01/29/2010, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Police use sledge hammers on home of lawyer who denounced the Vietnamese premier

by Emily Nguyen
The lawyer accused the prime minister of having violated the law, allowing Chinese companies to exploit the bauxite deposits in the Central Highlands. The incident takes place in a climate of violent repression by the authorities also against Catholics, among whom there is a growing concern.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Police and regime activists who carry out beatings and destruction with slogans and threats shouted from loud speakers. This increasingly appears to be the chosen path of the Vietnamese authorities to resolve disputes or "respond" to criticism.

Thus, on 27 January, in broad daylight, a large group of police agents and activists, led by Le Van Dinh, president of the People's Committee of Dien Bien Phu, surrounded the house lawyer Cu Huy Ha Vu, blocked the street and with sledge hammers broke down the wall to his house. Slogans were shouted against the victim through loud speakers, to prevent the possible intervention of neighbours and increase the threat of what was happening.  

Interviewed by Radio Free Asia, the lawyer attributed the attack to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. "The deputy president of the People's Committee of Dien Bien Phu, Nguyen Trong Khanh – he revealed - told my relatives that he did not want to do what he did, but that the Prime Minister gave the order to the Committee."  

At the origins of the episode, an unprecedented initiative in Vietnam that sees a private citizen, the same lawyer Cu Huy Ha Vu, denouncing the prime minister, accusing him of having seriously breached the law by signing the decree 167, that allows a Chinese company to start digging to extract bauxite in the lush Central Highlands (pictured).  He appealed to the premier to reconsider his decision and realise the disadvantage to the environment that would wipe-out any economic advantage. This, he wrote, "is clearly demonstrated by evidence and testimony from the scientific community that opposed the decree 167". The irreversible damage to the environment that extraction causes were highlighted, in fact, in a seminar in April 2009, that was attended by over 50 scientists.  

A legendary figure in the history of Vietnam, General Vo Nguyen Giap, commander of the soldiers who defeated the French and Americans and minister of defence after unification was also against the government decision. Then 97, the General expressed his concerns about the presence of a large number of Chinese in the highlands, a strategic spot in the country.

In fact, the first two bauxite mines, already operative, were contracted to Chalco, China's mining company, and have seen the arrival of thousands of Chinese miners.  

The case of the bauxite mines has also given space to attacks against the Redemptorists, who were accused of "inciting rebellion" for their firm opposition to the project.  

The charges are only one chapter in the litany of episodes that involve Vietnamese Catholics, who are increasingly concerned that there is no end to discrimination against them.

"What happened in recent days in the parish of Dong Chiem - a young Hanoi Catholic tells AsiaNews - is an important event for us. Is not a 'small mistake' of local authorities, but is part of a series of religious discrimination. There is an offensive against faith. The rulers are acting to defend their privileges and their position in society.  They do not have faith and do not care about the role of religion in the development of the person. They have forgotten the contribution made by Catholics to the country".  

In the view of some Catholic intellectuals, what happened to Dong Chiem is a phenomenon of "government violence" and "state terrorism". A commitment to destroy the unity, morality and human values brought by religion, which results in social injustice in human development in the country. "The success of the Communist Party in Vietnam - says a priest of Hanoi - is due to the contribution of the people. Today they have forgotten the expectations of the people. "  

(With the collaboration of Micae)

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