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  • » 11/18/2011, 00.00

    VIETNAM

    Catholics take to the streets in Hanoi demanding justice

    J.B. An Dang

    Thousands of faithful began demonstrating this morning to defend Thai Ha Parish against the unlawful seizure of what is left of its land. They also protested against the defamation campaign against them by state TV.
    Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Thousands of Catholics took to the streets this morning in Hanoi (pictured), demanding justice for Thai Ha Parish and the nearby Redemptorist monastery. They waved banners: one stated, "Do not trespass on religious land and property", another called on the government to "return what you borrow", and a third said, “We protest Hanoi TV's defamation and distortion of the truth about Thai Ha parish”.

    The protest was provoked by a decision taken by the Dong Da District People’s Committee to seize the limited land that is left to the local Catholic community in order to build a sewage treatment system for a nearby hospital.

    Bought in 1928 by the Redemptorists, the original property covered an area of 61.455 sq m. Now only some 2,700, sq m are left.

    The conflict reached its peak in 2008 and 2009 when days of protest by thousands of Catholics ended in the trial and conviction of eight of them for disturbing the public order.

    The dispute’s latest round began on 8 October when the local parish priest, Fr Joseph Nguyen Van Phuong, was summoned to appear before the Dong Da District People’s Committee to be informed that they had decided on how to dispose of the parish’s land.

    Men and women religious as well as parishioners reacted by staging protests. This was followed on 3 November by an assault carried out by hundreds of police agents and soldiers using dogs and truncheons, taped by a TV crew. Using loudspeakers, the attackers hurled insults and stones at the convent, breaking its main door. Only the quick intervention of faithful from neighbouring parishes brought in by tolling bells stopped the attack.

    On Wednesday, 500 riot police and security forces escorted dozens of bulldozers to start building the hospital sewage treatment system, just a few metres from the existing church.

    At the same time, despite threats of retaliation by the authorities, people began their protest in front of the People’s Committee headquarters, whilst plainclothes police officers take pictures and videotape the protesters.

    “I’m not scared,” Peter Tuan Nguyen told AsiaNews. “We need to lift the veil from the injustices committed in Vietnam.”

    “Why I came here? Well, to protest before the international community [against] the ongoing persecutions we have suffered for almost seven decades,” said Maria Thanh Tran.
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    See also

    25/10/2011 VIETNAM
    Vietnamese authorities try again to seize Thai Ha Parish land
    The neighbourhood People’s Committee says it wants to build a plant to treat wastewater from a nearby hospital. Parishioners protest. In a letter, the Redemptorist superior writes that the only solution “is the end of the water treatment project and the return of the property”.

    15/09/2008 VIETNAM
    Hanoi authorities’ unkept promises over Thai Ha
    In a letter Redemptorist superior describes his attempts to solve by dialogue the dispute over land seized from the parish. Nine Vietnamese bishops have come to express their solidarity to the faithful who demand justice and non-discrimination for Catholics.

    23/09/2013 VIETNAM
    Hanoi, fresh attacks on Thai Ha Catholics’ property
    The communist authorities want to expropriate more land belonging to the Redemptorists . Development plans and economic interests behind the seizure. Priests and faithful say the measure is "illegal", unethical and violates the rights of the Christian community.

    25/11/2008 VIETNAM
    Trial against eight Catholics from Thai Ha begins December 5
    The accusation is that they destroyed property and disturbed public order, but even the police left off the first charge initially. It refers to the toppling of a three-meter section of a wall, which the authorities then destroyed completely to create a public park.

    28/08/2008 VIETNAM
    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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