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22 October 2008

Traditional Unionist MEP Jim Allister has used a debate in the European Parliament on a proposed agreement between Vietnam and the EU, to raise the high level of religious persecution in the south-east Asian country.

Mr Allister frequently pursues issue of persecution of Christians in oppressive countries when such reports come up for consideration in the European Parliament. This time he focused on a relentless campaign by the Vietnamese authorities against evangelical house churches, pressing that human rights should not be sacrificed for the sake of increased trade with these offending countries.

In the course of his remarks Mr Allister said:-

"Despite the pious protestations from the Vietnamese Government that they guarantee religious freedom, the reality is very different, particularly for isolated Christian groups. While confiscation of church property has been rife, those linked to unregistered evangelical house churches have been particular targets for persecution.

Just months ago a young tribal man who refused to repudiate his Christian faith died from injuries inflicted under official interrogation. Hundreds remain in prison for their faith, where the ill-treatment is appalling. I salute their courage, condemn their persecutors, but above all appeal to this EU not to put improving relations and trade with North Vietnam above defending and demanding basic human rights for these human beings of great faith.

We must not for the sake of trade or other short term gain sanitise the outrageous human rights record of Hanoi."

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NI politics