12/02/2011, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Priests, lay people from Thái Hà parish who asked to speak to the authorities beaten and arrested

by Nguyen Hung
Two Redemptorist priests, a religious and some 30 Catholics were mistreated and arrested by police for filing a complaint with the People’s Committee of Hanoi because of land illegally seized by local authorities from Thái Hà Parish. This is the first time priests are arrested.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – This morning at 9.30 am, Fr Joseph Nguyễn Văn Phượng, vicar in the parish of Thái Hà, accompanied by hundreds of parishioners, went to the People’s Committee of Hanoi, to file an official complaint concerning his parish and Redemptorist-owned land seized by local authorities. The lay members of the group asked the authorities to stop illegal building on the disputed land. In the past, they had asked local authorities to return the land to the Redemptorist Order so that it could be used for pastoral and social activities to serve the 20,000 or so residents of the area.

After presenting their demand and asking to meet the People’s Committee of Hanoi, the group was stopped as it made its way towards Hanoi cathedral. Suddenly, police surrounded the group and arrested Fr Joseph Nguyễn Văn Phượng, Fr Lương Văn Long, religious Vũ văn Bằng and about 30 parishioners. The lay people arrested were taken by bus to the Đông Anh Humanity Rehabilitation Centre.

Other lay people walking near Hoàn Kiếm Lake were stopped by police and arrested by uniformed and plainclothes police wielding sticks and other tools to beat the Catholics.

“This is a violation of the law by police and Hanoi authorities against people exercising their right to complain against unfair treatment and demand redress, both of which are guaranteed under Vietnamese law,” one of the Redemptorist priests told AsiaNews.

This was the first time that the City of Hanoi ordered police to arrest priests from the Redemptorist Order. Increasingly, Vietnamese authorities are violating the country’s law and the violations are getting more serious.
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