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Vietnam: Religious Freedom

Volume 472: debated on Monday 25 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will hold discussions with the Government of Vietnam on the treatment of the Underground Church in that country. (187430)

Together with our EU partners, we regularly discuss human rights issues, including religious freedom, with the Vietnamese authorities. The biannual EU-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue is the main forum for raising our concerns. Our ambassador in Hanoi attended the last dialogue, which was held in Hanoi on 19 December 2007. We also discuss the issues with the Government of Vietnam, both bilaterally and with our EU counterparts.

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, 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 their international human rights obligations. Regulations, in force since 2004, establish criteria for the recognition of hitherto non-sanctioned religious groups.

I raised our concerns on human rights with the Vietnamese Foreign Minister at the Association of South East Asian Nations summit in Singapore on 23 November 2007 and with the Deputy Foreign Minister during his visit to London on 29 November 2007. Additionally, I raised the issue with the Vietnamese ambassador on 9 October 2007.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will hold discussions with the Government of Vietnam on the imprisonment of church leaders in that country. (187431)

We are concerned at the arrests and sentencing of a number of human rights defenders, including some campaigning for increased religious freedoms, in Vietnam and have made numerous representations to the Vietnamese authorities on the plight of these individuals.

We co-operate closely with our EU partners in Hanoi on human rights issues, including on the question of religious freedoms. The biannual EU-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue, which was established in 2003, is the main forum for raising our concerns. Our ambassador in Hanoi attended the most recent dialogue, which took place on 19 December 2007 in Hanoi.

I raised our concerns on human rights with the Vietnamese Foreign Minister at the Association of South East Asian Nations summit in Singapore on 23 November 2007 and with the Deputy Foreign Minister during his visit to London on 29 November 2007. Additionally, I raised the issue with the Vietnamese ambassador on 9 October 2007.