09/18/2008, 00.00
VIETNAM
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The dead speak to Hanoi media to discredit Thai Ha Catholics

The anti-demonstrators campaign continues. After presenting fake priests, a TV station pays a nameless beggar to claim to be Christian. A Catholic who died years ago is interviewed whilst false statements are attributed to a judge and a priest.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Now the dead are interviewed. If there was no clear political goal campaign behind the campaign by government media against Thai Ha parishioners, the whole thing could be dismissed as ridiculous. However, in an attempt to find Catholics who are against peaceful demonstrations by local faithful a TV station goes so far as to pay a poor man to speak against the former. A Catholic judge and a priest are forced to deny statements attributed to them in the print media. Another paper reports a statement by an actual Catholic; too bad that he has been dead for some years.

Imagine the reaction of Judge Vu Kim My, prosecutor in Kim Son (Phat Diem diocese), when last Monday People’s Police reported statements he never made. “I never said anything about Thai Ha,” he said after reading his alleged statement. The journalist who interviewed him asked him some general questions about the law; “everything else in the article was added.”

What happened to the judge confirms what the diocese of Hanoi had said in early September about another case. At that time two alleged priests, Pham Huy Ba and Nguyen Van Nhat, had spoken against the demonstrations, except that according to the diocese “they have never been priests”.

Similarly, the New Hanoi newspaper printed a statement by Nguyen Quoc Cuong, an alleged member of the Dai On parish in Chuong My who accused Thai ha demonstrators of “not following the Catholic catechism;” except, said Mgr Vu Huy Chuong, “such a person simply did not exist” according to a member of the parish council.

On the same newspaper, this almost miraculous event was followed by an even greater one. A few days ago a certain Nguyen Duc Thang, a dissident Catholic was presented as an opponent to the Thai Ha protesters. Fr Nguyen Khac Que, vicar in Thach Bich parish, confirmed that the man was among his parishioners, but there was a glitch in the whole story: “He died a few years ago.”

Fr Nguyen Van Khanh, vicar in Gia Nghia (Lam Long province), did not fare much better when he heard state-run radio The Voice of Vietnam  say that he was against the demonstrators, going so far as to quote him saying that “all the parish’s land problems with the government were solved completely in fairness.” In fact not only was he never interviewed, but his parish is involved in a legal wrangle with the authorities over Church land “they seized without compensation.”

Last but not least a group a Hanoi TV crew allegedly interviewed an old man on 4 September. He was presented as a Catholic, but when asked for his Christian name, he could not give it because he did not know it. He eventually said that he was just a poor man and the TV people “gave me some money to act and speak as instructed.”

In response to the attacks Catholic authorities have issued warnings for priests and the faithful. A note from the deputy chancellor of the diocese of Hanoi, Fr Anthony Pham Anh Dung, has been read in all Sunday Masses. In it the faithful are urged to be careful about possible tricks by state media, especially during interviews, designed to “fabricate false scenarios in order to mislead and deceive public opinion.”

“Let us not forget to pray for writers and all those who work in the media. May they know how to respect each and every person and have the courage to act according to their conscience,” he said.

In other dioceses, stories about what is happening, published by AsiaNews and other Catholic agencies have been translated into Vietnamese and reproduced in parish newsletters and on bulletin boards. Photocopies are made and handed out.

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