Hai Phong: Bishop and Catholics against the expropriation of "brave family’s" land
by Emily Nguyen
Peter Doan Vuon and relatives oppose the seizure of land and activities, held since 1993. The government, in an arbitrary manner, ordered its seizure and sent in the military. In response, they mounted an armed defense - without killing or injuring anyone – of their property. Political leaders and ordinary citizens sympathize with the man considered a hero.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) - The bishop of Hai Phong and the local Catholic community have rallied around Peter Vuon Doan and his family who were arrested by the authorities because they opposed the forcible expropriation of their land and assets, after years of hard work and sacrifices. The case has become famous throughout Vietnam because, in recent days, he stood up to the military raid against his property with gunshots and grenades. The shots were for "intimidation” and did not target any of the soldiers. In response, the police arrested him together with his relatives and - according to the latest reports - local officials have demolished the home of Peter "out of revenge" with the use of bulldozers.

In a letter sent to Fr. J.B. Ngo Ngoc Chuan, of the parish of Suy Neo, where the family Doan Vuon originate from, Msgr. Joseph Vu Van Thien expressed his "human concern" for Peter and his relatives, as well as the closeness of the local Church. The bishop of Hai Phong, the diocese on the coast in the north of Vietnam, has also asked the faithful to "provide support and prayers," while urging the authorities to "treat the case fairly," protecting the "legitimate rights", the property and honor ahead of the Vietnamese New Year (Lunar New Year).

The affair that starred the Vuon Doan family is just the latest in a long series of clashes between authorities and citizens, between the government and the Catholic Church, over land possession and ownership of buildings or commercial activities. In this case, the dispute revolves around the 40 hectares of land that Peter bought with a government grant in 1993, and in which over the years, thanks to his hard work, he transformed marshes and swamps into a fish farm. In 2009, when he began to make his first profits, the authorities quite arbitrarily decided to claim the rights to the area, after a long battle, on November 24 last year the administration issued an ultimatum, which required the family to abandon the lands and activity.

Instead of bowing down to the abuse of authority, Peter and the family decided to fight back and defend their property: January 5th a group of soldiers approached the area to enforce the decree of expropriation. However, the soldiers were "greeted" by a shower of bullets and grenades not intended to kill, but to prevent access to the residence. In fact, no one was killed or injured, after a few days, the police carried out a new raid, arresting members of the family.

The solidarity shown by many Vietnamese, by the Catholic community, by prominent figures such as former president, executive members, intellectuals and army officers, amazed by the Vuon Doan’s courage and will to defend their work has been of little avail. The current Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has signed a document asking local authorities to "annihilate those who oppose the application of the law" and "guarantee the security of the armed forces and those who are fighting crime."