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Vietnam tightening religious freedom

A newly adopted bill that regulates religious practices is worse than the one adopted in the 1950s by Ho Chi Minh, according to a Vietnamese cardinal.

From 15 November, the new law requires stricter terms and conditions for registering religious organisations and associations. It also bans people in prison from presiding over religious ceremonies.

Zenit reportst that the statute was six years in the making and has six chapters and 41 articles. The first approved draft of the bill, presented in December 2000, caused negative reactions among clergy and bishops.

Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man, archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City, stated unofficially that it would be better if the newly approved legislation had been dropped. He said the new law is worse than the one adopted in 1955, though the earlier statute was never implemented.

Government authorities have said that the new law, approved by the National Assembly, helps religious practice. But sources in Hanoi told the AsiaNews agency that in reality the new regulations are more restrictive of religious freedom.

Meanwhile Vatican Radio has reported the "brutal killing" in prison of a 34-year-old woman arrested in China for distributing Bibles.

Jiang Zingxiu was imprisoned June 18 for distributing the Bibles to people on the streets of Guizhu province, in southwest China.

The woman reportedly died from the blows she received while in prison. The state-run newspaper Legal Daily reported that the woman was imprisoned for "inciting social disorders."

Tan Dewei, Jiang's mother-in-law, arrested with her daughter-in-law and then released, said that during the questioning the agents repeatedly struck Jiang.

The police handed the body over to the family, saying that Jiang died from a sudden attack.

Vietnam Tightening Religious Freedom (Zenit 5/7/04)
Woman in China Killed for Distributing Bible (Zenit 5/7/04)

Woman with Bibles killed in jail: report ( 5/7/04)

7 Jul 2004