Cao Dai Church in
Vietnam Resists Takeover Bid by Followers of State-Controlled Branch
RFA | 06-18-2020
Followers of Vietnam’s Cao Dai religion confronted supporters of a
state-sanctioned branch of the church who came to take over their facilities on
Thursday, with church members barring the door against the intruders amid heated
arguments with local authorities, sources told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
The attempted takeover of the Hieu Xuong, also
called Phu Lam, temple in Phu Yen province’s Tuy Hoa city was launched in the
early morning by about 60 members of the state-approved Cao Dai church together
with local police, a leader of the other group said.
He and other members of his congregation then
quickly gathered to protect their building, the church leader named Nguyen Ha
“We closed the door, not allowing them into the
temple, and some of our followers who were standing outside spoke with the
authorities and the state-affiliated Cao Dai group,” Nguyen said, adding, “The
dispute in front of the temple’s gate lasted for many hours.”
At 11:00, the state-sanctioned group departed
after taking video footage of the clash, he said.
Speaking to RFA following the clash, Cao Van
Minh—a Cao Dai church leader and manager of the Hieu Xuong temple—said he hopes
that the state-affiliated Cao Dai group and the local authorities will now leave
“We don’t want them to disturb us anymore,” Cao
“We only want to be authentic followers of the
Cao Dai church belonging to God, and not have to argue about these things,” he
Reached for comment, an office on duty at the
Tuy Hoa City police department denied any knowledge of the clash.
Vietnam’s government officially recognizes the
Cao Dai religion, which combines elements of many religions, but imposes harsh
controls on dissenting groups who do not follow the state-sanctioned branches,
and clashes are frequent.
In March 2017, authorities disrupted a group of
unsanctioned Cao Dai adherents in Dong Thap province’s Tam Nong district and
seized their church for use by an officially recognized sect of the religion,
according to the building’s administrator Duong Ngoc Re.
Re told RFA that provincial and district
authorities, as well as those from local Phu Thanh A village, ordered him to
meet with them twice on March 16 and 19 to force his group to follow a
sanctioned Cao Dai sect, but he refused.
Just a month before, two Cao Dai followers were
beaten and robbed by plainclothes police, a source told RFA at the time, adding
that local authorities often hire thugs or plainclothes officers to beat and
harass activists when they lack evidence to arrest them.
The State Department removed Vietnam from its
list of Countries of Particular Concern for violating religious freedom in 2006
amid improving diplomatic relations, but rights groups and Vietnamese religious
activists have long questioned that decision.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious
Freedom (USCIRF) said in an annual report in April 2019 that “systematic,
ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom” justified returning Hanoi to
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.