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    » 08/06/2012, 00.00

    VIETNAM

    "Prehistoric" vs "modern" communism: arrests for Catholics and activists, marriage for gays

    Nguyen Hung

    Fifty anti-China demonstrators are arrested. Gay and lesbian demonstration is allowed. Seventeen young Catholics and one Protestant have been arrested for defending freedom of worship. Justice minister pledges to recognise gay marriage.

    Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Vietnam's communism is in some respect "pre-historic" even if it is trying to modernise to remain in power, this according to experts who spoke about recent events in the capital.

    About a hundred members of Vietnam's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered community (pictured) held their first parade in the streets of Hanoi. Holding balloons and riding bicycles, they called for greater tolerance in society.

    Although unauthorised, the demonstration went off without a hitch with participants unmolested by either bystanders or police. A protest against Chinese hegemony in the South China Sea ended instead in the arrest of 50 activists.

    "For some reason, the government thinks that political protesters are more dangerous than gay people," said Nguyen Phuc Tiet, a young demonstrator.

    It appears in fact that the government is more open to homosexuality. Last month, Justice Minister Ha Hung Cuong said that Vietnam should reconsider its laws and recognise marriage between people of the same sex. If this happened, Vietnam would be the first Asian country to legalise gay marriage.

    Coming from the Vietnamese Communist party, such "modernity" can be explained by its desire to be accepted in the world economy, especially its main partner, the United States. But some suspect that such "modernity" is also a way to hide some of the dictatorship's "prehistoric" aspects, such arresting anti-China and pro-democracy activists and bloggers.

    In one respect, the government's attitude is even more "prehistoric," namely religion. In fact, religious groups are kept under tight government leash-this is especially true for Catholics.

    Sources told AsiaNews that in Con Cuông (Vinh), the regime continues to harass Catholics, guilty of practicing their faith, in various ways, including press campaigns and physical attacks like stone throwing.

    Since July 2011, the authorities arrested without charges 17 young Catholics and a Protestant. In response, Fr Antony, a Redemptorist clergyman in Saigon, talked to over 3,000 people, asking them to "pray for Catholics, unfairly arrested and victimised by the regime, and for our nation."

    What many young believers find hard to believe is the fact that "government is so eager to crack down on Catholics and yet unwilling to protect Vietnam's sovereignty vis-à-vis China."

    "Public opinion in Vietnam is shocked by the inanity of the country's leaders, following China's decision to place a garrison and its administration in Sansha, in the Paracels."

    "The government of Vietnam should defend our nation," said Fr Joseph, another Redemptorist. "Instead, it just sent a diplomatic note."

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    See also

    22/08/2011 VIETNAM – CHINA
    Hanoi cracks down on protests, 50 anti-Chinese demonstrators arrested over South China Sea
    Plainclothes and uniformed police move against peaceful protesters, who were demonstrating near Haon Kiem Lake in downtown Hanoi. Students, intellectuals and ordinary citizens were among those who took to the streets against Chinese imperialism. The fate of five Vietnamese sailors arrested by the Chinese Navy remains unknown.

    16/05/2013 VIETNAM - CHINA
    Long An: Vietnamese activists jailed for 'anti-Chinese protest'
    A 21-year-old Catholic woman, Nguyen Phuong Uyen, gets six years in prison. Nguyen Dinh Kha, 25, gets eight years for "terrorism". The two handed out leaflets against Chinese "imperialism" in the South China Sea. The young woman is abused during pre-trial detention.

    17/06/2011 CHINA
    South China Sea: Beijing sending patrol ship
    Beijing plans to boost its naval presence in the area over the coming years. Tensions are growing because other stakeholders are not giving up their claims.

    18/07/2011 VIETNAM – CHINA
    South China Sea: Vietnam wants ASEAN as forum for negotiations
    Beijing continues to go after Vietnamese fishing boats as it prepares to explore the seabed for oil and gas. ASEAN security summit set to open in a few days. Vietnam and other regional powers want to discuss maritime borders despite Chinese opposition.

    04/06/2011 VIETNAM - CHINA - PHILIPPINES
    Vietnamese take to streets against Beijing’s incursions in the South China Sea
    Born on line, the protest sees people picket diplomatic missions in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The Philippine government announces a protest to the United Nations. United States also concerned as China sets its sights on Spratly and Paracel islands.



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