Hmongs march to demand release of religious prisoners, trial postponed

(VNRN) – Faced with hundreds of ethnic Hmong people marching on the courthouse in northern Tuyen Quang province demanding the release of four people prosecuted for their religious belief, the trial was suddenly postponed on March 18 by claiming that the nominal plaintiff, the village chief, was unavailable.

Four ethnic Hmong followers of Duong Van Minh (Dương Văn Mình) were on trial under Article 258 of the Vietnamese Penal Code for purportedly “abusing democratic freedoms.”

The four, Hoang Van Sang (Hoàng Văn Sang), Thao Quan Mua (Thào Quán Mua), Ly Van Dinh (Lý Văn Dinh) and Duong Van Tu (Dương Văn Tu), were arrested in late October 2013 after the government destroyed the Hmongs’ funeral homes.

The funeral homes were a central tenet of the Duong Van Minh faith, that the traditional practice of leaving a dead family member in the home is not hygienic and that dead people should be placed in a separate place and buried quickly.

When the Hmong build funeral homes, the government sees them as being influenced by an unrecognized religion, ban the reform, destroy the funeral homes, and arrest those who object. Most were beaten and tortured.

The first of the four defendants, Hoang Van Sang, had been tried on March 14 and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

On March 18, before the trial of Thao Quan Mua could begin, hundreds of Hmong marched to the courthouse.

Carrying homemade signs and banners, the Hmongs marched in long files and demanded the defendants’ release.

Apparently unsure what to do, the court postponed the case. At first, the reason given was because the judge was sick with stomachache. Later, the reason was clarified that the nominal plaintiff in the case, the head of the village People’s Committee, had to undergo emergency appendectomy.

A new date for the trial was set for March 27.

In addition to these four, two other Hmongs had been arrested at the same time, but their names have not been released and their trial dates have not been set.

Hanoi has been trying suppress the followers of Duong Van Minh for more than a decade. Their religion calls for a simple belief in God and a reform of burial traditions.

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