UN Official: Vietnam Violates Religious Freedom

HANOI, Vietnam — Jul 31, 2014, 1:24 PM ET

A U.N. official who went to Vietnam to assess religious freedom in this Southeast Asian country said Thursday that security agents closely monitored his visit and people he wanted to meet were harassed and intimidated.

Heiner Bielefeldt, the U.N. special rapporteur, told journalists he concluded that serious violations of religious freedom existed, while noting some improvements.

Planned visits to three provinces were interrupted, Bielefeldt said. “I received credible information that some individuals whom I wanted to meet with had been either under heavy surveillance, warned, intimidated, harassed or prevented from travelling by the police,” he said.

“I was closely monitored of my whereabouts by undeclared “security and police agents” while the privacy and confidentiality of some meetings could have been compromised. All these incidents are in clear violation of the terms of reference of any country visit,” he said of his 11-day, fact-finding mission.

Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh told a press briefing Thursday that the government has done its best to facilitate the special rapporteur’s visit including arranging all requested meetings.

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