Vinh Long (AsiaNews) – A 4-star hotel is set to replace an orphanage if the local authorities in Vinh Long (southern Vietnam) have their way and allow the Saigon Tourist Company to finish construction on land seized from the Saint Vincent de Paul Congregation’s sisters. Although construction has already started the faithful and the local bishop have reacted with outrage. The bishop also released a letter criticising the government’s unjust action.
“Provincial authorities have begun the construction of a hotel on 10,235 m2 of land that belongs to the Congregation of Saint-Paul,” Bishop Thomas Nguyên Van Tân said. “We cannot accept this solution imposed by those who hold power in their hands. We cannot remain silent because silence at this point in time means complicity and accepting an injustice.”
The sisters of the Congregation have been in Vinh Long since 1871. They ran a convent and an orphanage on Thi Huynh Street in Vinh Long Town until 1975.
Starting in April 1977 the authorities began seizing land and buildings as part of their drive to “transform society to build socialism”.
On 6 September 1977 they took over the convent/orphanage complex from the nuns, sending away its young inmates, including disabled children.
At the same time they seized other buildings belonging to the diocese, jailing many priests and sending home tens of consecrated people.
Under Resolution 1958 of the People’s Committee in Cuu Long province, the convent/orphanage compound was supposed to become a provincial hospital with a paediatric ward. This however never happened.
For the past six years the nuns have been trying to the get the land and the building back in order to use for its original purpose, namely to house and help abandoned and disabled children. But their efforts have met with no response. Instead a 4-star hotel is now supposed to rise on the same spot.
“When the People’s Committee meets they are full of slogans about the people, for the people, of the people; but nothing happens,” said an old farmer. “Their slogans are old and empty. We have been waiting for 40 years to get a bit of the good life, in vain.”
What is more the local population has been threatened with measures that might be taken against anyone opposed to the government’s decision.