04/28/2009, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Two Redemptorists accused of wanting to overthrow Vietnamese government

by J.B. An Dang
The accusation, issued by the state-owned media, includes the possibility of the death penalty. At the origin is the protest against a construction project on a plot of land belonging to the parish of Thai Ha, and against a plan to mine bauxite in the high plains, which would cause irreversible damage to the environment and to the population. Buddhists and the legendary general Giap join the criticism.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Accusations of damaging national unity and the development of the country, and of plotting to overthrow the communist regime, and calls for "immediate and severe punishment," which, for such crimes, could include the death penalty. There is concern over the new attack launched through the state-owned media by the Vietnamese authorities, against the Redemptorists of the parish of Thai Ha, in Hanoi. There are two reasons for the dispute: the request to stop construction work in an area that the parish says is its property, and a petition not to proceed with the project to mine the bauxite in the central high plains, which would cause irreversible damage to the environment and to the local people, many of whom belong to ethnic minorities.

The first attack took place on April 26, when the newspaper New Hanoi, which is run by the Hanoi Committee of the Communist Party, accused Fr. Peter Nguyen Van Khai, the spokesman of the parish, of "instigating parishioners to provoke divisions, inciting riots, launching false accusations against the government, breaking up the nation, violating and ridiculing the law, and instigating others to violate it."

The religious is also accused of organizing, on Saturday evening, a prayer vigil (in the photo) to protest against the construction project in the area along the lake of Ba Giang, which belongs to the parish.

The vigil was also an opportunity for the faithful to unite themselves with those calling for the government to stop the project to mine the bauxite in the central high plains, which the prime minister calls "the main political initiative for the state and the party." Criticisms of the project have also come from groups of scientists, intellectuals, former officials, and many Vietnamese at home and abroad, who point out how the social and environmental damage produced by the mining would exceed any economic benefit.

Yesterday, April 27, Capital Security joined New Hanoi in the attack on Fr. Peter Nguyen, saying that he teaches false Church doctrine in order to incite riots against the government, and also taking aim at another Redemptorist, from Ho Chi Minh City, Fr. Joseph Le Quang Uy, who has been accused because of his opposition to the project to mine the bauxite, even creating a website on which he asks Catholics to sign electronically the petition to stop the project.

The newspaper makes fun of Fr. Joseph Le, accusing him of "stupidity" and "ignorance," of causing serious damage to national unity and to the process of development, and of plotting to overthrow the communist regime.

In the article, the newspaper asks the government for "immediate and severe punishment" of the two priests, "before they go too far." The accusations issued against the two priests, in particular the "sin" of plotting to overthrow the government - a crime in which the death penalty could be applied - are so serious that they lead to the belief that the government is preparing public opinion for an immediate crackdown.

in reality, the criticism of the bauxite project has come from various directions. In recent days, a dissident Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Do, has said that the planned open pit mines would destroy the lifestyle of the ethnic minorities in the region. His opinion was greatly respected, and his call to action was openly supported by many faithful.

Irreversible damage to the environment stemming from the project was also a topic of discussion at a seminar that gathered more than 50 scientists in Hanoi at the beginning of the month. But the most unexpected criticism came from a legendary figure in the country's recent history, General Vo Nguyen Giap, the head of the Vietnamese army who defeated the French and Americans, and was the defense minister after unification. In a letter to the prime minister, the 97-year-old general expressed his concern over the presence of a great number of Chinese in the high plains, a strategic passage for Vietnam.

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