03/03/2018, 10.18
VIETNAM
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Catholics attacked by 'Red Flags' for seeking explanation over school fees

Several people injured during "the sudden and violent" attack. Catholics are often victims of pro-government militants. Users of social media and human rights groups: "It is abuse sponsored by the Communist Party".

Hanoi (AsiaNews / RFA) - The militants of "Hội Cờ Đỏ" (Red Flags) attacked the parents of Catholic children excluded from a school in the Dien Doai municipality (Nghệ An province), after the families refused to pay what they have called "exorbitant fees". On February 23rd, the thugs of the pro-government group attacked the Catholics outside the institute's gates (photo), while the latter asked for a meeting with the school administrators. Several people were injured during "the sudden and violent" attack.

"The municipal authorities sent their private security force, armed with sticks, to the school - says Chu Trong Son, one of the parents assaulted - I told them that I had only come to ask for the children to be removed, but suddenly they started to hit me really hard, hitting my head. There are bruises on my whole body ". One of the students banned from school said his teacher had asked him once in class if he was not ashamed of not paying school fees, while his classmates had to pay. "I was not expelled that day, but my friends were," he says. "Afterwards, my parents went to school and were beaten".

Fr Dang Van Minh, parish priest of the church to which the children and their parents belong, reports that lately the thugs are more frequently making public appearances. "They are called 'Red Flags' because when they come into action they always wear a red shirt with a gold star, like the flag of the government of Hanoi," says the priest, adding that in the past he tried to mediate in the problem of school fees between parents and school, but has always been ignored. "Now I will raise this problem with the higher authorities - continues Fr. Dang Van Minh - because it cannot be managed by the local government. I am sure that the higher level authorities will want to tackle this problem in a fairer and more transparent way ".

Red Flag militants frequently mobilize to attack Catholic priests and parish priests in the province, in what social media users and human rights groups describe as an abuse sponsored by the Communist Party. Since its foundation in May, the group has used targeted attacks to prevent protests and petitions against Formosa, the company responsible for the most serious environmental disaster in the history of Vietnam. The organization even reported the priests who provided legal assistance to the victims.

On October 30th 2017, Fr. Dominic Pham Xuan Ke and Fr. Joseph Nguyen Ngoc Ngu, two priests who had gone to the Diem My People's Committee to denounce some attacks, were surrounded by 300 thugs. On September 4th, about 20 Red Flags militants, dressed in civilian clothes and armed with pistols, sticks and pepper spray broke into the parish of Thọ Hòa, in the district of Xuan Loc. They wanted to initimidate parish priest Fr. Nguyễn Như Tân for a post on Facebook in which he called for political reform in the country. In the same month, the thugs gathered in the municipality of Diễn Mỹ and beat up the faithful of the parish of Đông Kiều. Previously, the squads had already attacked the Catholic community of Văn Thai in April.

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