A Vietnamese pastor and his colleague were abducted and violently attacked on 27 February during a visit to meet fellow activists in central Vietnam.

Nguyễn Trung Tôn and his colleague Nguyễn Viết Tứ were beaten, stripped, tied up and left naked beside a mountain road in a remote area of Hà Tĩnh province.

The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) said it was “deeply concerned by the increasing use of physical violence perpetrated by police in plain clothes or gangs of thugs hired by the authorities to repress dissidents, human rights defenders and civil society activists in Vietnam”.

In 2011, Tôn was sentenced to two years in prison and two years’ house arrest for “activities undermining the State” and “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”.

The VCHR says that “for the past few weeks, he has been subjected to repeated harassments and intimidation by Security Police, including death threats against him and his family”.

The human rights group said the incident is “indicative of an increasing climate of repressive violence against all forms of free expression in Vietnam”.

Recently, a visiting delegation from the European Parliament were denied access to the prisoners of conscience they wished to meet, including Christian human rights lawyer Nguyễn Văn Đài, who has also spent time in prison and under house arrest.

“We only met the Government Board of Religious Affairs, and we did not visit any prisoners,” said MEP Beatriz Becerra. “The government said it was against the law to visit prisoners under investigation. But we clearly expressed our concerns about that, and made our expectations very clear that Vietnam must respect international standards in the treatment of prisoners.”

In a joint statement, the delegation added: “We called on the authorities to put an end to religious persecutions and to ensure that the newly adopted law on freedom of religion or belief from November 2016 fully complies with the international standards.”