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Washington, D.C.- Radio Free Asia (RFA) conducted an exclusive interview with Le Quang Liem, a long-standing leader of the Hoa Hao Buddhist Church in Vietnam. RFA recently learned that the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) has accused him of espionage on behalf of unnamed foreign powers. RFA contacted Liem in Ho Chi Minh City and spoke with him on the morning of August 28. The interview was aired in its entirety on August 28 during the 9 to 10 p.m. broadcast to Vietnam. Among his remarks to RFA's Vietnamese service, Le Quang Liem, 80, shared several important pieces of information. The government of Vietnam accuses him, through an intensive press campaign, of being the henchman of foreign powers to plot the "overthrow of the legal and constitutional government of Vietnam." This campaign began in April. Conversely, the CPV had also informally sought Liem's cooperation to be made chairman of an advisory committee on religious questions. "I have refused and said it will not do. Why, they asked me. I said that... a religion should be independent and not be an appurtenance of the government. Let them organize a public conference gathering all the major leaders of the Hoa Hao in the nation - the conference can even be presided over by a government person - and let them present their opinions. Only then can we know what they want. And to start with, the government should not interfere or try to guide them one way or the other. This will not do." He also spoke of his rebuff of an attempt to draw him into a scheme that would have embarrassed the government on April 30 - the anniversary of the fall of Saigon. In response to the suggestion Liem said, "my stand is a purely religious stand, I do not engage in politics and I do not cause disturbances. My struggle, while very tough, is also non-violent. I believe that all violence and sabotage only causes misery to people and harms them." Even if a grenade can kill a communist leader, he would be replaced right away by another, according to Mr. Liem. "That is why I believe that killing people is not the solution whereas the real need of the Vietnamese people at the present time is freedom, the restoration of freedom. Now, freedom and human rights happen to be the main trend of the whole world. That is why we should struggle...to get the support of the whole world and force a change of direction on the communist regime, so that they have to grant the people their basic freedoms. That is the main point." Le Quang Liem also said he does not believe in the establishment of a government-in-exile especially since the main powers, including the United States, have changed direction from military confrontation to a policy of peaceful engagement. "As for the distribution of leaflets, grenade throwing, setting off land mines or other explosives, these are all murderous weapons killing the innocent. That is a crime and I am incapable of such a crime." In closing, Liem said: "They want to come for me? I am ready. I tell you, I am not sure where my struggle will lead me, and it's sort of doubtful that I will be able to help my church very much. I might end up in jail or even get killed, it's all equal to me." RFA just learned that yesterday, August 28, Nguyen Van Dien, second in command to Le Quang Liem, has been arrested by the authorities - possibly in connection with the same charge leveled at Liem. Radio Free Asia is a private corporation that was established in 1996 to provide news and information to listeners in China, Tibet, Vietnam, Burma, North Korea, Laos and Cambodia. It is funded by grants from Congress. RFA's mission is to be a forum for a variety of opinions and voices from within Asian nations whose people do not have full freedom of expression. Listener confidence in the quality and credibility of its broadcasts is RFA's highest priority. RFA is a journalistically independent organization whose autonomy is key to providing objective domestic news and information.


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