(VNRN) – A Hoa Hao Buddhism activist who attended the United Nations’ review of Vietnam’s human rights and spoke on the lack of religious freedom has been summoned by police in An Giang province, the last time on April 3, but so far he has refused to appear.
Dang Van Ngoan (Đặng Văn Ngoãn), 28, is a member of a banned Hoa Hao Buddhism church and took part in a delegation representing Vietnam’s independent civil society at the Universal Periodic Review (“UPR”) in Geneva in February.
At the UPR, Ngoan spoke at a presentation to international delegates about the lack of freedom in Vietnam, specifically about the government’s attempt to control the Hoa Hao Buddhist Church and modify the teachings of the faith to suit the government’s purposes.
Ngoan returned to Vietnam on March 31, and the very next day he was asked by the police to come to the station. Two days later, on April 3, he was summoned again, and the next day police came to his house asking him to voluntarily come to the station.
The summons, signed by a police lieutenant-colonel and marked specifically that it’s the “second time” the letter was issued, asked Ngoan to appear at 8am the next day to discuss “issues related with his travel file.”
His travel was apparently flagged as soon as he landed at the airport. The immigration officer took his passport, went inside, and came out returning it to him, Ngoan told the independent news blog Cui Cac.
“The reason I wasn’t detained and questioned right at the airport, chances are because Security didn’t want to make a scene like with Bui Tuan Lam,” Ngoan said.
Ngoan has so far refused to comply with the summons, on the grounds that the reason stated is “vague and unjustified.”
“There’s no reason why I should be questioned ‘related to my travel file.’ It’s just an excuse for the police to question me on my UPR advocacy,” Ngoan added.
Ngoan’s Hoa Hao Buddhism branch broke off from the government-recognized church, and Ngoan denounces the official branch as going against the teaching of the Hoa Hao founder, Prophet Huynh Phu So.
“They delete the political and social teachings of the Prophet Huynh from the sacred texts,” Ngoan said, “contrary to the Charter and the spirit of Hoa Hao Buddhism.”
The official branch is also accused of failing to honor the day of the Prophet’s death. Huynh Phu So was killed in 1947 by the Viet Minh when he went to meet with them, making the current communist government wary of any memorial of the Prophet.