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Beliefs under threat in Vietnam

by Hannah Tooley

At present there is no law on religion or belief in Vietnam.

The charity, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), says that officials reportedly met with representatives from 32 religious organisations -- but it is not clear whether independent religious organisations, many of which have strong reservations about the draft, were invited to attend.

It says this draft "maintains the government's approach of regulating and controlling religious affairs, lacks the necessary safeguards to protect against the abuse of power, and contains ambiguous language and administrative burdens which prevent rather than protect the enjoyment of full freedom of religion or belief."

The draft law has received criticism from human rights activists, religious leaders and independent experts on freedom of religion or belief.

One independent legal expert told CSW the draft gives the state a lot of control, and seems to focus on regulating religious affairs, rather than affording freedom.

CSW's Chief Operating Officer, Andy Dipper, said: "The draft law on religion and belief, the first of its kind in Vietnam, is an opportunity to bring domestic law into conformity with international human rights law and to strengthen protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief.

"However, we know from our research that many religious leaders and community representatives have serious concerns about the draft, which could, in its current form, lead to further interference into religious life in Vietnam.

"We call on the government to revise the draft law in open and free consultation with representatives of religion or belief communities, including ethnic and religious minorities and unregistered/independent communities, in dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and other experts in international human rights law."

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