Vietnam is one of the few remaining communist nations in the world. The government maintains tight control on political expression and has recently expanded its control over all religious activities. Although a legislative framework for religious freedom was implemented in 2004-2005, the government maintains a specialized police force for dealing with religious groups. Official government documents give local authorities in the northwest the mandate to compel Christians to recant their faith. In November 2012, the government of Vietnam approved a new decree that rendered most house churches illegal as of Jan. 1, 2013. The USCIRF has designated Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern since 2001.
The government restricts religious freedom through legislation, registration requirements, and by harassing and intimidating unsanctioned religious groups. In some urban areas, religious activity is permitted within government-approved parameters. But in rural areas, local authorities view Christianity as a foreign threat and often use discrimination, intimidation, property destruction, detentions, beatings and forced renunciations of faith to halt church growth. Many of Vietnam's more than 50 ethnic minority groups face persecution because of both their ethnicity and Christian faith. Several ethnic Christians have died while being tortured. Persecution is more severe in the north than in the south. VOMC sources report an increase in arrests and interrogations of Christian leaders in the past year.