» 10/01/2008, 00.00
Video cameras, surveillance, paid demonstrations to intimidate the archbishop of Hanoi
J.B. An Dang
No one can enter or leave the archbishop's residence without being videotaped. The authorities are acting openly, with the clear objective of forcing Archbishop Kiet to resign. Another church raided.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Video cameras, telephone surveillance equipment, "spontaneous" demonstrations with insults and threats, another raid on a church. The Hanoi authorities are doing everything they can to intimidate Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, with the unconcealed objective of forcing his resignation or removal.
Video cameras and telephone surveillance equipment have been placed openly on the terrace of the Hoan Kiem elementary school (in the photo), to the right of the archbishop's residence, and on neighboring buildings. In practice, no one can enter or leave without being filmed, and the archbishop is essentially confined to his residence. Some appointments and celebrations have been rescheduled or canceled. Around the archbishop's residence, groups of elderly people are paid 20,000 dong (about 1.2 dollars) to pretend to be Catholic and shout at Archbishop Kiet to resign. The measures clearly have the purpose of intimidation.
The same objective was behind a raid carried out against the little church of Mac Thuong in Ly Nhan. Hundreds of thugs entered the building shouting obscenities and threatening the faithful, telling them their lives will not be easy as long as the archbishop remains at his post.
On another front, the president of the people's committee of the district of Hoan Kiem, Hoang Cong Khoi, has fined the archbishop 1,750,000 dong (about 105 dollars) for placing a statue of the Pietà inside the building of the former apostolic delegation. The statue has been confiscated. The vice chancellor of the diocese, Fr John Le Trong Cung, has protested against the fine, saying that "the nunciature and its land are not state properties. They are Church properties. Hanoi Catholics did nothing wrong when they placed the statue on the grounds of the building". He also calls the fine "unlawful, as it violates section four of the ordinance on belief and religion".
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Receiving the leadership of the bishops' conference, the prime minister asserts that if the archbishop of Hanoi does not change his attitude about Church property, it will have "a negative impact" on relations with the episcopate and with the Holy See.
Hanoi police threaten Redemptorists and their supporters
With the clear intention of intimidation, security forces charge the religious with using their influence to incite the faithful in a confrontation with the government, destroying state property, assembling and praying illegally in public areas, and disturbing the public order.
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The demonstration took place today, outside of the courthouse where a trial was held against eight faithful of the parish of Thai Ha, accused of "disorder" and "damage of state property." Thousands of policemen tried to contain the crowd and to break up the marches, services, and nighttime vigils. Seven of the accused have been sentenced to 12-15 months in prison.
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Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet highlights how the government's failure to honor its promise to give back the former building of the nunciature has damaged the trust of the people, and also made it more difficult to resolve the matter of the parish of Thai Ha.
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