By Stefan J. Bos,
ANOI, VIETNAM (Worthy News)– A prominent Mennonite pastor and religious rights advocate has escaped from his besieged home in central Vietnam after “several months of police encirclement” to seek “help, food and medication” for his children and frail wife, who has been abused by police, dissidents said in messages obtained by Worthy News Monday, July 20.
Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh “successfully fled out of his home” in Hoa Lu commune of the central city of Pleiku, early Friday, July 17, added Viet Si, an official of the International Movement for Independence, Democracy, Civil and Human Rights in Vietnam.
He, “fled out of his home after under several months of police encirclement…to seek help, food and medication to save his wife and three [young] children from starvation and serious sickness,” Si said in a letter to the United States embassy in Hanoi, seen by Worthy News and its partner agency BosNewsLife.
“After realizing his escape, police got in his home to search but was unable to find him…They got so mad and turned around to assault his wife badly and threatened to deskin his three little toddlers,” Si wrote.
“We have been seeking urgent intervention and humanitarian assistance from concerned political authorities, religious leaders and people who have cared about religious freedom, human and civil rights for citizens in Vietnam,” he explained.
DETAINED AND INTERROGATED
Chinh’s whereabouts were not immediately clear Monday, July 20. The pastor, who was reportedly detained and interrogated as recently as May 14-26 because of his church work, said earlier that a dozen police guard his house around the clock and that they set up a nearby checkpoint after his release from Gia Lai jail on May 26.
Chinh has told reporters that since 2003 he has been under pressure to dissolve his and other growing Mennonite churches he supervises, and that regional officials banned his preaching activities in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
“They don’t want religion to develop among ethnic [minority] communities” in the Central Highlands region,” he told U.S. funded Radio Free Asia (RFA)recently. “I am a [minister] preaching the Gospel and the chairman of Vietnamese People’s Christian Evangelical Fellowship,” which represents Mennonite and related evangelical churches and groups.
In recent years, security forces also repeatedly raided and attacked his home and church, the pastor said, while Gia Lai and Kontum provincial authorities allegedly also confiscated his motorcycle and mobile phone.
Chinh’s escape from his besieged home Friday, July 17, came shortly after his wife was allegedly earlier beaten by police June 6. She was shouting about the disappearance of laundry hung outside to dry when police arrived and assaulted her, he told RFA in a recent telephone interview. Police struck him too, Chinh said, and later stopped him from taking his wife to the hospital.
WIFE “CANNOT EAT”
“My wife stood in front of the house and shouted, ‘Who stole my stuff?’” Chinh recalled.”She said police were here 24/7, so who could come and steal our stuff? Then some police from the PA-38 unit [for political and religious affairs], who stand guard outside my house, jumped in and beat my wife until she was hurt,” he said.
“When I tried to intervene they beat me up too. Then another seven or eight police from the checkpoint joined them and beat my wife, kicked her, until she fainted. She’s confined to bed now, she cannot eat, she has vomited blood, and she is having difficulty breathing.”
Police have denied wrongdoing. “Nobody hit her-he made that up…Nobody set up a checkpoint at her house,” said a police officer at Hoa Lu commune, Phan Ngoc Doan, contacted by telephone. However, “I can’t talk about this now,” he told RFA.
There has been mounting international concern about the pastor’s situation, which is viewed by rights groups
as part of a wider crackdown on Christian groups in the Communist Asian nation. United States Representative Ed Royce reportedly raised Chinh’s case June 6 in a meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Michael Michalak and a Vietnamese community group in California.(With sources in and outside Vietnam).