1 - Vietnam Fatherland Front is a political coalition organization, a voluntary union of political organizations, socio-political organizations, social organizations and individuals representing all classes, social strata, ethnic groups, religions and overseas Vietnamese. 2 – VFF constitutes a part of the political system of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, led by the Communist Party of Vietnam; and constitutes a political base of the people’s administration, a place where the people express their will and aspirations, the entire people’s great solidarity bloc is built up, the people’s mastery is brought into full play, where its members hold consultative meetings, and coordinate and unify their actions, thus contributing to the firm maintenance of national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and successfully carrying out the cause of national industrialization and modernization, so as to achieve the objective of a prosperous people, a strong country and an equitable and civilized society. The principal task of VFF is to gather all Vietnameses at home as well as abroad to “strengthen the political and spiritual unanimity” and “to encourage the people to bring into play their right to be their own masters, to realize the principles and policy of the Party”.
Article 2. Duties of VFF
VFF has the tasks to gather and build the block of the great national unity, to strengthen the political and spiritual unanimity among the people; to propagandize and encourage the people to bring into play their right to be their own masters, to realize the principles and policy of the Party, to strictly implement the Constitution and laws, to supervise the activities of the State bodies, elected deputies and the State officers and functionaries; to collect people's opinions and their recommendations to reflect and propose to the Party and the State; to participate in the building and enforcement of the people's administration; together with the State to take care of and protect the people's legitimate interests; to take part in the development of relationship and co-operation between the Vietnamese and the other peoples in the regions and in the world". The above-mentioned articles clearly define that VFF is a political peripheral organization of the Vietnam Communist Party. It is however totally financed by the state budget.
Article 16: (Law on VFF) Finance, property of VFF
1/ The operating funds of VFF shall be allocated by the State's budget according to the provisions of law,.
2/ VFF is permitted to accept, manage and use in accordance with the law the assets which has been entrusted by the State or presented by organizations and individuals at home and abroad. 4.1.2. Law on National Assembly Elections Article 5 of the Law on National Assembly Elections of the Communist Vietnam stipulates that all candidates for National Assembly are selected and recommandated by VFF, a political peripheral organization of the Vietnam Communist Party.
Article 5 (the Law on National Assembly elections)
VFF has a duty to negociate, to select and to recommand the candidates to the National Assembly, and to participate in monitoring the election of the members of the National Assembly. The law on the National Assembly elections of the Communist Vietnam does not give the citizens the right to to run freely and independently for the post of a member of VFF.
4.1.3. Constitution The big difference between Vietnam and other countries in the world is that the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam contains an article which goes beyond all the political structures of other countries in the world:
Article 4 (Constitution):
The Communist Party of Vietnam, the vanguard of the Vietnamese working class, the faithful representative of the rights and interests of the working class, the toiling people, and the whole nation, acting upon the Marxist- Leninist doctrine and Ho Chi Minh's thought, is the force leading the State and society. All Party organizations operate within the framework of the Constitution and the law. With this law the Communist Party of Vietnam gives itself the role of a "leader of the socialist state and society" and thereby takes away the most important right of the Vietnamese people to be proprietors of their own country. On the other hand, article 53 of the Constitution defines the right to participate in "the administration of state and management society":
Article 53 (Constitution):
The citizen has right to participate in the administration of the State and management of society, the discussion of problems of the country and the region; he can send petitions to State organs and vote in referendums organized by the State.
4.2. The Electoral Law and Article 4 of the Constitution violate the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam According to electoral law of Communist Vietnam, the selection of candidates for the National Assembly elections as well as for Councils at all levels is undertaken by VFF, an arm of the CPV, which would thus allow the Party to strengthen its monopoly in the whole country from central to local levels.
Article 53 of the Constitution says very clearly that all citizens (regardless of his point of view, religion, gender, ethnicity, etc. ...) has the right to participate in "the administration of state and management of society". It totally conflicts with the Electoral Law of the Social Socialist of Vietnam and Article 4 of the Constitution which stipulates that the Communist Party of Vietnam is "the leading state and society force"!
4.3. Human rights violations of The Electoral Law and Article 4 of the Constitution The right to directly participate in the government organs or to freely elect representatives to participate in the government organs is defined by Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 25 of the UN Covenant on the civil and political rights (UNCCPR):
Article 25 (UNCCPR):
Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:
(a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
(b) To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors;
(c) To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.
This Article means that the right to vote may not be limited to specific groups or classes, but must be fundamental right for all people.
Paragraph a of Article 25 of UNCCPR determines that the management of society must be based on the "people’s aspirations". The administration of the State must be conducted with participation of the people, directly or through their representatives. They should be held accountable for their mistakes, be controlled by the people and can be voted out of office if the people so want.
The Communist Party with nearly 3 million party members, only about 3.3% of the Vietnamese population, can not claim to represent all 85 million citizens of Vietnam.
Hence, the Election Code and Article 4 of the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Communist not only violate Articles 2, 25 and 26 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and Article 21 of the Declaration of Human Rights. They are in contradiction with Article 53 of their own Constitution.
5. Religious freedom violations of the Vietnamese communist government 5.1. International Law The right of religious freedom was defined in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This is the right to practice faith or belief through worship, practice, ritual or teaching at private home or in public, individually or collectively.
The Article 18 of ICCPR is read as follows:
1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
3. Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.
5.2. Law of the Vietnamese Communist Regime
But with its Ordinance on belief and religion, the Vietnamese Communist government establishes an organization of its own, called the Fatherland Front to intervene with religious activities. The Fatherland Front assumes both executive and legislative functions according to Article 7 of the Ordinance on belief and religion (OBR).
Article 7 (OBR) 1. the Vietnam Fatherland Front and its member organizations, within the scope of their duties and authority, has the responsibility to:
a. Gather followers of religious belief and religious organizations and non-believers to build national unity, and to build and defend the Fatherland.
b. Promptly report peoples’ comments, expectations, and petitions on religious belief and religion-related issues to State agencies.
c. Take part in the dissemination of information to encourage religious dignitaries, those of religious vocation, believers, and religious organizations and common people to execute the State ordinance on religious belief and religious organizations.
d. Take part in the process of developing and monitoring activities pertaining to the execution of State policies and ordinance on religious belief and religious organizations. 2. State agencies, within the scope of their duties and authority, are to take initiative in cooperating with the Vietnam Fatherland Front and its member organizations in disseminating information about, and encouraging the implementation of, the State's policies and laws on religious belief and religious organizations.
Religious activities are only allowed to be held at the religious institutions as pagodas, churches and temples. Religious activities in public places must be permitted by the People’s Committees of districts, cities or villages.
Article 11 (OBR) 1. Religious dignitaries and people of religious vocation are allowed to carry out their religious functions and roles within the limits of their responsibilities, and to preach at religious establishments.
2. Religious activities beyond those mentioned in clause 1 of this Article, require the consent of the People's Committee at the district or city level (hereinafter referred to as People's Committee at the district level) where the activities take place.
Specially, local religious organizations such as Buddhist churches or parishes must submit their annual plan of activity to People’s Committee for consideration and approval.
1. A person in charge of a local religious organization has the responsibility to annually register the religious activities which will take place at that religious establishment with the People's Committee at the commune, precinct, and city level (hereinafter is referred to as the People's Committee at the commune level); activities beyond those which have been registered shall require the consent of competent State agencies.
2. The authority to approve the organization of a religious festival is regulated by the Government.
All religions in Vietnam shall only be established and practice if recognized by the Government of Vietnam (Prime Minister, Presidents of Provincial People’s Committee or City People’s Committee directly under the central government supervision).
The application for recognition must be submitted to the governmental executive agency. The procedure is defined in Article 16. Article 16(OBR)
1. An organization shall be recognized as a religious organization if it meets all of the following conditions:
a) It is an organization of people with the same belief, who follow religious tenets and rites that do not go against the nation's fine traditions and customs, and the common benefit of the people.
b) It has a charter and regulations outlining principles, objectives and activities favouring attachment to the nation and not contrary to the provisions of the law.
c) It registers its activities and maintains long-term, stable operations.
d) It has an office, an organization and legal representatives.
e) It has a name that is not identical to name of another religious organization already recognized by competent State management agency. 2. The level of authorization required regarding recognition of religious organizations:
a) The Prime Minister must recognize religious organizations with activities covering multiple provinces or centrally run cities.
b) The Chairman of city or provincial People's Committees must recognize religious organizations with activities primarily centered in a single province or a centrally run city.
3. The registration of religious activities is stipulated in clause 1, point c of this Article; the Government shall provide instructions concerning the religious activities of registered religious organizations and on the procedures for the recognition of religious organizations. The bestowal of religious titles and the appointment within the religion must be approved in advance by the governmental agencies regulated by Article 22: Article 22(OBR) 1. the bestowal of religious titles and the appointment, nomination and election of religious dignitaries and people of religious vocation shall be conducted according to charters and regulations of the religious organizations and must meet conditions mentioned at clause 2 of this Article. In cases where a foreign connection is involved, agreement in advance must be obtained from the central State religious management agency.
2. Persons who receive ordination, nomination or election or other appointments or promotions to religious offices must meet the following conditions in order to be able to be recognized by the State.
Be a Vietnamese citizen with good moral conduct.
b. Possess the spirit of national unity and national harmony.
c. Scrupulously observe the law.
3. The dismissal of religious dignitaries shall be according to the charters and regulations of the respective religious organizations.
4. Religious organizations have the responsibility to register the appointment, election, and nomination of religious dignitaries and those of religious vocation with competent State management agency as well as to notify competent State management agency of the dismissal of religious dignitaries.
Religious organizations can only open classes and schools to train religious personnel and clergymen with the approval of the Prime Minister.
1. Religious organizations are allowed to open schools and to open classes to supplement the training of religious dignitaries and those of religious vocation.
2. The opening of schools and classes to train religious dignitaries and those of religious vocation must be approved by the Prime Minister.
Enrolment must be conducted in a transparent manner; candidates must apply to become students on a voluntary basis and voluntarily abide by the school's approved egulations.
The subjects of Vietnamese history and laws are required as major subjects in the curriculum to train religious specialists.
3. The opening of classes to train religious dignitaries and those of religious vocation must be approved by the Chairman of the People's Committee of the province where the class is held.
4. The Government shall issue instructions on procedures for the opening and dissolving of schools to train religious dignitaries and those of religious vocation and on the opening of classes to train religious dignitaries and those of religious vocation.
5.3. Violations of Religion Law of the Vietnamese Communist Regime The Ordinance on belief and religion of Socialist Republic of Vietnam violates Article 18 International Covenant On Civil and Political Rights in the following areas:
- Use an organization of the Vietnamese Communist Party to manage, control, and intervene with religious activities (Article 7, Ordinance on belief and religion)
All religious activities must be implemented at religious organizations’ places. Any religious activities in public must be permitted by the People’s Committee at the district level (Article 11, OBR).
All religious activities must be reported annually to the People’s Committee at the district level (Article 12, OBR).
Religions can only be established and practice if approved by the Prime Minister, or Presidents of Provincial People’s Committee or City People’s Committee directly under the central government supervision (Article 16, OBR).
Bestowal of religious titles and the appointment within the religion must be approved by the government (Article 22, OBR).
Schools to train religious personnel and clergymen must be approved by the Prime Minister (Article 24, OBR).
Violations against Buddhists
Overview of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV)
Prior to April 30, 1975, the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) operated in a wide range of religious and civil fields. The UBCV opened universities, publications, middle and high schools, orphanages, health care centers and Buddhist Youth Organizations…. The Buddhist Youth Organizations operated under the supervision of the Youth Department of the Institute for the Dissemination of the Dharma.
After the full occupation of the South Vietnam, the Vietnamese Communist government under the name of the Provisionary Republic of South Vietnam Government confiscated many facilities of the UBCV.
During the conflicts between the UBCV and the Communist government, right after 1975, 12 Buddhist followers and monks had burned themselves at Duoc Su Pagoda, Can Tho Province to protest the prohibition of Buddhist flag hanging and other regulations aimed to control UBCV’s activities.
In March 1977, when the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) took over Quach Thi Trang Orphanage, the UBCV firmly protested and many Buddhist followers demonstrated. Van Hanh University was ordered to close and was confiscated afterward. When UBCV leaders sent letters to the government requesting religious freedom, the Communist government reacted by detaining six leading members, including the Most Reverences Thich Huyen Quang, Thich Quang Do and Thich Thien Minh. To protest this oppression, the Most Reverence Thich Don Hau resigned his position as Congressman and accepted the invitation to be the Prime Secretary General of Institute of the Sangha.
At the start of 1977, the UBCV issued a memorandum calling for the protection of Monks, lay-Buddhists, Followers, Buddhism and Human Rights. The Vietnamese Communist Government accused the Most Reverence Thich Thien Minh, Supervisor of the Executive Institute Supervisory Committee of masterminding everything, and forced him out of the Thich Quang Duc Center as a result.
On Apr 13, 1978, the Most Reverence Thich Thien Minh was arrested and imprisoned in Phan Dang Luu prison, near Ba Chieu Market. The Communist Police forced the Most Reverence Thich Thien Minh to take off his monk uniform, but he refused to comply and firmly stated that: ”I have started my monkhood since 12 years old, accustomed to this brown monk uniform, uncomfortable with other clothing”. In order to discipline as well as to torture him, the Vietnamese Communist Police took off all his clothing, leaving him naked for 7 straight days...
Finally, the Most Reverence Thich Thien Minh was transferred to Ham Tan prison and continuously tortured until he died on Oct 17, 1978. Upon hearing this bad news, the UBCV had sent a delegation to Ham Tan Prison to identify and verify. The Most Reverence’s remain was covered in a sedge mat with a severely bruised face. The UBCV’s request for funeral service or a peaceful praying moment for the Most Reverence Thich Thien Minh was also refused.
From Nov 04 to Nov 07, 1981, a Conference for Unification of Vietnamese Buddhist prepared was organized by the Communist Party of Vietnam, the Vietnamese Communist Government and The Central Propaganda Committee at Quan Su Pagoda, Hanoi. This Conference consisted of 165 monks, lay-Buddhists representing 9 organizations and Buddhist factions in country.
At the end of this Conference, the “Vietnam Buddhist Church” was formed. This organization is a member of the Vietnam Fatherland Front under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam.
In the meeting with the delegation of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on Oct 23, 2007 in Hanoi, the Deputy Minister of Police of the Vietnamese Communist Government, Nguyen Van Huong stated that “The Vietnam Buddhist Church” is the official Buddhist organization in Viet Nam since 1981, therefore the UBCV’s activity is illegal”.
On the occasion of Buddha’s Birthday in 1994, Mr. Do Trung Hieu, alias Muoi Anh, Political Commissioner of the Buddhist Unification Task Force of the Central Vietnam Fatherland Front, who is in charge of organizing all Buddhist Organizations in Viet Nam including the UBCV, - the biggest and most prestige Buddhist Church when the Vietnamese Communist took over the South of Viet Nam in 1975, under the control of the Communist Party of Vietnam, revealed that:
“The intent of the project is to make Buddhist of Vietnam become a public organization. It is even smaller than an organization because, it will include only monks, no followers; It only has the upper structure without the foundation, under the name of Vietnam Buddhist Church (…). The activities are only pertaining to worship, pagoda, nothing related to people and society, basing on the pagoda as foundation but not the followers as unit base of the Buddhist Church.”
(…) In reality, both representatives of our Vietnam Buddhist Church members and the UBCV’s were present. The Vietnam Buddhist Unification Steering Committee members were present and were the majority at the Conference. UBCV was one of nine religious factions, the remaining eight groups with various names all belong to us or under our Party leadership”. (…) “This unification of Buddhism, on the outside seemed to be the responsibility of the most reverenced, but in reality it is under the maneuver of the Communist Party of Vietnam through out the process to control and make Vietnam Buddhist Church to become a pulpit organization.” In 1992, the Most Reverence Thich Huyen Quang accepted the will of the Most Reverence Thich Don Hau to be the Acting Chairman of the Institute of the Sangha. After being proclaimed as the Fourth Patriarch in 2003, the Most Reverence Thich Huyen Quang struggled to restore the UBCV even harder. Further more, he also asked the Vietnamese Communist Government to respect and implement religious freedom, democracy, to repent and apologize for their mistakes publicly and return the spiritual right for dead people and human rights for living ones.
The request for Religious Freedom, Faith Practice, and Restoration of the UBCV independently from the Vietnam Fatherland Front and the Communist Party were rebuffed. Obviously, in May 1994, when the UBCV organized a relief for the flood victims in the West Region, the Vietnamese Communist Government confiscated all the relief goods and arrested 30 monks and 300 people of the relief group. In this incident, the Most Reverence Thich Quang Do was sentenced to 5 years in prison, Reverences Thich Khong Tanh, Thich Nhat Ban, and lay-Buddhist Nhat Thuong all received 3 years sentence.
The Fourth Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang after 27 years of jail and house arrest, when he was ill at the age of 89, was pressured by Police Major General, Tran Tu, and Deputy Police Minister Nguyen Van Huong to step down from the UBCV and join the Vietnam Buddhist Church .
On May 27, 2008, due to heart disease and water in his lounge, the Most Reverence was hospitalized to Quy Nhon Polyclinic Hospital. Every one or two days, the Most Reverence was blood withdraw without any justified and clear reason. There was no eminent progress in treatment, even after being transferred to the Intensive Care Unit with a group of specialist and experts of a modern hospital only found in Saigon city. The Most Reverence Thich Quang Do and the UBCV Supreme Bi-cameral Council requested to move the Fourth Patriarch to the Vietnamese French Hospital in Saigon for treatment, but the Communist Government did not approve and insisted to keep him at the Quy Nhon Polyclinic Hospital.
At 5:30 PM on Jul 4, 2008 allowed moving the Fourth Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang back to Nguyen Thieu Temple, his residency. Nearly 24 hour later, at 01:00 PM, the Fourth Patriarch passed away.
The Most Reverence Thich Quang Do accepted the Fourth Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang’s will to succeed as Acting Chair of the Institute of Sangha.
But the Vietnamese communist authorities have refused. They decided to keep him under police surveillance in hospital in Qui Nhon. Around 15:30, 4 July 2008, they helped bring to his residence in the Nguyen Thieu Pagoda. Less than 24 hours later, he died at 13:00, 5 July 2008 less than 24hrs after he had bên released back to his temple.
The Venerable Thich Quang Do obeying the will of the Supreme Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang takes the post of Acting Rector of the Institute of the Sangha.