Vietnamese Foreign Ministry Lê Thị Thu Hằng. — VNA/VNS Photo Dương Giang
HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam had followed a consistent policy of respecting and guaranteeing the right to freedom of any religion, spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry Lê Thị Thu Hằng said at the ministry’s regular press conference in Hà Nội on Thursday.
She made the statement in response to reporters’ queries about Việt Nam’s comments on a recent report on the religious situation in Việt Nam released by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.
The spokesperson said the report recognised the achievements and progress in ensuring and promoting religious life in Việt Nam, but it still contained false information about Việt Nam.
“The consistent policy of the State of Việt Nam is respecting and guaranteeing the right to freedom of religion and belief, and freedom of non-religion and belief of citizens. This is clearly stated in Việt Nam’s constitution and law, and guaranteed and respected in reality,” she said.
Over the years, Việt Nam had spared no effort to improve its legal system and policies in the field, especially approving the Law on Belief and Religion, as well as decrees guiding the implementation of the law, Hằng said.
The practice of belief and religion was ensured with the annual organisation of thousands of religious festivals and activities, she said, adding that 95 per cent of Việt Nam’s population practised a belief or religion, and more than 24.3 million were followers of religions, accounting for 27 per cent of the population.
The country had 53,000 religious dignitaries and 28,000 places of worship. Việt Nam held an abundance of religious events, with over 8,000 religious festivals annually. Religious organisations also actively participated in international exchange and co-operation activities, according to Hang.
She noted that Việt Nam had hosted many major international religious events such as the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017 and the United Nations Day of Vesak for the third time this year.
In response to questions about Việt Nam’s reaction to Indonesia’s capture and destruction of Vietnamese fishing vessels, the foreign ministry spokesperson said Vietnam was deeply concerned over the issue. This action was inconsistent with bilateral relations and contrary to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982, she said.
Việt Nam had worked with the Indonesian side many times and through different channels regarding this matter and asked Indonesia’s Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and marine forces to act appropriately in line with international law, UNCLOS, and the two countries’ bilateral relations, she added.
The spokesperson said Việt Nam also proposed that Indonesia treat Vietnamese fishing vessels and fishermen humanely according to the two nations’ relations and the ASEAN spirit of solidarity.
Vietnam hoped to develop friendly relations and multi-faceted co-operation with Indonesia in the spirit of their strategic partnership for the benefit of both peoples, contributing to the building of a strong ASEAN Community, as well as for peace, stability, co-operation and development in the region and the world, she emphasised.
Regarding the entry of the two US naval vessels in the 12 nautical mile area around the Ga Ven and Gạc Ma (Johnson South) reefs of Việt Nam’s Trường Sa (Spratly) archipelago, Hằng said: “Vietnam has full legal foundations and historical evidence affirming its sovereignty over the Hoàng Sa (Paracel) and Trường Sa (Spratly) archipelagoes in accordance with international law.”
As a coastal nation in the East Sea and a member of UNCLOS 1982, Việt Nam held that all countries were entitled to enjoy freedom of navigation and aviation in accordance with the provisions of international law, especially UNCLOS 1982, Hằng said.
Việt Nam called on countries to continue making active and practical contributions to the maintenance of regional peace and stability, as well as respect to international legal obligations and laws on the seas and oceans, she added. — VNS