UN official says Vietnam seriously violates religious freedom, notes some improvements

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A U.N. official says Vietnamese security agents monitored his visit to assess religious freedom in the country and that people he wanted to meet were harassed.

Heiner Bielefeldt told journalists Thursday that he found serious violations of religious freedom in Vietnam, while noting some improvements.

The U.N. special rapporteur said his whereabouts during the 11-day, fact-finding mission were closely monitored by undeclared "security and police agents" and that his planned visits to some provinces were interrupted because people he wanted to meet were under heavy surveillance, intimidated and harassed.

Bielefeldt cited as an improvement that space for religious practices has increased in recent years.

Vietnam's communist government official recognizes nearly a dozen religions, but others that are not sanctioned are banned.