04/10/2008, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Threats and media attacks against the Catholics of Dong Da

by J.B. An Dang
After summoning the superior of the Redemptorists, the authorities have launched a campaign of accusations on national television and in the newspapers, with accusations against the faithful who are asking for the restitution of the land of the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Hanoi, and calls for "drastic action" against them.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - The latest threat seems to have been aimed at Fr Vu Khoi Phung, superior of the Redemptorists in Vietnam, who was ordered to present himself before the People’s Committee of Dong Da District, where he could be arrested.  After the passing of the April 6 ultimatum requiring demonstrators to leave the land of the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Hanoi, which they are asking to be given back, the affair seems to have halted for the moment on the level of threats and attacks in the press.

Since Monday, in fact, national television and newspapers have been referring to the matter by affirming that the demonstrators are occupying property belonging to the state, disturbing the public order, holding illegal prayer meetings in public areas, and erecting, also illegally, crucifixes and images of the Virgin.  But none of this appears in the Vietnamese media in English and French, destined for foreigners and dedicated to the country's international image.

Concern is being created by the call, also advanced by the national media, for "drastic action" against the demonstrators who, since January 6, have been meeting peacefully in prayer on parish property.  Currently several hundred of them have erected tents there, and each day, after morning and evening Mass, the Redemptorists lead a procession with a large cross at the front.  They are asking for the restitution of the area taken from them in 1928: 60,000 square metres on which were built the church, the convent, and the seminary.  In 1954, with the rise to power of the communist party, the religious were imprisoned or deported.  The 60,000 square metres of their property were reduced to 2,700.  The rest was gradually used up by the public authorities.  Since then, there have been repeated petitions to ask for the restitution of the land, on which a hospital has also been built, while some of it has been given to state-run companies and members of the government.  The most recent case, from the beginning of the year, is the granting of part of the land to a packaging company, Chiến Thắng.

Police agents, both in uniform and in plainclothes, are now openly photographing and filming those present.

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