09/23/2013, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Hanoi, fresh attacks on Thai Ha Catholics’ property

by J.B. An Dang
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.

Hanoi ( AsiaNews) - Hanoi authorities have opened a new battle front with Catholics with an expropriation order issued by the Department for Urbanism and lease of land owned by the Redemptorists of Thai Ha parish, near lake Ba Giang.  The priests, religious and faithful say the measure is " illegal" and constitutes a " violation" of the rights of the Christian community , as explained in a letter published in recent days by the superior Fr . Matthew Vu Khoi Phung . In the letter sent to the president of the local Communist People's Committee Nguyen The Thao , the priest bears witness to the surprise and discontent of the faithful of Hanoi, in reference to the proposed changes to the area in question, which for Catholics it is only a " pretext" to deny their rights and give way to the realization of new building projects as has already happened in the past.

The superior Fr . Matthew explains that the land around lake Ba Giang "belongs to, is cared for and used" by the Redemptorists in Hanoi since 1928 , and , he adds, "we have never granted, given or transferred the right to use any part of land to individuals or organizations". He goes on to mention that it is an "act contrary to the Constitution and the law," an attempt by the People's Committee of Hanoi - through the Department for urbanism - to build on the land of the parish, in the face of numerous petitions to the contrary.

The priest says it is also an act that offends "moral and common sense" and that will eventually cause "serious damage to the rights and interests" of religious organizations, as "an offense against the faith and feelings of religious believers". Five years after the demolition of the Marian shrine for the creation of a public park, Hanoi authorities are preparing to requisition another important piece of Christian history in the Vietnamese capital.

For years, the priests and faithful of Thai Hai have been denouncing the illegal seizure of land by the State. In November 2011, hundreds of police and soldiers with dogs and thugs , followed by a state television crew, attacked the convent of Thai Ha, shouted abuse through megaphones , threw stones and smashed the door . The assault was interrupted by the faithful from neighboring parishes, who flocked to the convent called by the bells of the church of Thai Ha.

What the state claims as "public property" was purchased by Redemptorists in 1928. When the Communists took over in 1945, the authorities gradually whittled away parish-owned land. Thus, the area occupied by the monastery went from 61,455 m2 to 2,700 m2.  The dispute reached its apex in 2008 and 2009 when thousands of Catholics demonstrated for days on end in front of the convent demanding an end to the seizures. Their efforts came to naught as more land was taken and eight Catholics brought to court for disturbing the public order.

 

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