letter acknowledging the number of churches which have been rebuilt or repaired in the past few years.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has as I o the penalties specified by the Vietnamese authorities for Catholics attending mass in Vietnam; and if he will make a statement.

We are not aware of penalties imposed for attending mass. Congregations at the regular masses given at the cathedrals in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are large.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has as to the provision for religious worship in Vietnam's re-education camps.

We understand that individuals detained in prisons or camps in Vietnam are permitted personal religious observances and practices. There are no provisions for collective worship or freedom of access for ministers of religion.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has concerning Vietnamese provincial decrees limiting religious services, church building and repair and the numbers of priests and ministers.

We understand that local government organisations in Vietnam no longer have the power to issue this sort of regulation. In recent months the Government have authorised a relaxation of control over the building and repair of churches, although there remain problems of funds and resources. State authorisation is required before beginning study for the priesthood. Nevertheless 24 new bishops have been consecrated since 1975, and there are currently some 200 seminarians in four seminaries in Vietnam.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has on the number of prisoners currently detained in re-education camps in Vietnam and the reasons for their detention; and if he will make a statement.

The official figure for prisoners still detained in re-education camps is 1,000. A substantial number of political prisoners were released in 1987 and 1988. We have lobbied the Vietnamese Government on a number of occasions, both bilaterally and together with our EC partners, on behalf of specific cases of alleged abuses of human rights.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has received concerning the incidence of detention without trial, torture and execution in Vietnam; and if he will make a statement.

We understand that approximately 1,000 people remain in detention without trial in Vietnam. We are aware of reports of instances of torture. In the course of 1988 (figures are not yet available for 1989) five people were sentenced to death but no executions were announced.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has regarding the number of (a) Buddhist monks and nuns, (b) Catholic priests and nuns, (c) Cao Dai and Hoa Hao priests and (d) Protestant ministers currently held in prison in Vietnam and the offences for which they were imprisoned.

It is not possible to give authoritative figures for these categories, although various individual cases in these categories are known. The charges laid against most of the best known currently in detention involve the organisation of armed disaffected groups.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has regarding the persecution of Buddhists who refuse to worship under the auspices of the state Buddhist church in Vietnam.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is his estimate of the number of staff required by Her Majesty's embassy in Hanoi to monitor the welfare of repatriated persons, per 10,000.

The number of staff required by Her Majesty's embassy in Hanoi to monitor the welfare of repatriated persons would depend on the number of non-volunteers returned. At present UNHCR monitors those who volunteer to return. We hope that they will agree to monitor all who return as they do with those returned to Laos from Thailand. It also depends on the regularity of the visits proposed. A requirement to monitor 10,000 people could be covered by two to three full-time staff bearing in mind the fact that those returned will be divided into family groups and that the majority of those come from a relatively small area.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the number of flights from Hong Kong carrying volunteers for repatriation that have been refused landing rights in Vietnam: and if he will make a statement on the reasons for refusal given by the Vietnamese authorities.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Vietnamese Government regarding their policy towards religious activity; and if he will make a statement.

We and our EC partners regularly raise the question of human rights with the Government of Vietnam, including cases of individuals imprisoned for their political or religious beliefs. We recently raised the imprisonment of Father Dominic Tran Dinh Thu.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when a member of Her Majesty's embassy in Vietnam last visited a Vietnamese re-education camp; and if he will summarise the contents of any report resulting from the visit.

No member of Her Majesty's embassy Hanoi has visited a Vietnamese re-education camp in the past three years.