HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam slammed the U.S. State Department's annual religious freedom report as not objective and containing errors and insisted Thursday that Vietnamese people's religious rights were ensured.
The U.S. report issued Wednesday said government authorities, particularly at the local level, continued to limit the activities of unregistered religious groups. It said members of these and other groups reported convictions, assaults, excessive use of force, detentions, monitoring, hindering of movement, denials of registrations and other permissions, and other harassment.
The report cited about two dozen specific cases in which it said unregistered religious groups were maltreated by the government.
It said Mennonite pastors in southern Binh Duong Province reported government forces raided a Bible class in June and subsequently detained 29 pastors and 47 students, who were beaten before authorities released them the following day.
In another case it said followers of an unregistered Cao Dai group reported local authorities and hired men assaulted them when they were attending a ritual at a temple in southern Tay Ninh province in August. The followers said authorities threw shrimp paste and waste at them and deflated their motorbike tires.
At a briefing for reporters, Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh criticized the State Department's annual report.
"Regrettably, the U.S State Department's 2014 international religious freedom report, which acknowledged Vietnam's achievements in this area though, continued to make unobjective assessments and cited erroneous information on Vietnam," he said.
Binh said Vietnamese citizens' rights to freedom of religions and belief and their rights not to have religions and belief were enshrined in the Constitution and ensured in practice.
In defending its human rights record in the past, Vietnam has said that individual rights must be put in the context of the wider community and that only people who break the law have faced detainment.