Vietnam sentences four Christians to prison for holding worship services

.- Four Hmong Christians, who organized and led weekly worship services in a house church in Vietnam’s remote province of Ha Giang, have been sentenced to terms of 26 to 36 months for the vague offense of “disturbing public order.”

The sentences were given in late March 2004, however the Center for Religious Freedom was only able to retrieve this information recently. The four men are now being held under harsh conditions of imprisonment.

Ly Chin Sang, 60, a Christian since 1991, was sentenced to three years. His son, Ly Sin Quang, 28, has also been a Christian since 1991. The length of his sentence is not  indicated.

Vang Chin Sang, 56, a Christian since 1999, was sentenced to three years, and Vang My Ly, 24, has been a Christian since 1991 and was sentenced to 26 months.

The men were arrested in November and December of 2003. The accusations include holding meetings of 50 or 60 people over six consecutive Sundays.

All of the men are married with children still at home in Ha Giang province, which has been hit by an intensified anti-Christian campaign by the Vietnamese government.

The Center for Religious Freedom obtained three letters, written in March, by Hmong Christians, which give an account of the officials’ confiscation of Vietnamese Bibles, an electronic keyboard, numerous personal effects, and money. The authors describe being threatened with fines unless they agree to abandon Christianity.

The center reported last month that the Vietnamese military had used drug injections in Lai Chau province to pressure Hmong Christians to sign statements recanting their faith.

Due to international pressure, Vietnamese authorities have recently begun to avoid referring to Christianity when making charges against believers, using the term "illegal religion" instead. The government recognizes as legitimate only Christians who were believers before the 1954 communist revolution.

For more information, go to: http://www.freedomhouse.org/religion

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