Two dozen Christians in Vietnam were recently attacked by a mob for their faith.
The incident happened in the north-western highlands of the country when members of an ethnic group known as Hmong decided to accept Jesus Christ.
Their conversion provoked the village chief who threatened to expel the believers from the community if they didn't renounce their new-found faith.
The Hmong Christians refused to recant, prompting a mob to attack them. According to the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR), four of the Christians were hospitalized with injuries to the head and arms.
The attacks come on the heels of the new Law on Belief and Religion passed earlier this year giving Vietnam's government more powers to control religious practices in the country.
"Such attacks and acts of harassment against religious communities have multiplied recently in Vietnam," VCHR noted in a statement. "The authorities are invoking the law to criminalize legitimate religious activities, creating a climate of impunity for a wide range of violations of freedom of religion or belief."
Despite Vietnam's political and economic opening in recent years, the communist government is still wary of people of faith. Religions of all persuasions, but in particular Christianity, are often viewed with suspicion.
"Laws are passed that disadvantage the Christian minority, and their implementation at the grassroots level leads to persecution from local officials," said Open Doors, a group that monitors religious freedom around the world.
Roman Catholics are by far the largest Christian community. Yet, some of the fastest church growth is happening among remote tribes like the Hmong. In many cases, these tribal groups "experience the most intense persecution, especially in the rural areas" of the country.
"These believers face exclusion, harassment, discrimination, loss of property and even violent attack for their faith," said Open Doors, which ranked Vietnam among the top 50 countries where Christian persecution is most severe.
Roughly 400,000 of the one million Hmong in Vietnam are Christians. The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights says new restrictions on church activities are forcing many Hmong converts to make difficult choices on where they can gather for worship.
"These small Christian groups in the remote highland areas are being forced to join the larger, state-registered denominations," said Vo Van Ai, president of VCHR in a statement. "This is not only impractical – the churches are based in the large towns – but local Christians also object that state-registered churches have compromised on religious practices in order to obtain registration."
"Those who do not conform to these demands risk harassment and persecution, as in the case of the Hmong," he added.
According to published reports, some eight million of the roughly 92 million people in Vietnam identify as Christian.