By BosNewsLife Asia Service with BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
HANOI/BEIJING (BosNewsLife)– Two of Asia’s most known Christian leaders were detained Tuesday, July 26, with Vietnam confirming it sent ailing Catholic priest and democracy activist back to jail, while China reportedly sentenced a top leader of the underground Protest church movement, Shi Enhao, to two years labor camp for “organizing illegal” worship services.
In Vietnam, prison authorities said Ly, 64, was taken from his home town of Hue city to Ba Sao prison outside the northern capital of Hanoi, despite international concerns about his health.
Ly’s one-year medical parole expired March 15 and he allegedly defied a court order to send him back to jail. “His health is better than the time when he was released, but for a man who had suffered strokes, it’s hard to recover fully,” The Associated Press news agency quoted a prison official as saying, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Ly, who uses crutches to help him walk, was in “normal health condition” after making the 300-mile (500-kilometer) trip from Hue to the prison, according to the official.He has been in and out of prison and house arrest for years, most recently for helping found a group called Bloc 8406, which promotes multiparty democracy.
In 2007, he was sentenced to eight years in prison for spreading “anti-government propaganda” during a trial in which police muzzled him for shouting anti-communist slogans and accusing Vietnamese authorities of practicing “the law of the jungle.”
Vietnamese officials said Ly continued to oppose the communist regime by distributing anti-government leaflets and accusing Vietnamese leaders of being too soft on China in the countries’ ongoing territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
In China, pastor Shi Enhao was sentenced over the weekend to two years labor camp after being detained on June 21 in the eastern city of Suqian, his supporters said.
Labor camp sentences are handed out without trial on the recommendation of police and can be extended beyond the usual two year term, according to experts.
The U.S. based religious right group China Aid Association, said in a statement Tuesday, July 26, that the sentence was part of an ongoing crackdown against underground churches that it claims are growing larger and increasingly bold.
Chinese officials have denied human right abuses, saying Christians are free to worship within the established state-run churches.
Yet, most of the up to 130 million Chinese Christians prefer to gather in underground ‘house churches’, named this way as they are often held in homes of individual believers Police and religious affairs officials in Suqian reportedly said they had no knowledge of Shi’s case.
Besides the Vietnamese and Chinese Christian leaders at least two other dissidents face imminent arrest.Cu Huy Ha Vu will appear in a Hanoi court August 2 to appeal his seven-year sentence for spreading propaganda against the state, his wife, lawyer Nguyen Thi Duong Ha, told reporters.
Vu, 53, who has a law doctorate from a French university but is not licensed to practice in Vietnam, has tried twice to sue the country’s prime minister, once over a controversial Chinese-built bauxite mining project and another time after the government leader blocked class-action lawsuits from being filed. Both cases were thrown out of court.
He is the son of a Vietnamese revolutionary leader.
Vietnamese-born French math teacher Pham Minh Hoang will be brought to trial in southern Ho Chi Minh City on August 10 for attempting to overthrow the government, the state-controlled Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper reported.Hoang was arrested last August after being accused of subversion by posting anti-communist articles on the Internet, The Associated Pres reported.