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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
01HANOI2789 2001-10-24 10:20:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Hanoi
Cable title:  

FATHER NGUYEN VAN LY: WHY AND WHAT NEXT

Tags:   PHUM PINS PREL VM HUMANR RELFREE 
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241020Z Oct 01

 2001HANOI02789 - CONFIDENTIAL
 
 
 
                           CONFIDENTIAL     PTQ0206

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ACTION EAP-00   

INFO  LOG-00   NP-00    ACQ-00   CIAE-00  INL-00   DODE-00  DS-00    
      EUR-00   FBIE-00  VC-00    TEDE-00  INR-00   VCE-00   NSAE-00  
      SS-00    SNIS-00  NISC-00  DSCC-00  DRL-02   NFAT-00  SAS-00   
        /002W
                  ------------------347C08  241033Z /38    
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4498
INFO ASEAN COLLECTIVE
AMEMBASSY VATICAN
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 002789 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV AND DRL/RF

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/24/2011
TAGS: PHUM PINS PREL VM HUMANR RELFREE
SUBJECT: FATHER NGUYEN VAN LY: WHY AND WHAT NEXT

REF: A. HO CHI MINH CITY 1201 AND PREVIOUS

- B. HANOI 2276



1. (U) CLASSIFIED BY POL/C SCOTT BELLARD, REASON: 1.5
(D)



2. (C) SUMMARY. FATHER LY'S HARSH SENTENCE STEMS FROM
THE VERY DIFFERENT PERCEPTIONS THE VIETNAMESE HAVE
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 02 HANOI 02789 01 OF 02 241032Z
ABOUT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND THE BOUNDARIES BETWEEN
RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL ACTIVITIES. IT ALSO REFLECTS
HEIGHTENED SENSITIVITY TO CHALLENGES TO NATIONAL UNITY.
THE TIMING IS UNLIKELY RELATED TO THE RATIFICATION OF
THE BILATERAL TRADE AGREEMENT OR THE CONSIDERATION OF
THE VIETNAM HUMAN RIGHTS ACT, NOR IS THE SENTENCE MEANT
PRIMARILY TO SEND ANY SIGNAL TO THE U.S. (ALTHOUGH IT
CLEARLY DOES). PASSAGE OF THE VHRA WOULD EXACERBATE
VIETNAMESE SENSITIVITIES AND MAKE THE GVN MORE, NOT
LESS, INCLINED TO GET TOUGH ON WOULD-BE ACTIVISTS AND
REFORMERS. CONSISTENT USG MESSAGES OF OPPOSITION TO
FATHER LY'S SENTENCE AND CALLS FOR HIS RELEASE WILL BE
INEFFECTIVE AT LEAST IN THE SHORT TERM BUT ARE
NONETHELESS NECESSARY. THE GVN IS UNLIKELY TO WELCOME
OR AGREE TO A VISIT BY THE U.S. COMMISSION ON
INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, BUT IT IS WORTH MAKING
A VIGOROUS CASE FOR IT WITH THE VIETNAMESE NOW. END
SUMMARY.



3. (C) THE FIFTEEN YEAR CUMULATIVE SENTENCES LEVIED
ON FATHER NGUYEN VAN LY ON OCTOBER 19 (REF A) REPRESENT
A BLOW TO VIETNAM'S HUMAN RIGHTS PERFORMANCE IN 2001
AND A SETBACK TO THE OVERALL TREND OF EXPANDED
RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES OVER THE PAST DECADE. EMBASSY HAS
ALREADY NOTED OUR DEEP REGRET ABOUT THIS DEVELOPMENT TO
THE MFA. BOTH THE EMBASSY AND CONGEN HO CHI MINH CITY
WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO IN DISCUSSIONS WITH SENIOR GVN
OFFICIALS IN HANOI AND IN HUE.



4. (C) SOME OFFICIALS AT THE MFA, BUT PERHAPS FEW AT
OTHER GVN AGENCIES OR WITHIN THE VIETNAMESE COMMUNIST
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PAGE 03 HANOI 02789 01 OF 02 241032Z
PARTY, UNDERSTAND THE NEGATIVE IMPLICATIONS OF THIS
VERDICT ON THE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP AND ESPECIALLY ON
THE ONGOING SENATE DELIBERATIONS ABOUT THE VIETNAM
HUMAN RIGHTS ACT, WHICH THE GVN AND VCP ACROSS THE
BOARD OPPOSE STRENUOUSLY. BUT THE VIETNAMESE VIEW OF
FATHER LY'S CASE DIFFERS FUNDAMENTALLY FROM OUR OWN;
TO THE GVN AND VCP, THIS IS NOT A RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
ISSUE BUT RATHER A CASE INVOLVING ILLEGAL POLITICAL
ACTIVISM AIMED AT UNDERMINING THE STATE AND SOWING
DISUNITY AMONG THE PEOPLE.



5. (C) THE VIETNAMESE VIEW IS THAT FATHER LY (AND
ALL THOSE IN THE OFFICIAL CHURCHES AND OTHER AUTHORIZED
RELIGIOUS ENTITIES) HAS THE FREEDOM TO PRACTICE HIS
FAITH -- AS LONG AS RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES DO NOT VEER
INTO WHAT ARE DEEMED POLITICAL REALMS. IN THEIR
MINDSET, ANYTHING THAT IS PERCEIVED AS EVEN REMOTELY
CHALLENGING THE LEADERSHIP OF THE VCP, UNDERMINING THE
AUTHORITY OF THE STATE, OR VIOLATING NATIONAL
SOLIDARITY FALL INTO THE LATTER CATEGORY. THEY SEE
FATHER LY AS A LONG-TIME MALCONTENT (WHO FAILED TO
LEARN A LESSON EVEN FROM AN EARLIER 10 YEAR SENTENCE
FOR ANTI-REVOLUTIONARY ACTIVITIES), WHO INCREASINGLY IN
2000 AND 2001 REFUSED TO HEED THE "WELL-INTENTIONED"
WARNINGS OF THE VCP AND GVN AGAINST CONTINUING SUCH
"SUBVERSIVE" ACTIVITIES. THEY ESPECIALLY SEE HIS
FEBRUARY TESTIMONY TO THE U.S. COMMISSION ON
INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AS BORDERING ON
TREASON, SINCE THEY BELIEVE HE WAS SEEKING TO GET THE
U.S. TO INTERVENE IN VIETNAMESE INTERNAL AFFAIRS, A
CARDINAL SIN HERE.
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PAGE 04 HANOI 02789 01 OF 02 241032Z



6. (C) TO THE EXTENT THAT AVERAGE VIETNAMESE PEOPLE
KNOW ABOUT FATHER LY (MORE NOW FOLLOWING HIS TELEVISED
CONVICTION), THEY PROBABLY ARE INCLINED TO BELIEVE THAT
HE WAS INDEED ENGAGED IN SOMETHING HE SHOULD NOT HAVE
BEEN AND WAS ASKING FOR TROUBLE. EVEN THE BISHOP OF
HUE AND OTHER CATHOLICS HAVE INDICATED PRIVATELY TO
EMBOFFS AND OTHER MEMBERS OF THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS THAT
FATHER LY WAS GOING TOO FAR AND PUSHING TOO HARD FOR
CHANGE IN WAYS THEY BELIEVED UNHELPFUL TO THE CHURCH'S
FUTURE HERE. PROBABLY A LARGE MAJORITY OF VIETNAMESE
TODAY ARE PLEASED WITH THE GREATER PERSONAL LIBERTIES
COMPARED WITH ONLY A DECADE AGO, AND WORRY MORE ABOUT
THEIR ECONOMIC WELL-BEING THAN THEY DO ABOUT EXPANDING
THE SPHERE OF POLITICAL AND OTHER FREEDOMS. THE GVN
WILL HAVE ITS EYE ON FATHER LY'S LOCAL SUPPORTERS, WHO
MIGHT CONCEIVABLY WISH TO PROTEST, AND AUTHORITIES WILL
DEAL FIRMLY WITH ANY NASCENT SIGNS OF DISSATISFACTION.



7. (C) THE SEVERITY OF THE SENTENCE CLEARLY REFLECTS
THE HEIGHTENED SENSITIVITY THIS YEAR -- FOLLOWING THE
ETHNIC DEMONSTRATIONS IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS IN
FEBRUARY -- TO PERCEIVED CHALLENGES TO THE AUTHORITY OF
THE GVN AND VCP. IT ALSO MARKS OFFICIAL EXASPERATION
THAT FATHER LY DID NOT EVEN TO TRY TO PLAY BY THE RULES
DESIGNED TO "HELP" HIM TO REFORM, E.G., OBEY THE
GUIDELINES OF HIS "ADMINISTRATION PROBATION."



8. (C) THE COURT IN HUE IS UNLIKELY TO HAVE MADE
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PAGE 02 HANOI 02789 02 OF 02 241033Z
THIS DECISION IN A VACUUM; THE SENTENCE PROBABLY
REFLECTS A CONSENSUS WITHIN SENIOR LEVELS OF THE GVN
AND VCP. IT WAS MEANT TO SEND A MESSAGE, PROBABLY NOT
TO THE U.S. BUT TO WOULD-BE ACTIVISTS AND REFORMERS IN
VIETNAM, ESPECIALLY THOSE IN AND AROUND HUE WHO KNOW
AND MIGHT SUPPORT FATHER LY. THAT IS WHY THE NEWS
ABOUT FATHER LY'S SENTENCE WAS BROADLY CARRIED IN THE
NATIONAL MEDIA, INCLUDING TELEVISION. THE MESSAGE IS:
DO NOT CHALLENGE THE AUTHORITY OF THE STATE AND PARTY,
AND ONLY ENGAGE IN THOSE ACTIVITIES THAT THE STATE AND
PARTY HAVE AUTHORIZED FOR YOUR OWN GOOD. THE CASE AND
TRIAL LIKELY PROCEEDED AT THEIR OWN PACE AS LOCAL
AUTHORITIES PREPARED AND PRESENTED THE CASE AGAINST
HIM; THE TIMING PROBABLY HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE
RECENT U.S. RATIFICATION OF THE BILATERAL TRADE
AGREEMENT OR ONGOING SENATE CONSIDERATION OF THE VHRA.
BUT PASSAGE OF THE VHRA WOULD FURTHER RAISE VIETNAM'S
IRE AGAINST PERCEIVED US INTERFERENCE AND MAKE THE GVN
MORE, NOT LESS, LIKELY TO REACT HARSHLY TO NEW
PERCEIVED THREATS TO ITS AUTHORITY AT HOME.



9. (C) EMBASSY BELIEVES THAT THERE NEEDS TO BE A
CONSISTENT MESSAGE FROM THE USG, CONGRESS, AND THE U.S.
COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM SHOWING
OUR CLEAR-CUT OPPOSITION TO THIS SENTENCE, OUR
CONVICTION THAT FATHER LY AND ALL VIETNAMESE CITIZENS
SHOULD HAVE GREATER RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS AND OTHER
LIBERTIES INCLUDING FREEDOMS OF ASSOCIATION AND SPEECH,
AND OUR CALL FOR HIS RELEASE. SUCH A MESSAGE WILL NOT
BE SUCCESSFUL, BUT IT MIGHT AT LEAST FORCE AUTHORITIES
TO BE MORE CAREFUL IN THEIR CARE OF FATHER LY IN
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 03 HANOI 02789 02 OF 02 241033Z
PRISON, A SMALL VICTORY. VIETNAM WILL NOT WANT ITS OWN
PEOPLE, MUCH LESS THE USG, TO BELIEVE THAT IT CAVED IN
TO FOREIGN PRESSURE ON THIS CASE. UNFORTUNATELY,
FATHER LY IS LIKELY TO REMAIN IN PRISON FOR THE
FORESEEABLE FUTURE. PERHAPS HIS BEST HOPE FOR EARLY
RELEASE MIGHT BE ON MEDICAL GROUNDS, SINCE EVEN THE GVN
WOULD NOT WANT TO HAVE TO EXPLAIN HIS DEATH IN PRISON.
HOWEVER, MOST RECENT ACCOUNTS HAVE INDICATED THAT HE
WAS IN GOOD HEALTH.



10. (C) EMBASSY WOULD WELCOME A VISIT SOON BY THE
U.S. COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AS
AN EXCELLENT MEANS TO MAKING SURE THAT THE GVN BETTER
UNDERSTANDS THE US COMMITMENT TO PROMOTING RELIGIOUS
FREEDOM IN VIETNAM AND ELSEWHERE. CHANCES OF
VIETNAMESE WILLINGNESS TO AGREE TO SUCH A VISIT ARE
SLIM, ESPECIALLY GIVEN THE IMMINENT RELEASE OF THE 2001
REPORT, HOWEVER. EMBASSY NONETHELESS BELIEVES IT WOULD
BE WORTHWHILE TO MAKE THE REQUEST AND PURSUE IT
VIGOROUSLY HERE AND IN WASHINGTON.

PORTER

CONFIDENTIAL