The Vietnamese government is using drug injections to torture minority ethnic Hmong Christians into abandoning their faith, according to new documentary evidence released today by Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom.
The Center has received a letter dated January 30 that details the plight of Hmong Christians who are forced to deny their faith in Na Ling Village, Song Ma District, Lai Chau Province in Northwest Vietnam.
The letter, written by Zong Xiong Hang, a Hmong Christian, describes the use of painful drug injections administered by Vietnamese military personnel in order to force Hmong in Na Ling Village “to not believe in Jesus.” Those injected reported experiencing chest pains, headaches, and numbness in their limbs.
“Pain-inducing drug injections are a horrific violation of the integrity of the person,” said Center Director Nina Shea. “This shocking form of torture has been used in some of the world’s most sinister regimes, including Nazi Germany and the USSR.”
According to the letter, Christians in Na Ling Village also faced expulsion if they did not abandon their religious beliefs. Zong indicated in the letter that he was targeted for training pastors and for distributing Christian literature.
According to Zong, it is government policy to recognize as Christians only those Hmong who converted before 1954 when French rule ended and Communist forces under Ho Chi Minh took control of the North. Zong’s village, which converted after 1954, has made numerous requests to the government to be classified as Christian. All requests have been denied.
The allegations of torture follow a pattern of reports of an anti-Christian wave of persecution underway in Lai Chau Province. The Center reported in April and December of last year that police and soldiers are sent to villages to monitor and harass Christians and to pressure them to sign statements recanting their faith and pledging to re-establish ancestor worship.
Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom urges the United States government to cite Vietnam among its list of “Countries of Particular Concern” for egregious religious persecution.
The full text of the letter can be seen below and viewed on our website.
Letter of Vietnam Hmong Christian Received
by Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom
January 30, 2004
RE: Letter to report our difficult situation
My name is Zong Xiong Hang. I am originally from Na Ling Village, Song Ma District, Lai Chau Province. I would like to write this letter to inform all of you.
I became a Christian about 10 years ago. I have served the Lord for nine years, until now, always under persecution. All believers in our village in Lai Chau Province faced persecution. The government forced us to leave our village if we would not deny Christ. They would not let us to stay in our village in Lai Chau Province. They say that wherever we want to go, to just go there. We can go to America or wherever there are believers. We should go stay with them because we are no longer welcome in our home village.
Whenever I talk about persecution, my tears begin to fall. Eventually everyone had to move away from our village to many different places. This is why I left to live in Son La Province. But now, the authorities in Lai Chau Province told the authorities in Son La Province to persecute us, and force us to go back to worship the ancestors. If we do not do as they say, they will send us back to Lai Chau Province. We don’t want to go back to worship the ancestors, but they will send us back, likely after New Years. I want you to know if we go back to Lai Chau Province, we face great uncertainty. Some believers who go back may have to deny their faith, and some will be arrested. We don’t want to go back. If we have to go to another place we don’t have enough money for transportation because we are so poor. We don’t know what to do.
I would like you to know that on January 17, 2002, the army gave me an injection which almost killed me. They came to force us to not believe in Jesus. We all got sick and it was different from any kind of sickness we had ever had before. Everyone who got sick had chest pains and pain in their forehead. Our legs and arms were cold and numb, it felt like our blood was not going through. The pain came fast and then went away. But the most important thing is this only happened in our area of Lai Chau Province, not in the other areas. The other villages where there are no Christians did not get this kind of sickness.
I am a person the authorities really hate, because I am teaching others to lead the church and I take Christian materials to the believers. It could be that someone informed the authorities about my work. When the authorities asked me, I remained silent, so they hate me! When I got sick the army injected me because they hate me.
I would like those who read my letter to pray for us because we don’t know what our future is.
We wrote many letters asking for permission to believe, but we have received no answers for permission. They say that if we believe in God before 1954, they will let us believe. But, if after 1954, they will not let us believe. So none of us have permission to believe.
Any one who does God’s work will be persecuted. They say they will not allow any of us to stay here if we do not deny our belief. We tell us to go anywhere we want – they don’t want us to stay here. They quote to us:
[The Hmong letter contains a quote in Vietnamese, translated here]
Based on the 5/7/1993 law concerning organization of the People’s Assembly and the People’s Committee and of the highest officials with authority in Lai Chau Province, and
Based on the 10/6/2002 resolution of the Commune People’s Assembly, and on the resolution of the Communist Party of Son La Province, and of Song Ma District, and Nam Lanh Commune, passed (agreed) together 17-19/6/2002.
They wrote this for us, the believers, and they say that we are not worshipping God, but only learn about Chau Fa [“Chau Fa” refers to a Hmong cult that includes belief in a living Hmong “Christ.” Authorities have feared the cult’s political aspirations] and do not really worship God, and that we only do the bad things.
They have a policy saying that if anyone wants to believe and to worship God, he has to ask permission. But when we write a letter asking for permission, they say we only believe in Chau Fa, not in God.
They say that because we don’t have permission we are violating the law. But we write a letter to ask for permission – they say they cannot approve because we do not have anyone who will lead the church. Then we identified a leader. Then they say that we are not believers who believed before 1954, so they won’t allow us to believe.
We heard a Vietnamese pastor say that beginning in 2001, the government in Hanoi made another law to be implemented by lower authorities, not to allow the Hmong to believe and to arrest all leaders who do, and to persecute them. They do not want the foreigners to know about this policy. Right now they severely persecute us Hmong who live in the hills. Right now I don’t have a secure place to live. I don’t know what to do. I want to flee to another place, but I cannot leave the believers behind. I also am a very poor man and don’t have any money to flee. I don’t know what to do.
I close here. May God bless you who read this letter.
Zoov Xyooj Xeem Ham (or Vietnamized to read)
Zong Xiong Hang