11/17/2011, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Hanoi : Police ready to use force against Thai Ha Redemptorists

by J.B. An Dang
The convent area is surrounded since last night. More police are expected today. Redemptorists fear a violent attack, cognizant of what happened to the Hanoi nunciature in 2008.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – The Vietnamese government plans to solve by force the dispute over the Redemptorist convent in Thai Ha. Dozens of police agents began to block roads to the site last night. More security forces are expected today. With the move, the government wants to grab the property once and for all in order to build a water treatment plant for the nearby hospital. Parishioners and priests fear an attack like that of 19 September 2008 when police tore down the buildings of the Hanoi nunciature.

According to Redemptorist priests, the authorities do not only want to seize the land by force, but also want heap scorn on the community. Last night, local government and hospital officials invited representatives of the Thai Ha parish to come to a meeting to discuss the dispute. However, the government side was represented by low-level and powerless officials who mocked the priests and forced them to listen to silly speeches. All this, as police cordoned off the convent area.

A few days ago, the authorities also prevented Fr Vincent Pham Trung, Redemptorist Provincial Superior, from attending a meeting in Rome on 11-19 November.

Yesterday, Superior General Fr Michael Brehl wrote a letter to the priest expressing his concerns over the attacks against his community.

For years, priests and members of the Thai Ha community have complained about the illegal seizures of Church land by the state.

On 3 November, hundreds of police agents and military, with dogs and truncheons, attacked the convent. A crew from state TV came with them. 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.

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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Hanoi’s Redemptorists again demand their property back
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