Vietnam Observer Expects the Worst Under New Law

ROME, JULY 9, 2004 ( When a new law on religious beliefs comes into force on Nov. 15, «there will be no more religious freedom » in Vietnam, says a Vatican Radio staffer.

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Father Giuseppe Hoang Minh Thang, of Vatican Radio’s Vietnamese editorial staff, is an expert on the Southeast Asian country.

The priest told ZENIT that «the law on religious freedom approved by the Vietnamese National Assembly represents a worsening of conditions for the Catholic Church.»

«In legislative terms, this law is worse than the one applied by Ho Chi Minh in 1955,» he said.

According to Father Thang, it is «a modern form of blackmail, where nothing is permitted. The freedom of every act is decided by the government.»

Whether it is the construction of a church or a school, or appointments to the episcopate — «everything must be authorized by the government,» he said.

Even «candidates for the priesthood will have to pass an examination of the socialist authorities» who will decide «if the seminarians can be priests,» Father Thang added.

«It is a step backward and it is sad, especially for young people, to see that the authorities restrict religious freedom,» he lamented.

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