Nghe An: Vietnamese authorities release two Christian political prisoners

Nong Hung Anh Dang Ngoc Minh[themify_box style=”blue info rounded” ]Nong Hung Anh and Ms Dang Ngoc Minh have spent three years in prison, convicted for their religious and social activism. Both were part of a group of 17 Christians arrested in 2011; some of them took part in anti-China demonstrations.[/themify_box]

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – The Vietnamese government has released two political prisoners, Nong Hung Anh and Ms Dang Ngoc Minh, a mother, who were part of a group of17 Christian social activists, arrested on two separate occasions between August and December 2011.

Nong, the young man, is the only Protestant in a group of mostly Catholics. They were released last Wednesday, but their announcement was made only recently and relayed by Églises d’Asie (ÉdA).

Before his arrest, Nong Hung Anh was a student of Chinese language and literature at the University of Hanoi. He had also been involved for some time against mining projects and bauxite mining in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, by China-based multinationals.

He had taken part in protests against China’s expansionist policies, which have threatened Vietnam’s territorial sovereignty for some time, and collaborated in an information network backed by the Redemptorists in Vietnam.

He was arrested on 5 August 2011, and sentenced on 9 January 2013 by a provincial court in Nghe An, along with 14 others, to five years in prison and three years of house arrest.

By contrast, Ms Dang Ngoc Minh’s release coincides with the end of her three-year sentence. She and her two children were part the group of 14 people convicted in January last year.

Her daughter Nguyen Dang Minh Mân was sentenced to eight years in prison and three years under house arrest. Her son Nguyen Dang Vinh Phuc got away with a lighter, suspended sentence. 

Most of the Christians placed under arrest were activists, involved for some time in religious and social initiatives, in most cases in local parishes or dioceses. Some of them, out of pure patriotic spirit, had participated in the past in nationalist, anti-China demonstrations.

For the past several years, Vietnam has seen a harsh campaign by the government against dissidents, bloggers, religious leaders (including Buddhists), Catholic activists or entire communities. Last year for example, media and government conducted a smear campaign in the Diocese of Vinh targeting the local bishop and faithful.

The government’s crackdown has also touched people whose only guilt is that of claiming the right to religious freedom and respect for citizens’ civil rights.

In 2013 alone, Vietnamese authorities arrested dozens of activists for crimes “against the state,” based on a rule that human rights groups have branded as too “generic” and “vague”.