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  • » 06/30/2014, 00.00


    Saigon: Redemptorists praying for the release of Catholic activist Jang Xuan Dieu

    Thanh Thuy 

    Jailed for crimes of opinion, he maintained his innocence during the trial and is now on a hunger strike. Prison officials have prevented his relatives from seeing him. Meanwhile, his health is deteriorating. Priests express their solidarity and concern for the affair, shaken by the real pain endured by the family, sharing in their suffering.

    Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - Relatives of Catholic intellectual and activist Francis Jang Xuan Dieu, who is held as a political prisoner in a Vietnamese prison, turned to the Redemptorist Fathers in Ho Chi Minh City for help and support in their fight to secure his release.

    He was arrested in July 2011 and sentenced to 13 years in prison, plus five years under supervision. Together with other Christians, he was tried by the Nghe An Provincial Court for trying to "overthrow the government of the people" and violating "Art. 79 of the Penal Code."

    Dieu has been held in the K3 barrack of Camp N. 5 in Yên Dinh, Thanh Hoa province. On 11 June, his relatives tried to meet him, but the prison guards turned them away. Hence, he is now on a hunger strike and his health is deteriorating very rapidly.

    In the past, Dieu - from the Diocese of Vinh - led protests by Vietnamese nationalists against Beijing's "imperialist" policy in the South China Sea. He also fought long for children's education, especially the poor, and against intensive bauxite mining in the country's Central Highlands.

    The Catholic intellectual has also promoted awareness campaigns for the release of political prisoner Cù Huy Ha Vu, Prof Pham Minh Hoàng and other people held in Vietnamese prisons for crimes of opinion.

    On 16 May, Dieu's elder brother Ha, sent a letter on behalf of the whole family to the Bishop of Vinh, Mgr Nguyễn Thái Hop, asking for help in the cause of the political prisoner. However, the diocese did not reply. For this reason, a few weeks later, the family turned to the Redemptorists of Saigon, speaking to the Provincial Superior Fr Vincent Pham Trung Thanh and other priests of the community.

    In court, the Catholic activist (pictured) claimed his innocence. "I am not guilty," he said. "I just wanted to show my patriotism." He added that he took part in "social activities" to help the poor, especially children, and joined demonstrations against Chinese expansionism. "I am a Catholic Vietnamese," he explained, "and I have always prayed for peace and justice in Vietnam."

    Having carefully listened to the story, the Redemptorist priests expressed admiration and sympathy to the family for the courage shown by their relative. Provincial Superior Fr Vincent Pham Trung Than said he felt "shaken" by the affair and by the "real pain" of family members, whose suffering he shares.

    "Every month we pray for prisoners of conscience, for peace and justice in Vietnam," he added, praising Dieu's relatives for "fighting for truth, justice, and democracy in our country."

    for several years, the government has been conducting a harsh campaign against dissidents, bloggers, religious leaders (including Buddhists), Catholic activists and entire communities, like last year in the diocese of Vinh, where media and government were involved in a smear campaign against the local bishop and faithful.

    The crackdown involves individuals whose only guilt is that of claiming the right to religious freedom and respect for citizens' civil rights. In 2013 alone, the authorities arrested dozens of activists for crimes "against the state" based on rules that human rights groups have described as "generic" and "vague".

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    Vietnamese Catholic activist on hunger strike in protest against prison abuse
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    28/06/2013 VIETNAM
    Catholic lawyer in jail on false charges prays and fasts before his trial
    Hunger strike is increasingly becoming a tool of civic protest against prison conditions and illegal arrests. Le Quoc Quan goes to court on 9 July on 'tax evasion' charges. For activists, this is a ploy the authorities used to imprison him. Barred from his profession, he has continued the fight for rights on his blog.

    05/01/2013 VIETNAM
    Vietnam, arrested Catholic activist on hunger strike
    Le Quoc Quan, well known lawyer and blogger has refused food for four days. His state of health unknown. Family and lawyers not allowed to see him. He is accused of tax evasion, the lastest government "ploy” to silence the voices of dissent in the country.

    06/12/2012 VIETNAM
    Thousands attend Fr Etienne Chan Tin's funeral, Christian symbol of the struggle for rights
    The Redemptorist clergyman died on 1 December at the age of 92. He fought against various regimes and acts of oppression in his writings and speeches. Civil society and the witness of the Christian faith were at the centre of his political battles. For him, "forgiveness" as a Christian commandment and an element of the national culture was an important value.

    25/05/2011 VIETNAM
    Vietnamese Priest: Church's social doctrine, to promote charity and justice
    Catholics denounce the lack of mutual trust and shallow relationships. Problems "internal" plus the restrictions on religious freedom. To serve this "good shepherds" to promote the "communion" among the faithful. Learning from positive examples, as John Paul II and Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan.

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