Vietnamese police arrest religious group worshipers at funeral of founder – Radio Free Asia

Hundreds of Vietnamese policemen and others dressed in protective medical suits raided the funeral of the Hmong founder of an unofficial religious group, beating and arresting nearly 50 of his supporters who attended the ceremony , residents said.

Duong Van Minh, 60, died of lymphoma on December 11. His family and supporters transported his body from the medical facility where he died to his home in Ngoi Sen village, Tuyen Quang province, northeast Vietnam, for a funeral and ceremony. ‘burial.

After Minh’s body was taken home, local authorities set up checkpoints in the surrounding area to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but in reality to prevent his supporters from attending the funeral, have declared the inhabitants.

“They set up checkpoints around all the villages where Mr. Minh’s supporters live and blocked all roads leading to Mr. Minh’s village,” said a resident and a supporter who refused to be identified. For safety reasons. “When we asked if there were any infections with the COVID-19 virus in the area, some mobile police officers said no, adding that they had just been asked to block the area.”

Authorities have asked Minh’s family members to take COVID-19 tests, saying the driver who carried the body tested positive for the contagious respiratory virus. Relatives, in turn, asked to be tested on December 13, the day after the funeral, but authorities refused.

Instead, local authorities sent mobile police and personnel wearing protective medical gear to disrupt the Dec. 12 funeral in order to “force people to take the test”, resulting in a violent crackdown, residents said. .

“About 300 roving policemen and others with shields and batons came to Mr. Minh’s home in groups, one after another,” said the first resident. “They shouted and threatened to arrest the people filming them and chased those who had cell phones. “

Around 35 people were arrested, except for Minh’s family members and others who remained inside the house, prompting police to smash windows and demand that they open. the door, threatening them with electric batons, he said.

“Then a group of nurses came in to examine Mr. Minh’s body,” he added.

On the same day, more than 100 followers of the Duong Van Minh religion named after its founder went to medical staff and protested what they considered to be a violation of the body of their religious founder.

In response, authorities mobilized police and arrested nine other people, supporters said.

On December 15, police announced the names of four supporters accused of assaulting officers on official duty through the village loudspeakers and called on them to surrender. Four people were then arrested when they showed up at the commune’s headquarters, they said.

None of those arrested have been released.

“I think the authorities treated us so badly just because of our beliefs,” said the first resident. “The police have seen us many times, and they are very keen to eliminate our religion and not allow us to follow it. Police said so in many places.

RFA could not reach the office of the chairman of the Tuyen Quang Province People’s Committee for comment.

It was not the first time that some of the followers of the Duong Van Minh religion had been arrested.

“Those who were arrested had already been threatened on several occasions,” said the resident. “The police said those who taught our fellow citizens to practice religion would all be arrested, leaving no one at large,” he said.

Authorities used the funeral to arrest other believers in an attempt to eradicate unofficial religion, he added.

As of December 20, authorities informed relatives of some of those arrested that their family members would be prosecuted for resisting agents on official duty.

Founded in 1989, the Duong Van Minh religion promotes the removal of the old and costly funeral customs that require the killing of cattle for seven days and seeks to make the customs of the Hmong faith surrounding funerals and weddings more modern and more hygienic.

Followers of the religion have faced severe repression by the authorities, and many have been charged with “abuse of democratic freedom and rights” and imprisoned. Over the years, authorities have destroyed dozens of their religious structures used as funeral homes.

Vietnamese state media have called the belief a false religion, claiming that it leads people to create groups that do not conform to the policies of the central government and the Communist Party of Vietnam and accused its supporters of inciting the local people to oppose these guidelines and try to establish a Hmong kingdom.

Major General Sung Thin Co, a Hmong member of the Vietnamese National Assembly, told his colleagues in a March 26 session that local authorities and police made “a hasty decision regarding the Duong Van Minh religion.” , causing clashes with the Hmong people.

According to the government, there are around 8,000 followers of the Hmong ethnic group of the Duong Van Minh religion in four provinces of the mountainous region of northern Vietnam.

Reported by the Vietnamese service of RFA. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.