06 August 2014, The Tablet

Envoy accuses Vietnam of 'failing to respect' religious freedom

Despite space for religious practice being “cautiously widened” in Vietnam in recent decades, "serious violations of religious freedom" remain, says the UN’s Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion.

Heiner Bielefeldt reported on 1 August after a 10-day visit to the country, where he met with government officials, local authorities and representatives of religious communities. He criticised intense government surveillance of his visit and harassment of witnesses interviewed. All religious activity remains under state control.

The government recognises about a dozen religions, but they must undergo a cumbersome registration process and submit annual activity plans to the authorities. Unregistered religious communities are often stigmatised for underming social harmony, suffering heavy-handed police raids and disruption of religious ceremonies and festivals.

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