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Vietnam: Human Rights

Volume 461: debated on Monday 18 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if she will make representations to the Government of Vietnam for assurances that it will not enforce the instructions to local authorities to compel Protestants in the northern highlands to recant their religious beliefs. (143238)

We, with our EU partners, regularly discuss human rights issues, including religious freedom, with the Vietnamese Government. The biannual EU-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue, which was established in 2003, is the main forum for raising our concerns. The most recent dialogue was held on 20 December 2006. Freedom of religion, restrictions on religious organisations and the situation of ethnic minority Protestant groups were among the issues raised by the EU. The next EU-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue is scheduled to take place on 28 June.

We are aware of reports of the continued harassment of some religious groups in some areas. We have urged the Vietnamese authorities to increase awareness and capacity among local authorities and to guarantee the right of all religious groups to practise their faith freely in the community through full implementation of the appropriate legislation and to adhere to its international human rights obligations. Regulations in force since 2004 establish criteria for the recognition of hitherto non-sanctioned religious groups. We remain concerned that progress in registering congregations in the northern uplands in particular remains slow.

On 18 May, senior officials from our Embassy in Hanoi, and several other EU missions, raised our specific concerns with the Vietnamese Government authority responsible for registering religious organisations. Additionally, I raised human rights issues at a recent bilateral with Vietnamese Vice Minister Le Cung Phung during the EU/Association of South East Asian Nations Foreign Ministers Meeting on 14 and 15 March.