Imprisoned Vietnamese pastor falsely told by officials that his wife cheated on him

Vietnamese officials reportedly falsely told a pastor imprisoned in Dong Nai province that his wife cheated on him to force him to stop fighting for his religious freedom.

(REUTERS / Kham)Vietnamese flags and a Metro flag fly at Metro supermarket in Hanoi, Vietnam, April 11, 2016. Picture taken April 11, 2016.

In an interview with UCA News, Tran Thi Hong recalled how she learned that Vietnamese officials had visited her husband Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh in the Xuan Loc Prison in Dong Nai province and told him that his wife had cheated on him. She accused the government of resorting to malicious tactics to force the incarcerated pastor to admit the charges against him in exchange for his freedom.

"I was shocked when my husband said on May 11 that public security officials from Hanoi came to the camp and told him that I had been unfaithful. The officials asked him 'don't you know anything about your wife?' and said 'she is committing adultery with a man,'" Hong told UCA. "The communist government maliciously lied to separate our family and force my husband to accept his crimes as a condition for his freedom."

Hong said her husband, who has been in jail for six years, has endured mistreatment at the hands of prison officials. Pastor Chinh was handed an 11-year jail sentence in 2011 for allegedly undermining national solidarity, but Hong maintains that he is innocent and that he is merely a victim of religious persecution.

On May 24, Hong and representatives from religious minorities in Vietnam spoke to a U.S. Department of State delegation in Ho Chi Minh City. She talked about her husband's case and explained that the government avoids using religion-related charges against ethnic Christians to avoid condemnation from the international community.

Last month, Radio Free Asia ran a story on how Vietnamese police subjected Hong to an intense interrogation about her meeting with the U.S. delegation on March 30. The pastor's wife reportedly retained injuries after being beaten by authorities on April 14.

The Vietnamese constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but the government exerts strict control over religious activities in the country. Pastors and believers who do not register with authorities are routinely harassed, and Hong's family have been subjected to beatings and other forms of harassment in the past because of her husband's situation.