Date: November 20, 2019
WASHINGTON, DC – Anurima Bhargava, a Commissioner on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today announced her adoption of Vietnamese religious freedom advocate and Hoa Hao Buddhist Nguyen Bac Truyen as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project. Before his imprisonment, Truyen led the Vietnamese Political & Religious Prisoners Friendship Association, which assists prisoners of conscience and their families. He was detained in July 2017 and in April 2018, was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment on spurious charges of “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration.” Truyen has reportedly been suffering from a stomach ailment, but has been unable to obtain proper medical care while in prison.
“The imprisonment of Nguyen Bac Truyen belies the Vietnamese government’s claims that it protects religious freedom,” said Bhargava. “Religious freedom includes protecting those who advocate on behalf of persecuted or disadvantaged religious groups. People like Nguyen Bac Truyen should be celebrated for their tireless efforts to improve the lives of their fellow citizens, but instead, he received an excessive and unjust prison sentence. He must be released immediately if Vietnam is to meet its obligations under international law.”
In its 2019 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the State Department designate Vietnam a “country of particular concern” (CPC) because of its persecution of religious minorities and religious freedom advocates like Nguyen Bac Truyen. The Vietnamese government targeted Truyen due to his advocacy, particularly on behalf of Hoa Hao Buddhists. Vietnamese authorities regularly harass Hoa Hao Buddhists who refuse to participate in government-approved religious associations. Authorities also restrict their ability to celebrate important holy days. There are widespread reports that Vietnamese prison authorities abuse prisoners of conscience and deny them access to religious services.